The Council House (Malvern Hills District Council Offices)


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Malvern Hills District Council, The Council House, Avenue Road, Malvern, WR14 3AF


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Statutory Address:
Malvern Hills District Council, The Council House, Avenue Road, Malvern, WR14 3AF

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Malvern Hills (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


A house, built 1874-80 for Albert Miles Speer by Henry Haddon, with carving by William Forsyth and stained glass by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, used as a preparatory school between 1909 and 1925, and as council offices since 1925.

Reasons for Designation

The Council House, built 1874-80 as The Priory for AM Speer by Henry Haddon, with carving by William Forsyth and stained glass by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: as a work of considerable quality by a known architect, with good compositional design and detailing; * Sculptural interest: for the quality of the carved work, both externally and internally, by William Forsyth; * Degree of survival: the building survives well, with very good quality internal decorative schemes, particularly to the ground and first floors; * Historic interest: built as one of Malvern's finest houses, used subsequently as a preparatory school and since 1925 as local authority offices. * Group value: it has good group value with the adjacent Priory Lodge, originally erected as a gymnasium for the preparatory school.


The Council House was built 1874-1880 for Alfred Miles Speer, an Irish merchant who traded with South American, as his private home and was known at that time as The Priory. The building replaced an earlier house on the site, also known as The Priory, which stood from 1847-1873 and was the home of Dr James Manby Gully who had been influential in establishing Malvern as a centre for hydropathic therapy in the C19.

The new house was designed in a Perpendicular Gothic style by Henry Haddon of Haddon Brothers, a local practice who produced much work in and around Malvern. The builders of the house were Collins and Cullins of Tewkesbury. The carved work for both the exterior and interior was carried out by William Forsyth, the Worcester based sculptor and brother of James Forsyth. The stained glass was provided by the firm of Heaton, Butler and Bayne.

From 1909 to 1925 the house was in use as a preparatory school, and during this time a gymnasium and swimming pool were built in the grounds. In 1925 the building was sold to Malvern Urban District Council and became the council headquarters, and the gardens became part of the adjacent public park. With the creation of Malvern Hills District Council in 1974, the former gymnasium became the council chamber and remains in that use. Throughout the existence of the latter, the two buildings have retained a functional and physical relationship.

This entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 18 May 2017.


A house, built 1874-80 for Albert Miles Speer by Henry Haddon, with carving by William Forsyth and stained glass by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, used as a preparatory school between 1909 and 1925, and as council offices since 1925.

MATERIALS The house is built from coursed Cradley stone with ashlar dressings, brick chimneys and a tile roof. The service wing is of yellow brick and the conservatory is of timber and glass.

PLAN The house is built to an irregular plan. The main block is roughly square on plan with projecting bays, and is arranged internally around a central hall which rises the full height of the building. The service wing extends to the north, with the conservatory and billiards room to the east.

The former gymnasium, now council chamber stands adjacent to the north and is orientated roughly north-west to south-east.


EXTERIOR The house is built in a Perpendicular Gothic style, with its entrance elevation facing W and garden fronts to the S and E, all largely asymmetrical. Windows throughout mostly with mullions and transoms. The main entrance is through a projecting porch with a recessed door surrounded by panels with carved ashlar tracery. The porch has diagonal buttresses which rise to crocketted finials with carved beasts below and carved parapet between. Above the porch, at attic level, is a large projecting dormer with traceried window and ornamental flushwork at the apex. To the S, a projecting gable with further flushwork, and a bay window with a parapet of carved quatrefoils. To the N the stair tower is of four storeys with traceried windows and rises to a parapet of open panels with winged beasts on each face, and a spire turret on the NE corner.

Projecting to the N is the service wing which is of yellow brick where it faces away from the road. Its N gable has flushwork of brick and stone beneath tall chimneys. The original kitchen is lit by four tall sash windows with a timber traceried dormer above, and a slender gable adjacent above a door. A further single-storey wing projects at an angle to the NE.

To the S, the garden front of the house is of three bays with gables at each side which flank a central projecting canted bay which rises through two storeys and has a door at ground floor level with carved foliate spandrels and trefoil-headed windows, further carved stonework above and winged grotesques on the parapet. The SE corner has a large projecting oriel at first floor level with quatrefoil panels and traceried windows, all supported on a thick hexagonal shaft; its spire has been lost. The E elevation has a large canted bay at ground floor level, a projecting gable adjacent and ornate traceried windows beyond, with a projecting single-storey wing to the E with a large conservatory.

INTERIOR The house is entered through a lobby with a Minton tiled floor, much ornate timber panelling and a fireplace in a tiled and marble surround, with carved panels above. The main hall is entered through an ornate screen and runs N-S through the building with a full height atrium now glazed over at each level. The hall floor has sections of marquetry and parquet, with the walls lined with dado linenfold panelling with patterned carving above. The ceiling is supported on moulded timber beams with a plaster cornice and the main stair rises from the northern end, with carved newel posts surmounted by carved gryphons and balstrades of cusped arcading and quatrefoil panels. The S end of the hall has an ornate carved screen with Minton tiles beyond and stained glass in the bay which gives access to the garden. The principal rooms are arranged to the S and E on the ground floor, mostly retaining large, ornate fireplaces; the former drawing and morning rooms retain plaster corning and foliate carved corbels across the bay window in the former. The library has a panelled timber ceiling with moulded ribs and beams and carved pendants. There is further stained glass in the corridor to the dining room and the dining room itself, which also retains timber panelling and gives access to the conservatory beyond. The former billiards room retains a high glazed lantern with quatrefoil windows and carved panels beneath. The former kitchen retains stained glass in the dormer window, and there is a large cellar beneath the service wing with vaulted rooms.

The main stair rises to the first floor beneath a high, corniced ceiling, with a section of fan vaulting beneath the smaller stair turret to the roof above. There is stained glass in all the windows, including scenes from Aesop's Fables. The gryphon newel posts continue, and the ribbed stone arch at the top of the stair is supported on pairs of ornately carved corbels, each with birds among foliage. The first floor is arranged around a timber gallery with dado panelling to the walls. Former bedrooms retain ornate fireplaces mostly with tiled surrounds and plaster cornices to the ceilings. The SE bedroom, now sub-divided, has the corner oriel with stained glass in the windows.

The second floor landing has timber balustrading around the gallery; C20 fire doors give access to rooms which have mostly been altered to create bigger offices, some retaining fireplaces. The smoking room at the top of the tower has stained glass windows.

Priory Lodge, which stands to the north and is listed separately, was originally built as a gymnasium when the house was in use as a preparatory school. The building stands close to the site of the original entrance lodge and has retained a close functional and physical relationship with the Council House throughout its history.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Patten, David, William Forsyth Sculptor and Ecclesiastical & Domestic Decorator, (2015), pp 104-105
Pevsner, N, Brooks, A, The Buildings of England: Worcestershire, (2007), 474-475
Nick Joyce Architects Limited, The Council House: Heritage Statement, January 2016
Worcestershire Historic Environment Record no. WSM37933


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 04 Aug 1999
Reference: IOE01/01162/05
Rights: © Mr Kenneth M Walker. Source: Historic England Archive
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