A Brief History of Colwall

Colwall is a parish on the Western slopes of the Malvern Hills between Malvern and Ledbury. The village is made up of Upper Colwall, Colwall Stone and Colwall Green.

The parish is dominated by the Iron Age "British Camp" but archaeological finds locally hint to earlier Palaeolithic and Neolithic occupation in the area. Similarly finds of later date evidence Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement.

Colwall was mentioned in the Domesday Book when the Bishop of Hereford's manor covered the whole parish. Over the next few centuries a series of privately owner estates made the land ownership more diverse and by the mid 18th century principal houses within the parish included those at Barton, Brockbury, Evendine, Hope End, Oldcastle and Old Colwall.

As recently as the 19th century Colwall's economy was predominantly agricultural with ancillary supporting industrial sites such as the water-powered corn mills at Upper Mill, Lugg’s Mill and Colwall Mill Farm. The village previously had a tannery complex located close to Brook House in Walwyn Road.

The 19th century saw dramatic changes with the arrival of the Worcester to Hereford railway and a station opened in the village in 1861. The northern part of the parish was also transformed by the development of the Royal Malvern spa and the spa at Malvern.

The coming of the railway was a catalyst for new developments driven by local canal and railway engineer Stephen Ballard and his descendants. In the 100 year period between the 1860s and the 1960s the population of the parish saw a considerable increase and industrial activities included the creation of a malt vinegar works, a brickworks, and a village gasworks together with many ancillary facilities to support large local fruit growing businesses. The Malvern Water works opened in the centre of the village 1900 and operated for just over a century, closing in 2010.

Colwall became a popular destination and the Colwall Park Hotel at Colwall Stone opened in 1907 to accommodate visitors. Several grand houses were built for new, wealthy residents including the Arts and Crafts property called "Perrycroft" on Jubilee Drive, designed by Charles Voysey.

The 19th century saw diversification of religion within the parish with a handful of new churches and chapels being added alongside the long-established 12th century parish church of St.James The Great. These included new churches along the Walwyn Road and a Methodist chapel at Colwall Green.

Colwall has a long-standing history of local education provision with the current independent preparatory school called The Elms having its roots dating back to the 17th century free school originally established there by Humphrey Walwyn. The Downs School, another independent preparatory school, was established by Quakers in 1900.

Colwall has a rich sporting heritage. The Colwall Park Racecourse occupied land to the East of Colwall Stone in the first half of the 20th century. The village also formerly hosted no less than two golf courses alongside the racecourse site. Colwall has a connection to the creation of the Women's Cricket Association and Colwall Cricket Club was founded in 1872.

Many people of national repute have lived locally. The poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning once lived at Hope End. The opera singer Jenny Lind ("The Swedish Nightingale") built the house called "Wynds Point" with her husband and lived there until her death in 1887. The cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather lived in the village and frequented the Royal British Legion Club, whilst another well-known artist - Dame Laura Knight - moved to Colwall in 1939 and used the stables of the Colwall Park Hotel as her studio. W H Auden, arguably the finest English poet of the 20th century, taught at the Downs School and Betty Snowball, the English cricketer, was similarly a teacher at The Elms.

The beautiful local environment, and rich history of the parish, means that Colwall has a reputation for being a lovely place to live and the village continues to attract both visitors and new residents.