Location: In the grounds of Ellerslie, a former water cure establishment, later a school and planned to become a care community.
Description: A stone and brick structure with steps climbing to a higher level and down below ground level.
During the winter of 2011/2 our attention was drawn to an interesting water feature in the grounds of Ellerslie, just south of Great Malvern. We carried out a preliminary inspection and were intrigued by the structure, which is obviously historic and the unusual pavement mosaic nearby. As a result of further investigation we are now able to give much more information. The feature lies in a wooded area of the grounds of the 19th century water cure establishment Ellerslie, which became a girl's college and was latterly part of Malvern College. It comprises a spiral stone staircase ascending to a bridge over a descending staircase, which apparently once went down to spring water. The centre of the staircase comprises a hollow stone column, which may have been a well also down to the spring water. The top of the well shaft is accessible from the 'bridge'.
In the late 1980s some renovation work was carried out on the structure on behalf of the college by Michael Haines and colleagues. At the time they unearthed several pieces of carved stonework that can still be seen strewn in the vicinity. Both Joanna's well and the stonework date from Victorian times, the stonework was where alterations were made to the water cure establishment and the stonework used as garden ornamentation whereas the well itself was a means of passage from the higher levels of the landscaped gardens to the lower area.
Today the site is being redeveloped by Audley as a retirement village for the elderly.
Joanna, who led us to the site following an editorial in the Malvern Gazette, has given us the following amusing tale of life as a student at the former college. 'I have been a member of the Malvern college family since 1998 when I entered the pre-nursery; Hampton, and then moved upwards in the school system to Hillstone, which was previously known as Ellerslie. I remained there until I was 13, having been a student there for 6 years. Throughout my time at Hillstone, there were always ominous areas of the campus known as 'out of bounders'. The well site was one of the more strictly enforced areas. To keep my curious class-mates away from our favourite health-and-safety hazard, upon our arrival we were all told a story about a little boy called 'Timmy' whom had the misfortune of falling down said well and meeting his end, having disobeyed his teachers. This kept most of us at bay, that was, until we as a class watched the movie 'Lassie' and realised with a mix of shock and glee that our barrier of fear had been constructed upon a borrowed story-line. That break-time the cautionary tale was replaced with stern tellings-off and the risk of 'stripes' (a kind of de-merit that would result in one week's worth of clearing the table). Ever since the risk of certain death had been replaced with a week's clearing we were all frequent visitors to the well in the woods, much to the dismay of our disapproving disciplinarians.'
Having learnt the above, our concern was the feature would be lost with redevelopment as a retirement village. We then followed up with enquiries at Audley and were delighted to learn that the grounds of Ellerslie will be retained as parkland to be enjoyed by the residents of the community. Audley also arranged for us to have escorted access to the site for further investigation. After ensuing discussions, we understand that the well will now be retained as a garden feature, having undergone restoration to make it secure and safe. This is overall a positive outcome following discovery of this most interesting landmark. Audley Ellerslie as the site will be known is due to be completed at the end of 2016.
1. The structure in the woods.
2. The nearby decorative pavement mosaic with Joanna and Cora Weaver.
3. The staircase down to the water, now blocked with rubble.
4. The characters from Lassie.