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Bad Signs for Malvern Borough (Literally)

The signs at King Street and Sugartown Road, and Warren Avenue and Paoli Pike, bear incorrect information.

How did Malvern become Malvern? Contrary to the note on one the Malvern Borough sign—which indicates that the area was named for Malvern Hills in Wales—no one really knows.

The Malvern Historical Commission has been receiving letters for years now that the sign is incorrect, Lynne Hockenbury, MHC member, writes in an informational document available on the Malvern Borough website (PDF). Malvern Hills is actually located in England, and there's not much evidence that the English town is actually the borough's namesake.

George Highly's book History of Malvern indicates a different origin, suggesting that the borough was named by founder David Evans, possibly after Malvern Hills, VA, where a battle was fought during the Civil War.

Hockenbury writes:

In the many and detailed journals of David Evans (which are now located at the Chester County Historical Society), there is nothing that suggests he had a part in naming the Borough, where the name came from. What we do know is that circumstantial evidence suggests that it was the railroad that changed the name of the town from West Chester Intersection to Malvern before the Borough was incorporated. We can't prove this, but neither can we prove any of the other options.

The historical commission's investigations led to Jack Graham, of the Keystone Marker Trust, who said that both the Malvern Borough sign and the sign at Paoli Pike and Warren (see gallery above) were put up some time in the 1920s.

Graham "indicated that we are not alone in having a marker with information that is either incorrect or at least suspect," Hockenbury wrote.

While the sign at West King Street and Sugartown Road is inaccurate, "The sign at Warren and Paoli Pike has left us with different questions," Hockenbury told the Borough Council in March. "Upon investigation, we discovered it is actually a directional sign that had been painted over."

Beneath the yellow-on-blue "Malvern: Site of the Paoli Massacre" text lie directional arrows and town names. One arrow points west and says "3 <-- West Chester" and the other points east and says "Norristown --> 10."

Graham summed it up well in an email to the historical commission last year. "Although your present marker is not correct, it's very antiquity makes it nonetheless a part of the fabric of Malvern history," he said.

And for right now, that's good enough for the Malvern Historical Commission. Its members decided last year that, for now, the borough would keep and maintain the signs as they are.

Lynne Frederick Hockenbury May 03, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Even those of us who aren't "originals" love it here! Great comments!! Thanks for reading!
Adam May 04, 2012 at 12:31 AM
I always wondered about the connection to Wales. Wouldn't it be spelled Malvyrn if it was Welsh, like Bryn Mawr and Gladwyne and Bala Cynwyd and Berwyn...
Tom Logue May 05, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Paoli Pike years ago was Pa. Route 202, so the marker was taken down, painted over and put back up on a different pole. My mind might be playing tricks on me but I remember the seeing the directional sign.
T. R. Hickey June 30, 2012 at 02:05 PM
The blog, "Welsh Place Names" indicates that there are at least ten places in Wales that have Malvern as part of their name: Malvern, Bethel Road, Caernarfon, Gwynedd Malvern, Limekiln Rd, Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, Torfaen Malvern, Wellington St, Aberaeron, Dyfed Malvern, The Beacon, Rosemarket, Milford Haven, Dyfed Malvern, Peter St, Rhosllanerchrugog, Wrexham Malvern, Crundale, Haverfordwest, Dyfed Malvern, Carway, Kidwelly, Dyfed Malvern, Rhostrehwfa, Llangefni, Isle of Anglesey Malvern, Freystrop, Haverfordwest, Dyfed Malvern, Penparc, Cardigan, Dyfed It also mentions that the Malvern Hills were close to the Welsh border in England and originally settled by Welsh settlers in the 1600s. William Penn sold Welsh-speaking Quakers the tract that now includes Malvern and most of what we know as the Main Line for ten cents an acre. Add to this that railroads were notorious for ignoring local place names when naming their stations. Thus, Humphreysville became Bryn Mawr, Athensville became Ardmore, and other Welsh and pseudo-Welsh names proliferated. But Radnor and Malvern are cited as the two Main Line communities being named by the Welsh settlers from the beginning.
Tom Fox September 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Maybe there are old railroad records they would be willing to share, if someome has a contact there?

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