The Elgar Birthplace Museum

Richard Cavendish and the leitmotiv of lost innocence at Elgar's birthplace and museum near Worcester.

Sir Edward Elgar only lived at his birthplace when he was far too small to remember it. He was born in the cottage at Broadheath, outside Worcester, on June 2nd, 1857. Two years later the family moved back to Worcester, where Elgar's father had a music shop, and it was there that the composer would spend his youth – mostly above the shop itself.

Curiously, however, the Birthplace Museum brings you very close to Elgar. Somehow the grim red-brick house, which looks about as romantic and high-souled as a bachelor had- dock, has captured the magic. This is partly a matter of the glorious music which swells and thunders through the rooms. Partly it is the assortment of objects gathered there by the great man's loving daughter in his honour. And partly perhaps it is something irrational, the overwhelming force of the composer's own passionate lifelong interest in the place.

Descriptions of the Broadheath cottage as 'tiny' give a false impression. It is an ordinary, nineteenth-century lower middle-class house with its own stable. The Elgars never owned the house, only rented it, but it looks as if Elgar's mother cherished a dream of bringing up her children in the countryside, away from the Worcester shop. The dream failed and Elgar, who bitterly resented the shop and its social implications, apparently regarded the cottage as a lost paradise, a homeland of the spirit from which he had been wrongfully expelled. As a grown man he often went back to the house and slipped the occupant a shilling to be allowed to go in and be by himself there. When he was famous and comfortably off, he tried vainly to buy it, several times. As a baronet in 1931, he styled himself 'of Broadheath' and he told his daughter, Carice, his only child, that if there was ever a memorial to him, he would want it to be here.

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