Following Malvern's prominence as a spa town in the earlier years of the nineteenth century and the advent of the railway, Malvern College was founded by a group of mainly local businessmen. It opened in January 1865 to two dozen boys and half a dozen masters. Initially, there were two Houses but expansion was rapid and by 1877 there were six Houses and 290 boys.
In the 1890s, the number of pupils nearly doubled and a further four Houses were added, thus creating the broad outlines of the campus familiar to us today. Originally housed in the Main Building, a separate Chapel was also built during the 1890s.
The Chapel records over 600 Old Malvernians and Hillstonians who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. Further expansion of pupil numbers and buildings continued after the Great War but during the Second World War the College suffered more than any other comparable independent school, being twice ejected and shrinking to half its former size. Required to make way for the Admiralty between October 1939 and July 1940, it found a temporary home at Blenheim Palace. The College underwent a further period of exile from May 1942 to July 1946. Ordered out at one week's notice, the school was housed with Harrow School.
The College's premises were then occupied by the Telecommunications and Radar establishment, and there is more than a grain of truth in echoing Eton's Waterloo claim that the Second World War was won on the playing fields of Malvern College; indeed, the modern Defence Research Agency is still sited on former College land.
Since 1946, the College has continued to build new facilities - Medical Centre 1967, Arts Centre 1974, Sports Hall 1977, Technology Building 1992 - and has also played a significant role in the development of educational projects. In 1963, it was the first independent school to have a language laboratory, it pioneered Nuffield Physics in the 1960s, Science in Society in the 1970s, and the Diploma of Achievement in the 1990s.
Today's co-educational College came about in 1992 when three successful schools (Malvern College, Ellerslie Girls' School and Hillstone Prep) were brought together.
Also at the beginning of the 1990s, Malvern continued to be at the forefront of innovation by being one of the first schools in Britain to offer the International Baccalaureate in the Sixth Form.
Over the last twenty years Malvern College has shown itself to offer all that is best in co-education. The ratio of boys to girls is presently 60:40, and the College has remained a proper boarding school with over 500 pupils on campus during the weekends. In recent years, the College has embarked upon the most significant period of development since its foundation almost 150 years ago including an All Weather Pitch in 2005, the refurbishment of the Pavilion, with the addition of 12 new classrooms, in 2006 a new Medical Centre in 2009, two new boarding houses (No.7 and Ellerslie House) in 2010, a new state-of-the-art Sports Complex and Entertainment Centre in 2010 and the refurbishment of the Ron Hughes Rackets Courts 2011. In addition, a programme of House refurbishment is underway. In 2008 Hillstone Prep merged with the Downs Prep School at the Downs’ Colwall site, which has been transformed with the development of new classrooms, sports hall, all weather pitch, and art room, along with a refurbishment of the boarding facilities, to create a first class prep school which now is The Downs Malvern.
The Malvern Hills are around 600 million years old, they run North-South for about nine miles and are made up of mainly granite and gneiss. Their beauty and grandeur have inspired many musicians and poets over the centuries, the most famous of whom is Sir Edward Elgar. They were also the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Misty Mountains” in his children’s classic “The Hobbit”. The name Malvern comes from the Celtic Moel-bryn meaning bare hill.
There have been settlements on and around the hills for thousands of years, with the remains of an Iron Age fort, named British Camp, having been found at the Herefordshire beacon. The Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Normans have all inhabited the area at various times throughout history.
Apart from the hills and their views Malvern is most famous for its water with Dr James Gully making Water Cure popular in the early 19th century. Mr Schweppes secured the fame of Malvern Water by presenting a bottle of it to Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The town of Great Malvern grew up around the 11th century Priory that was built on land owned by Westminster Abbey. As taking the waters increased in popularity in the mid-19th century bath-houses, hotels and houses were built to cater for the influx of people. This development has left Malvern with a legacy of spectacular Victorian architecture.
Other settlements in the area have become the towns of Malvern Link, Malvern Wells (where Sir Edward Elgar is buried in St Wulstan’s Church), West Malvern and Little Malvern.
If you would like to find more detailed information about the history of Malvern and the surrounding area visit any of the sites listed below.