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Malvern’s Success Story

The Twentieth Century room celebrates Malvern’s success and more recent achievements.

Santler Malvernia

Motor cars

Even at the turn of the twentieth century Malvern was making history. Malvern’s engineering success began in 1894 when the Santler brothers of Malvern Link produced the Malvernia, what is thought to be the first four wheeled petrol driven British motor car. Production of the Morgan car began in here in 1910 and it still enjoys a worldwide following.

Malvern in the Two World Wars

During the Great War Malvern became a garrison town and armaments were manufactured at the Morgan Motor Works. A familiar sight were the rows of white tents on the commons, where soldiers from the Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire regiments carried out training exercises before moving to the Front.

Malvern men of the South Midland Brigade photographed before leaving for a training camp in August 1914
Malvern men of the South Midland Brigade photographed before leaving for a training camp in August 1914

Recent exhibitions told stories of how local people experienced the challenges of men departing for the Front, billeting, lighting restrictions, rationing, fundraising and of course the deep anxieties that most families endured. Malvern provided accommodation to over 500 Belgian refugees who escaped when the German armies marched through their land. Hundreds of local men joined the forces and nearly 450 made the ultimate sacrifice. They fought in all the well known battles from France to East Africa and in between, as well as the Battle of Jutland in which a Malvern boy of 17 was killed.

Visitors are offered a special entrance ticket which gives brief details of one local person; their story will be found in this room, along with many others.  If you have Malvern ancestors from this period, perhaps you will ‘meet’ some of them here. Do let us know!

Second World War

Photograph of 53rd General US Hospital 1944 at Merebrook Farm
American hospital at Merebrook Farm 1944

Malvern experienced considerable upheaval in the Second World War with the arrival of many visitors. Foreign armies from Belgium and France sought refuge in the town. Despite being one of the furthest towns from the sea, Malvern can boast of a great naval triumph! Over 80,000 young naval cadets passed through the training centre, HMS Duke, during the war years. In 1944 trains brought thousands of wounded American soldiers to five military hospitals in Malvern that had been built to treat D-Day casualties.

A recent donation to the museum has been a diary written by a local woman in her 20s, starting on 1st September 1939. It gives an eloquent and mature appraisal of the unfolding events in Europe, as well as its early impact on the townspeople of Malvern. Lorna Lloyd lived in Somers Road and was very well informed about wartime developments. Sadly she died in 1942. Extracts have been released by Lorna’s family and appear daily on a blog.

Big School, Malvern College with training equipment

Another major wartime achievement took place when 2,000 scientists moved to Malvern in 1942. These young men and women developed radar systems that enabled aircraft and naval ships to detect enemy targets more rapidly. Malvern’s success story in this field was of international proportions.

Malvern Festival and the Marionette Theatre

The tramp clown puppet outside Foley House, the former Marionette Theatre
The Tramp Clown puppet

In 1929 Sir Barry Jackson launched the Malvern Festival. George Bernard Shaw wrote many plays to support the Festival  and five of his plays had their première at Malvern. Sir Edward Elgar was a notable figure at the festivals in the early 1930s and further promoted Malvern’s success as a leading base for culture and the arts.

Malvern gained a national reputation from the puppet theatre that was developed and run by Waldo and Muriel Lanchester in the 1930s and 1940s.