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Friends Newsletter No. 14

July 2006

St Werstan Award for the enhancement of Malvern's water heritage, in conjunction with Malvern Natural Mineral Water.


Stone Bottle Fountain - Following nomination in our previous newsletter, Friends were balloted to decide whether Stone Bottle Fountain should receive the award. The response was not only substantial but also overwhelmingly in favour. Our second nomination therefore to receive the Award is Stone Bottle Fountain at Colwall, to celebrate water bottling in the Malvern Hills. The historic works at Colwall dates from 1892 and employs about two dozen local people. The fountain was inaugurated on 13 August 2004 to a design by Bob Powell and sculptured by Darren Bennett, stonemason of Worcester. Following appraisal by Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells, Stone Bottle Fountain had an indexed response score that justified it receiving the award. Based on Friends responses, the results by category were as follows: Preservation = 86%; Environment = 74%; Public Accessibility = 83%; Provenance = 91%; Maintenance = 84%; Wow Factor = 87%; giving an overall average of 84%. This compares favourably with the mean of 60% arrived at by theoretical sampling. Gary O'Neill, Site Manager of Colwall Malvern Water bottling works received their award in April 2006. The award takes the form of a substantial hand caste brass plaque for display and a stained glass window, both featuring the St Werstan design.

The Illumination of St Werstan (at last!)
After years of research we have now finished the text for the forthcoming publication. The findings will be presented in a Friends Occasional Paper now at the publishers. The findings will appeal to those interested in medieval history, the founding of Malvern Priory, the provenance of St Ann's Well and St Werstan as patron saint of Malvern Springs and Wells. The document will be illustrated A4, with about 55 printed pages, not the 30 originally planned. We will only produce a limited quantity initially and so if you would like to order an advance copy by post please send your details and a 15 pounds cheque payable to Cora Weaver to 4 Hall Green, Malvern WR14 3QX. Our apologies for the delay for those who have already sent cheques, the content has now been dramatically expanded following permission from an international publishing house to reproduce previously copyright text. The question of using the text of others is always a difficult problem and we felt it essential to ensure that the proper permissions were in place.


THE FORWARD STRATEGY Malvern Hills Conservators 2005-2015


Should there be a continental style train, possibly pulled by a tractor, that would take visitors from Great Malvern to St Ann's Well.? In our last letter we solicited your views and as a result received both written and verbal responses. These will be passed on to the Conservators in due course. The overwhelming view was that the train would be a detrimental development.


OWLS HOLE PUMP Garden Party.


Recently the Owls Hole Pump and Engine garden party attracted Friends and Civic Society members who were invited to drop in for a chat and cream tea. Not only was this a chance to see the historic Owls Hole Pump and Engine working, it was also a chance to view the rare vintage film footage of Charlie Chaplin in "The Water Cure". Dated 1917 and lasting about 15 minutes, this silent movie is a rare insight into the more humorous and bizarre aspects of the water cure. In the picture can be seen Friends viewing while sipping tea in the impromptu viewing room, formerly Cora's garage. Guest of honour was Tim Brazier, who is a former Water Board employee and who once operated the pump and engine when in situ at British Camp. In the picture he is recounting many interesting and amusing tales of experiences with the equipment. Many thanks to Cora for making her garden available for such an enjoyable opportunity to meet Friends.

Newsletter stuff


Next time - do send us your topical editorial about your springs and wells, we love to hear from you and publish if appropriate in the newsletter. Also tell us your ideas about how Friends can be enhanced.
Holy Well Vandalised
In our last newsletter we featured examples of recent vandalism at Holy Well. This story was subsequently featured in the local paper and we were intrigued to see that a reader wrote in and appeared to be excusing such activity, claiming that the site has ancient religious origins. Two questions spring to mind. Firstly is it acceptable to put graffiti on someone else's property? Secondly where is the evidence that Holy Well has ancient religious origins? 


Clock Tower 


We see that work appears to have started on renovating this site at last.

Hot Stuff at Hot Springs
We are continually developing links with other locations with similar interests. Malvern, Arkansas, USA is the gateway town to the Hot Springs National Park with a population of about 9000.Up in the Ozark Mountains, the 47 hot springs were first discovered by Native Americans but became a spa resort in the 19th century. Following a field trip to our namesake town we are able to report on our findings. Like Malvern in the UK, Hot Springs USA has numerous springs, unlike Malvern UK however the springs are hot and soda/saline. The ' Valley of Vapours' was a revered and sacred place for the Native American Indians. The first explorer to discover this natural wonder was likely De Soto in 1541. As the European exploration and settlement of Arkansas took place the Indians were dislodged and a shanty town sprung up, providing very basic bathing facilities around the hot springs. The water flowing from the springs is believed to have been beneath the ground for some 4000 years and the combined outflow amounts to something like 850,000 gallons a day. The average temperature of the water is 143 degrees F.  Many of the springs are contained and the water directed to the historic bath houses. Others however continue to flow and can be seen along the Grand Promenade.


The first National Parks were in the USA and Hot Springs National Park was the first of these. One thousand acres of land was designated as protected landscape in 1832. The designation was seen as particularly important in that it protected the immediate catchment zone for the Hot Springs that were being exploited extensively as beneficial to health at the time. It was at Malvern Railway Station that many of the water curists first arrived for a stay to restore their health. It was also once an important brick making town. Much of the spa infrastructure at Hot Springs survives and spa treatments continue to be available. The principal concourse is Bath House Row where a series of Bath Houses were built in grand style for the water cure patients. These have been restored and now serve a variety of uses including a Visitor Centre, Heritage Museum, containing all the original accoutrements of an active bathing facility and as an active modern Water Cure facility. Today Malvern USA has lost its role as a gateway township for the spa industry and instead takes on the appearance of a ghost town, with empty shops and a railway that carries freight rather than wealthy visitors. An attractive museum records Malvern's history. The town is in the throes of major redevelopment as tourism becomes high on the agenda.


