A Brief History of Priory Park
Priory Park was acquired by Malvern Urban District Council in 1925.
Priory Park was formally the grounds of Priory Mansion, a large, imposing house built in 1874 by Alfred Miles Speer.
He had demolished an earlier house, ‘The Priory', which had been built in 1834 by Robert Thompson.
This was the house subsequently bought by Dr James Manby Gully, a colourful local character, in 1847 for £5,000.
Dr Gully is famous for his water cure.
Malvern had been for centuries a spa village and various properties were ascribed to the water from the springs and wells around the Malvern Hills.
Dr Gully and Dr James Wilson were impressed by the water cures on the continent, and set about developing Malvern as a health spa.
Dr Gully was extremely successful, and became very prosperous.
In 1851 Dr Gully extended his property by acquiring land for £700, This piece of land is now occupied by the Splash Leisure Centre and also includes the walkway connecting Orchard Road and Priory Road.
This he laid out as a kitchen garden and ‘health baths'.
Alfred Speer seems to have finished his impressive new house in 1877. He added to his property by acquiring at auction, what is now the Priory Park and Swan Pool for £4,500.
This includes the area as far as Grange Road but excluding the site of the Winter Gardens and Theatre.
The Winter Gardens was later transferred to Alfred Speers in 1888 from Malvern Assembly Rooms and Pleasure Gardens Ltd.
By the time Alfred Speer died in 1894, he had created a magnificent mansion in the Gothic style, standing in some eight acres of splendid gardens.
The property was used as a school until 1925.
An open air swimming pool was built circa 1923, and this lasted in public ownership until 1988.
The adjacent Priory Lodge Hall was formally a gymnasium. It is not clear when this was built, but it was certainly in existence in 1911.
The current plan of the Park has changed little from the original layout of the pleasure gardens associated with Priory Mansion.
The Splash Leisure Centre replaced the old swimming pool in 1988.
There is now a children's play area and various minor modifications have been made.
The Swan Pool remains the same, as does the Broadwalk.
The origins of the Swan Pool are somewhat obscure but it has been suggested that this was possibly owned by the Priory Church.
Many of the paths still follow their original routes and a large proportion of the trees date from the Park's Victorian heyday.