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Friends Newsletter No. 20

December 2007

News in the Making - Danubius Comes to Malvern?


Those who came on our Buxton trip earlier this year will know that Danubius is probably the world’s largest spa and health resort operators, with extensive interests particularly in Eastern Europe. Celebrated spas such as Marienbad and Budapest testify to their pursuit of health and yet at the same time their retention of the best heritage, particularly spectacular spa architecture. Buxton is already enjoying the attention of Danubius with a major new spa due to open in 2010 with a proposed expenditure of 38 million pounds. How can we attract them to Malvern was a question raised by those on the coach trip? We are pleased to report that we are working hard directly with Danubius in looking at various new spa locations in the UK including Malvern. A dialogue is now on-going regarding two possible sites in Malvern. During the coming months a series of consultations will take place about what are the local needs and the restoration of the spa ethos. Malvern is noted for its decaying spa heritage and Danubius is appraising how this could possibly be incorporated into a project that would result in the town once more becoming a health resort of international acclaim. In the picture Cora at Danubius’s Marienbad.


Will Danubius be using our natural spring water?


Thermal Spring at Freshford near Bath?


We keep an eye out for news of other localities with springs and we heard a whisper that Freshford has a natural thermal water source.  Being only a few miles from Bath with its famous hot springs it is perhaps a credible story. Hot in pursuit we investigated the story but were unable to confirm either way. We did however spot this attractive water spout at Freshford on Staples Hill. If there is anyone who can shed further light on what is likely an erroneous story do let us know. A hitherto unknown thermal water spring would be a most interesting discovery.


Springs & Wells Restorations Update


Our Well Watcher reports as follows. 'I did my regular cycle tour of the springs and wells and found the following: 


Ellerslie Fountain - has had all the leaves cleared from the bottom, exposing huge stone slabs. These were once level with the road, but the road surface has been built up so much since 1860 that you now have to step down onto the slabs. An overhanging tree has been removed and scrub cleared, exposing this delightful watering stop. I cleared lots of dead vegetation from the rather dilapidated, hidden riveted iron horse trough immediately adjacent to the north of the fountain. This little crossroads was in an ideal place for animals to take a drink. The original stone plaques have been replaced and now need to weather before they look the part.


Lower Wyche Spout - The water is running freely here.


Hay Slad - The new paving looks grand and there are grassy spaces left to add a bit of landscaping. It's a shame about the position of the grate, which is not quite at right angles to the spout.


Weaver's Well - A blind man on a galloping horse could have made a better job of the repointing.


Clock Tower - The well chamber has yet to be completed and there is still no water at the spout. The controversial gate to the fountain chamber is now in situ. Overall this feature is looking better all the time - and the clock is keeping perfect time!


Westminster Bank - The work here, which was due to be completed by the end of October, has not yet begun.  Why not schedule a Boxing Day walk there - it's a lovely spot!


Lord Sandys now sports a new path and two impressive brick pillars (see picture).


Winds Point Spout

The dislodged blocks have been put back neatly into place and the railings reinstated and painted.


Willow Spring

What a shame about the repointing! However, the paving looks great!


Jubilee Fountain

It looks like a Hannibal Lecter disembowelling at the moment.'