As a result of the visit we have built up excellent contacts with local countryside agencies and the museums and would be pleased to pass on further details if any Friends happen to be passing that way.




The annual springs and wells afternoon coach tour, run this year by Malvern Civic Society, took place in April, coinciding with the Annual Well Decorating celebrations. Cora and Bruce conducted the tour as usual dressed in Victorian period costume. This year the coach made a detour from the usual route. This was to Stone Bottle Fountain, Colwall, which received the St Werstan Award for the conservation of our water heritage. This lively trip provided an entertaining and informative afternoon. Many of those on board have signed up as Friends swelling our interest group to well over 200. If you missed it this year, book early for next year and be sure of a ticket.

Misleading Slip-ups Awards


We often see misleading information, some is deliberate and some is unintentional. Even we drop the odd clanger. Whatever the reason, good or bad, there is no real alternative to the truth, properly presented. With this award we seek to set the record straight.


This time we highlight the following notice that has appeared at the Malvhina Fountain on Belle Vue Island, Malvern town centre, since the fountain was unveiled on 4 September 1998. The name Malvhina supposedly originates from a legendary Celtic Princessbut is actually a fanciful myth dating from the Victorian times. The notices displayed alongside the spout are also somewhat misleading, suggesting that the water comes from deep aquifers. This is not so. Malvern water comes as rain on the hills that collects in the subsoil and fissures in the hills and then emerges as springs further down the slope. Residents, visitors and schoolchildren are all being misinformed by this pseudoscientific misinformation.

St Werstan Mini Plaques
Anticipating the availability of the forthcoming "Illumination of St Werstan" Occasional Paper we have had some attractive mini brass plaques made. These are in hand cast, polished brass and measure approximately 14 x 9 cms. They are on sale already at the Tourist Information in Malvern and include a brief resume of St Werstan the martyr saint who founded Malvern. They carry the message "The Malvern Hills - Springs, Spouts, Fountains" and are excellent souvenirs of our water heritage and patron saint. The mini-plaques can be mounted indoors or out or just used as mantelpiece decoration. If you would like to purchase one, they are available from Cora for 15 pounds including postage UK. Please make cheques payable to Cora Weaver.




Llandrindod Wells Civic Society trip - On Thursday 24th August it is planned to have a full day coach trip to Llandrindod Wells. This is timed to coincide with their annual Victorian Festival celebrations. Bruce, who has written a book on Llandrindod will be giving a lot of background information on the history of this interesting spa town, together with a guided walk. There will then be free time to explore the various celebration activities. Victorian costume is recommended but not compulsory.  The coach departs Avenue Road Malvern at 9am and should return between 6 and 7 pm. Tickets cost 17 pounds and are obtainable from Greville Megson, 16 College Grove, Malvern. WR14 3HP, please make cheques payable to Malvern Civic Society. Please note that this date has been changed by one week because Llandrindod have now confirmed the dates of their Victorian Week.


Great Malvern Water Trail - Malvern Experience Week - this is a free conducted walk around Malvern town centre springs and wells guided by Bruce and Cora. The date set is 2.30, Sunday 20 Aug. meeting at Tourist Information Centre in Malvern.  This will be a chance to discover the town centre sites. The walk will last about 2 hours. Sign on at TIC for this trip.


All activities are subject to cancellation due to force majeure or low support.

April Fools

A joke in bad taste is one way of describing a notice that appeared on the 1st April at St James, West Malvern. In a panic Friends contacted us for clarification after the notice, apparently from the Conservators, suggested that spring water might be contaminated. Ian Rowat of the Conservators confirmed that it was not from their offices. Fortunately it did not alert a broad scale panic about the integrity of the hill water, which could have resulted in similar unsubstantiated media furore similar to the 2005 Walms Well fiasco.

Who are Friends?


Friends promote research, conservation and celebration of the Springs, Spouts, Fountains and Holy Wells of the Malvern Hills and of Great Malvern as a Spa Town. Friends are the result of uniting various disparate groups with an interest in Malvern's Springs and Wells under a single common identity. Friends are kept informed about what is going on with our mailed Newsletter and can participate in the various activities and projects. There is no membership fee or onerous rules to comply with and Friends are totally independent, a status that we value. If you would like any back numbers of our Newsletters send a large SAE to Bruce with details of which ones you require. There is no charge and they may be collectors items one day!  The reason why we are able to distribute Newsletters to Friends without charge is because of the donations from individual Friends and the generosity of the Spas Research Fellowship, which handles our mail.

Email: springs@thespas.co.uk (click here to send an email)

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Friendship - There is no charge made for joining Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells. Just let us have your email address and we will send our newsletters, which are usually two monthly. Please be aware that some email addresses block large circulation emails. Do feel free to participate in our activities by contacting us below.
Best wishes, Cora & Bruce
Bruce Osborne, Tower House, Tadworth, Surrey. KT20 5QY
Tel. 01737 213169   email
Cora Weaver, 4 Hall Green, Malvern, Worcs. WR14 3QX            
Tel. 01684 561215   email

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