History of Malvern College

Malvern College opened in January 1865 with 24 boys. It was an extraordinary act of faith; a handful of boys digging their way through the snow from House No.1 to a huge Main Building, designed by Hansom, who had modified, for the slope, a design originally submitted for Clifton College.

Numbers grew rapidly, reaching 135 by 1867, by which time there were three boarding houses and No.4 was added in 1868, No. 5 (now No.6) in 1871, School House in 1876, No.6 (now No.5) in 1891, No.7 in 1892, No.8 in 1895 and No.9 in 1898.

Initially the Chapel, gymnasium and sanatorium were in the Main Building. As demand for improved facilities grew, uncovered Fives courts were built in 1867, a separate gymnasium in 1876, a workshop in 1877 and the first rackets court in 1881. The Senior Turf was levelled in 1873 and extended in 1890, whilst the football fields below the railway were acquired in 1884. The Cadet Corps, including an artillery section, began in 1883. In 1880 swimming took place in the bath of the Imperial Hotel, now Malvern St James School, but the College built its own bath in 1892 and, a year later, a separate sanatorium. The cricket pavilion was opened in 1894 and included a Science laboratory. A major addition was the chapel in 1899 but nine years later it had to be enlarged with an aisle on the south side. Malvern was one of the first schools to have an engineering workshop, opened in 1901 and in it the first Morgan car was assembled, whilst it produced munitions during the Great War.

Major fundraising, inspired by Rev. H. Foster, father of a remarkable sporting family, led to a new gymnasium in 1905, four more covered Fives courts, South Lodge (now home to the Learning Enhancement department), the school store, a second rackets court and, a year later, a miniature rifle range. In 1918 a neighbouring monastery was acquired for a Music School and in 1924, the 457 Malvernians who died in the Great War were commemorated by the Memorial Library, the statue of St. George and by the oak panels in the Chapel.

Prominent in these activities was the Malvernian Society, founded in 1894 and one of the most active alumni bodies in the country. In 1924 they acquired the Firs Estate and in 1945, the Headmaster’s house and Radnor Lodge. Their support led to the building of the Squash courts in 1932, the Preston Science School in 1937 and its extensions in 1958 and 1965, a new Medical Centre in 1967, the Lindsay Arts Centre in 1974, the Sports Hall in 1977 (allowing the gym to be converted to the Rogers Theatre in 1984) and the Chapman Design and Technology building in 1991.

Malvern College suffered more than most independent schools from the disruption of the Second World War. In 1939 the premises were compulsorily requisitioned, ostensibly for the Admiralty, which in fact went to Bath, and the College was evacuated to Blenheim Palace. In the event, only three Houses were occupied: No.5 by the Free French cadets, No.1 by W.R.N.S. and No.2 as an R.A.F. mess, so the College returned late in 1940. It was forced out again, however, to make way for the Telecommunications Research Establishment, the developer of radar, and despite the threat of bombing, was accommodated in empty boarding houses at Harrow School, where it remained until 1946. By then numbers had dropped to around the 330 mark and a long process of consolidation began, together with the demolition of numerous huts scattered about the grounds. The last building to be de-requisitioned was the Rackets Courts in 1952. The 241 Malvernians who died in the Second World War are commemorated in stone panels in the ante-chapel.

In the post-war years, Malvern College built up a considerable reputation for both sport and for innovation in academic matters. For instance, it was the first independent school to have a foreign language laboratory and, under John Lewis’s leadership, it revolutionised science teaching, with the introduction of the Nuffield Science courses. Furthermore, the College led the way in encouraging the teaching of science in the country’s leading Preparatory Schools by holding annual courses for their teachers.

In 1965 the College celebrated its Centenary, the highlight of which was the visit of the Queen Mother, who arrived on the Senior Turf by helicopter on a gloriously sunny summer’s day.

In the 1980s girls from the adjacent Ellerslie School attended A level classes at the College and, in 1992, Malvern College became fully co-educational by incorporating both Ellerslie and one of its main feeder preparatory schools, Hillstone. Houses 3, 4 and 6 were gradually turned into girls’ Houses, later to be joined by No.8, and the old Ellerslie site became the home of Hillstone, later renamed Malvern College Preparatory School, from 1992 till 2008. The introduction of the International Baccalaureate in 1992 led to a growing demand for places from overseas pupils, particularly in the Sixth Form, and the College began to be renowned for the quality of its “pre-University” educational opportunities, based on outstanding teaching and pastoral care.

Progress and development have continued apace in the 21st century with the opening of the Carson Centre (classrooms) in 2007 behind the Cricket Pavilion and the amalgamation of the Malvern College Preparatory School with The Downs School on the magnificent Downs’ site in Colwall with 309 pupils registered on its opening day in September 2008. There are some 640 Malvernians in the senior (13 – 18) part of the College. Outstanding new facilities have been constructed; two new boarding houses next to No.9 and an impressive new sports complex, including a sports hall, a new swimming pool and an indoor rifle range, on the old sports hall site below No.5. The former swimming pool has been converted into a new hospitality and functions suite, the Gryphon Room. Altogether the College has the sort of facilities, and a standard of teaching and care, to match those of any school in the country in the years ahead.

In 2012 Malvern College, Qingdao, was opened and it has been followed by developments in Chengdu, Hong Kong and Egypt.

In 2015, the Science Centre was refurbished, establishing the College at the forefront of science teaching once again.

In 2018, the refurbishment of the Rogers Theatre was completed.

In 2022, the College plans to refurbish the Music School.