The Hilderstone Miscellany

The Hilderstone Miscellany

Sir Edward Elgar

Hilderstone is pleased to celebrate its connection with Sir Edward Elgar, particularly in the 150th anniversary of Sir Edward’s birth.


A photograph of Sir Edward Elgar taken two years after the successful premiere of the Enigma Variations.

Members of the family of the first vicar of Hilderstone (the Reverend Baker) were friends of the Miss Alice Roberts. Miss Roberts who married her piano teacher, the impecunious Edward Elgar. The  Elgars were regular visitors to the Baker's Gloucestershire home and they became great friends.

The work entitled "Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma)" was the first which established a national reputation for Elgar. First performed on 19 June 1899, the piece is dedicated to the composers  friends (and perhaps a friends dog!).

William Meath Baker, is "WMB" of the fourth of the Enigma Variations. William's sister, Dora, married Richard Baxter Townshend, "RBT", of the third variation, and another sister,  Minnie, was the second wife of the Reverend Alfred Penny, vicar of Wolverhampton. Mr. Penny's daughter (and Minnie's step daughter) was the Dorabella, the tenth variation.

William Meath Baker lived as Hasfield Court Gloucestershire. He was nicknamed "the Squire" by Alice and Edward Elgar. He was a real country gentleman who enjoyed country pursuits and climbing in the Swiss Alps. He was small and wiry, decisive, quick and energetic. William Meath Baker also played a pivotal role in the development of Fenton, the “forgotten” member of the potteries six towns, and his initials are still recorded on buildings there.

Variation IV depicts the the principal characteristics of the man. He is depicted about his activities. The variation concludes as the door slams. He (and the variation) takes his leave.


Richard Baxter Townshend was William Meath Baker's brother in law. He was a true Victorian eccentric. As he powered his tricycle he constantly rang the bell. He was concerned that others were aware he was on his way. Townshend said he was deaf. Whilst it is not known if this was true, it is certain that he was not musical!. He had undertaken many activities ranging from being a gold prospector, cattle rancher to being a classical scholar.

Physically he was distinctive. He had a high pitched voice, bright blue eyes, grey hair and a red complexion.

Variation III is marked Allegretto and depicts the dedicatee on the tricycle, chuckling in his amusing manner.

Dorabella Penny was a young friend of the Elgar's and a regular visitor. She was in her early twenties, energetic and very pretty. The stepdaughter of one of William Baker's sisters. Dorabella brought pleasure to Edward and Alice Elgar and in some respects he acted as an assistant to the musician.

The X variation is charming tune and reflects Elgar's affection for its "Variationee".


There has long been, a still unresolved, dispute as to the "enigma" behind the Enigma Variations. Although we are not, at present providing the solution on the Hilderstone website, we are  able to show that three of the variations have a connection with Hilderstone. If you watch this space in the future you may find the answer to Elgar's enigma. Who knows?




War Memorial

Robin Hood

Gerard Family

Edward Elgar

A Sullivan


Toll road

Horse dealer



Christ Church

Collins window




This web site is provided as a service to the village by J and D Crump.  Last updated 28 August 2015.  The compilation of, and the original material in, this site is copyright 1999 to 2015 J and D Crump.