Malcolm Walford: 90-year-old says “Don’t sit at home, volunteer, get involved.”

Seventy-one years after starting work at Worcestershire’s historic Croome Estate, 90-year-old volunteering veteran Malcolm Walford is still going strong and has no intention of putting his feet up any time soon.

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90 yr old Malcom on Worcestershire’s historic Croome Estate

Worcestershire local Malcolm Walford first started work at Croome two months after Queen Elizabeth II’s June 1953 coronation, and as well as outliving two of the estate’s owners and our late monarch, the effervescent nonagenarian has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to the stunning 18th Century Neo-Palladian mansion and even has his own plot reserved in the estate’s churchyard for when his day finally comes. Which won’t be any time soon if Malcom has his way…

I was born in Wolverhampton on August 14th 1933, and my father was born about two miles away from Croome.

He worked there, as did two of his brothers, and they always said to me, ‘There’s something special about Croome,’ and I’m still here 71 years after I started working here, so they weren’t wrong.

It’s a magical place, and it keeps me young and a lot of people, when they meet me, can’t believe that I’ve passed 90, and to be honest, I don’t feel this old either.

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Malcom in his early role as a bricklayer

I’ve always been a busy person, and I started work on the estate in 1953 as a labourer with a stonemason and bricklayer. I got promoted in 1961 to stores controller, which I loved, and since then, I’ve had multiple roles, including company secretary, director, and even managing director.

Now, I’m based at Croome Church, where I’m a historian for Lord and Lady Coventry, and I welcome visitors and talk about the history of the estate, which is now administered by the National Trust, and about my own life, too.

I know a lot of people might reach 70 and want to put their feet up, but not me. I love the estate. It gets me out. It gets me talking to people, and once I get six or seven people around me, that gives me great pleasure. It’s wonderful.

 

Malcolm as the Store Controller

Malcolm as the Store Controller

I’m the last of the workmen who came onto the estate in 1953, and I’ve even written a book about the history of the place. Nobody will ever beat my service going back right to the 1800s. Nobody has ever done 71 years, and I love it even more now I’m getting older.

Both my parents lived until they were 92, so that’s the first anniversary I want to reach, and it’s been a long journey to reach this point.

I used to live in the village where Capability Brown – who designed the gardens – was from, but after I married my wife Mary from RAF Defford, we moved into a tied house on the estate.

We split up before she died from a brain aneurism in 2003, three months after my lad took his own life at the age of 44, but I still have a daughter and a granddaughter.

I then had a relationship with my secretary Gaynor, who passed away from pancreatic cancer four years ago, but the toughest time was Covid, when Croome closed down, and I was living alone in a flat in nearby Pershore, where I am now, where I had to have a lot of help from nurses to get me through it, but I got through it, I’m back at Croome, and now I’m as full of life as ever.

My association with Croome has been the biggest constant in my life, and its absolutely kept me going I just love being part of the fabric of the place.

 

God knows what they’re going to do when I’m not here anymore, and that’s why I want to keep sharing as much information about the place as I can now while I’m still alive, and I know everyone at Croome is willing me to get all the way to 100, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

I still drive. I’m still alert and I’ve written another 65 stories about Croome, which are going to be archived digitally and shared with future generations, and I just want to keep going.

 

Don’t sit at home. Volunteer. Get involved. I couldn’t survive if I had to stop at home all day. 
Malcolm Watford

I love turning up for work on a Saturday morning but working for five hours leaves me shattered – although I’ll do Wednesday mornings too in the summer – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s tiring, but it’s energising, too, and if there are people out there reading this and wondering how they can make the most of their time, I’d urge them to volunteer for the National Trust. If there’s anything local, volunteer for it because it keeps you going.

Don’t sit at home. Volunteer. Get involved. I couldn’t survive if I had to stop at home all day.

No way. I’d just disappear. I wouldn’t live as long as I want to live.

And I hope to go on for a very long time yet!

 

For more information on volunteering for the National Trust visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/support-us/volunteer