History of Malvern St James

History of Malvern St James

In 1919, the Imperial Hotel in Malvern was bought by two enterprising young women, Miss Poulton and Miss Greenslade, who turned it from a hotel to a school. This building is now home to Malvern St James Girls' School. 

Malvern St James is made up of 5 schools that were located in and around the immediate area of Great Malvern. Malvern Girls’ College, Lawnside, St James’s, The Abbey, and St James’s & The Abbey.

The founders of Lawnside, The Abbey, Malvern Girls' College and St James's School were all pioneering women who saw education as the key facilitator in opening up opportunities to women.

The Abbey School

The Abbey School was founded in Blockley, Worcestershire by Mrs Margaret Judson and moved to Malvern in 1897 and to the Malvern Wells site in 1908. Both Margaret Judson's daughters, Florence and Alice, became Headmistress of the school. In the mid-1960s, Miss Joan Jones, formerly a housemistress at Malvern Girls' College, became the Headmistress. When The Abbey merged with St. James's in 1979 much from the Abbey went to the West Malvern site - the Chapel windows, furniture and the extensive library. The name of The Abbey is celebrated in one of the two main meeting rooms in Malvern St James.

The Abbey School


Lawnside could claim to be the oldest school in Malvern and may even date to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The purchase of the Lawnside building in Avenue Road dates from the 1870s. Miss Winifred Barrows was Principal for almost a half century, from 1925 to 1960, having also been at school there; she was a keen thespian and in the 1930s, during the Malvern Festivals, George Bernard Shaw and Edward Elgar attended tea-parties at Lawnside. Lawnside merged with St James's & The Abbey School in 1994 and relocated to St James’s & The Abbey on its West Malvern site. The name of Lawnside is celebrated in one of the two main meeting rooms in Malvern St James.

Malvern Girls' College

Miss Greenslade and Miss Poulton started a small school in College Road in Malvern in 1893, soon moving to a house nearer the centre of town which they renamed Ivydene Hall. They then proceeded to lease or buy the houses in the neighbouring area including The Mount where Edward Elgar had taught. In 1919 they embarked on their most ambitious project, to acquire the Imperial Hotel built in 1862 to serve the famous Water Cure, which was now less fashionable. The purchase price was £32,500.

They continued to develop the school and in 1934, an impressive extension was opened by HRH The Duchess of York, later to become the nation's much-loved Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The tree she planted at the same time now towers over the Quad. Miss Iris Brooks was the celebrated Headmistress from the late 1920s to the 1950s. High academic standards were set and maintained.

During the 2nd World War, radar was developed in Malvern and the Royal Radar Establishment (now QinetiQ) remained after the war. The number of staff married to scientists was of great benefit to the school in maintaining those standards, especially in the Sciences. A commitment to new ventures and contemporary architecture saw the building of Hatfield in the 1960s, the Edinburgh Dome in the 1970s and The Science Education Centre was opened in 1998 by Old Girl Professor Dame Lesley Rees, who was the first female dean of St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College.

St James's School, and St James's & The Abbey, West Malvern

St James's School was founded in 1896 by twin sisters Miss Alice and Miss Katrine Baird, two girls from a large family full of character: five of the seven sisters became Headmistresses. The school moved from the south of England to West Malvern in 1902, where they leased de Walden House, the grand home of Lady Howard de Walden.

Another sister, Miss Georgina, became Principal of Evendine Court School of Household Training, Colwall. In 1920 Alice Baird paid £20,000 for the whole of the St James's estate. For almost the next half century Alice Baird remained as Headmistress.

She was a friend of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, the founders of the Scout and Guide movements and they sent their daughters to St James's. HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, was at the school and when her son HRH The Duke of Gloucester officially opened Malvern St James in 2006, he spoke of his mother's love of the school.

St James's warmly welcomed The Abbey School when the schools merged in 1979 on the West Malvern site, and the school became known as St James's & The Abbey. In 1994 Lawnside also joined and the school reverted to its original name of St James's, remaining as this until 2006.


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