A couple of years ago, the Firs Elgar birthplace museum in Worcestershire became a National Trust property. This is the first time we’ve been since then. Happily, it remains a fascinating family day out. In fact, there have been a few significant improvements. Much of the museum is dog friendly and there are plenty of things to keep children entertained too.
Edward Elgar and the Firs National Trust
The history of Edward Elgar’s connection to this small cottage in Broadheath is fascinating. Born at the cottage in 1857, he lived there until he was just two years old. His family had moved to the small hamlet from Worcester, due to his mother’s desire to bring up her children in the countryside.
Despite moving back to Worcester, Elgar and his siblings still holidayed in Broadheath every year. He was so fond of the place that on being made a baron, he requested the title ‘Baron Elgar of Broadheath’. He also expressed his desire to be remembered there soon before his death.
The cottage was purchased by his daughter in 1935 and she started to gather memorabilia of Elgar. Ultimately, the cottage became a museum to his memory, with the later addition of the visitor centre, musical garden and tearoom. These days, the inside of the cottage contains rooms that have been restored to the way they would have looked in Elgar’s time. Alongside these are rooms containing exhibits such as violins, chess sets, manuscripts and a rather beautiful piano.
Children at the Firs National Trust
From the moment we arrived at the Firs, I was pleasantly surprised at how child friendly it is. The girls happily sat and watched a short film about Elgar’s life and had a look around the exhibition. Two pianos are on display in the visitor centre, one of which belonged to Elgar himself. A sign next to the piano informs visitors that they can play it with permission from staff. Libby was delighted to be allowed to try it out.
Then, we headed outside into the musical garden where they were able to run around and let off some steam. I think having space to run around is a really well thought out idea for a museum. However interested children are in exhibits, they will always become restless. A selection of xylophones, a camp fire, fairy doors, bug hotels and exciting paths to follow make the garden an interesting space for little ones.
Once the girls were ready to concentrate again, we headed back indoors to grab a ticket for the cottage itself. With the tickets, the girls were given colouring sheets with a trail around the house to find boxes with fact files about various pests from clothes moths to silver fish. This kept them interested in the exhibits inside the house, which is another inspired idea from the National Trust.
Dogs at the Firs National Trust
When I looked at the Firs National Trust website, I was surprised to read that it was dog friendly. Dogs are not allowed in the cottage itself, or in the tearoom. However, they are fine to go into all areas of the exhibition and all outdoor areas. An outdoor seating area means you can still use the cafe when you have a dog with you. There is a two mile circular walk from the Firs, which is also dog friendly.
When we arrived, we were told which areas the dog could and couldn’t go into. To prevent the cottage from getting too crowded, you need to book a time to go in there. As we had the dog with us, staff advised us to go into the cottage separately. They let us know roughly how long we’d want in there so we could book consecutive times and swap over with the dog. The other option would have been to leave her in the car while we went in. However, we were happy walking around the garden with her. Although ironically, she seemed a little wary of Edward Elgar when they came face to face.
National Trust visitor’s passports
My only gripe with National Trust properties is always the amount of plastic tat in their gift shops. I can’t stand the plastic waste from buying things like this for children, but they are always tempted and will always ask to buy a toy. This time though, we saw the National Trust visitor’s passports at reception.
Passports cost £5 and every time you go to a National Trust property, you can get the passport stamped. You can buy a book of stamps to stick in there and get them franked, but these weren’t available at the Firs, so we just got the stamp directly in the book at the tearoom. For the first time ever, the girls weren’t asking to buy toys. Instead, they asked to go and get their book stamped. As every National Trust property has a different stamp and we go to an awful lot of them, I’m hopeful that this will keep their interest and they’ll be excited about collecting their stamps instead of buying things from the gift shop.