The Malvern Hills are said to be the oldest rocks in England, rising as they do from the Severn Plain on the east and sloping down into rolling Herefordshire countryside on the west. The Victorians did their best to quarry them away, but fortunately the Malvern Hills Conservators was formed in time to save them, and now they are fiercely guarded from the assaults of modern times. I lived on the slopes of the hills for seven years, and now I live within sight of them down on the plain. Some people say that it was on these hills that Tolkien based his Misty Mountains – I like to think so.
A metaphorical stone’s throw from the Hills is the lovely Madresfield Court, ancestral home of the Lygon family. There has been a house on the site since the twelfth century, and it has never been bought or sold throughout its long history! The Court has some amazing Arts and Crafts work, including a library by Clive Ashbee and a beautiful chapel decorated by members of the Birmingham Group, including Henry Payne. Madresfield is still a family home and is currently lived in by Lady Morrison, niece of the last earl. Tours are available by appointment, but not this year because they are renovating.
Madresfield Court is thought to be the house on which Evelyn Waugh based ‘Brideshead Revisited’, since Waugh was a frequent visitor. I read the book in my teens, reading avidly between the lines to try and decide what the relationship between Charles and Sebastian was. Anthony Blanche didn’t really appeal to me – too camp. I remember that my interest waned greatly in part two when Charles falls for Julia. Looking back, it was really more fun in some ways than today’s explicit novels, where you don’t have to guess at anything. I watched the ITV serialisation of the book when it became available on video much later, and found it rather disappointing. One of these days I shall watch the film!