Music making at Worcester asylum is the only example widely known today, due to the involvement of Edward Elgar in the 1870s and 1880s. Elgar was appointed Band Master in 1878, succeeding his violin teacher. He rehearsed the band, led performances, and composed a small amount of dance music which survives.

As at other asylums, a band was formed in the 1860s, and the annual reports also attest to a choir in the chapel, both staffed largely by attendants. However, records for musical activity, with the exception of payments to band masters and the material associated with Elgar, are sparse.

View from Worcester Asylum site
View from Worcester Asylum site

The asylum site at Powick is beautifully situated, overlooking the Malvern Hills. Only the very central portion of the main building, and the house built for the medical superintendent, remain.

Main Asylum building, Worcester
Main Asylum building, Worcester
Superintendent’s House, Worcester

Worcester boasts two medical museums, and both of these contain exhibits dedicated to mental health and the work of the asylum. The George Marshall Medical Museum, contained within the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, includes medical instruments used within the Asylum, together with a death mask of one of the patients. See http://www.medicalmuseum.org.uk/

The Infirmary Museum features a special corner devoted to the history of the asylum, including details on its use of music: http://www.worcester.ac.uk/your-home/the-infirmary.html


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