The Turkish Baths at Bethnal Green


On a recent trip to London I decided to get away from it all and try out the newly-restored Turkish baths at Bethnal Green. They are in York Hall, Old Ford Road, opposite the Museum of Childhood and a short walk from Bethnal Green Underground. The baths were built in 1926 and reopened this summer after a huge makeover, though the charming entrance hall is quite as it was when first built.  Downstairs, the baths' Reception was peaceful and serene, and there I swapped my shoes for a pair of flip-flops, a bathrobe, bath sheet, locker key and a capacious mesh basket to put things in to take into the bathing area. Then I was asked to complete the usual health-check form, to ascertain that the various treatments would not exacerbate any existing medical condition. As a novice here I was given a guided tour of the baths before changing into my bathers. Before settling down in the green mosaic-tiled Relaxation Room I helped myself to some flavoured water, opting for the fresh lemon in preference to the plain or cucumber. For 20 minutes I read my newspaper, then ventured into the dry Turkish baths, a delightful piece of spa heritage with their original marble benches. Only the soft lighting was modern. The tepidarium was deliciously warm; the caldarium noticeably warmer, and the laconium perspiringly hot. I'd filled a flannel with crushed ice and used this to cool my steaming face and limbs, which stopped me completely boiling over. The cold plunge pool wasn't operational that day so I tried 'the bucket', a wooden bucket suspended from the ceiling and half filled with cold water, which tilted by pulling on a chain. It wasn't too shocking, and reminded me of Dr Gully's descending douche but without the icicles. I tried the steamy eucalyptus room, which, disappointingly, smelt only of dirty water, as did the steamy lavender room.  The warm aromatherapy shower also had no detectable aroma. It was a very relaxing two and a half hours and there were several treatments that I didn't have time to try, but I shall go again - and remember to take some shampoo.


The baths are open for men on Monday, Wednesday & Friday; for ladies on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and there is mixed bathing on Sundays. Go to www.spagazers.com and do a keyword search for 'York Hall' to find out more.    

                                                                 Cora Weaver


St Werstan Award in conjunction with Malvern, The Original, English Water


During December Caroline and Merrick Feast received their award for restoring the water flow to Court Road Spout at Barnards Green. The award was made as a result of the ballot run through the Friends Newsletter The result was a 78% overall score which was well above the theoretical mean.  The award, which comprises a large brass plaque, was presented by Rob Stilliard, from the Malvern Water Bottling Works at Colwall. It was particularly in recognition of the ingenuity with which the water was reinstated. This involved the construction of a special debris drilling device, made by Peter Feast, Merrick's father. One of the interesting outcomes, when water was again flowing was the comments from the commuters walking to Qinetic in the mornings, who proclaimed never to have noticed the spout previously. In the picture, Caroline and Merrick receive the St Werstan plaque from Rob. Stilliard, together with Peter Feast displaying the drilling device, having rushed back from New Zealand to be present, and with Cora and Bruce representing Friends. In the background the spout with its now prolific flow of water.


Dates For 2008


We are formulating our program for next year and the following proposals are now being pursued:


The Annual Springs and Wells Coach Tour will take place on Sunday May 4th in 2008 - the Bank Holiday Weekend. Diarise the date for an informative and enjoyable afternoon. More details in our next Newsletter.


We plan a day trip to Bath later in the year to coincide with spa developments in Malvern. This will be an opportunity to see what changes are going on in Bath with regard to the spa and the utilization of the hot springs. It will also be an opportunity to meet the developers and update ourselves on what is being considered for Malvern.


There is also in the pipeline a day trip to Church Stretton to see the Cwm Dale Spring mineral water bottling works and what survives from the town's former spa era. It will also be a chance to view the spectacular scenery, including the Carding Mill valley. The trip will be guided by local experts.


For those who are really adventurous there is a possible four day trip to Marienbad in the Czech Republic. This is a magnificent spa which became famous in the late 19th century for its hospitality to European royalty. Since then the town has continued to be one of Europe's premier spas with grandiose architecture and modern health clinics. This will be of particular interest to those who are interested in Malvern's future as a spa.


All of these trips are scheduled for later in 2008 and dates will be announced in due course.


St Werstan's Labyrinth


This project continues and we now have a detailed scheme designed by a local firm of landscape architects. We now have to get the overall scheme approved by the Council and develop a funding strategy, based on laying the labyrinth in year one and then developing the overall site at Rose Bank Gardens in an ongoing series of projects over several years. This enables us to utilise the funding that has been pledged to date and to enhance the site over the ensuing years as additional funding is forthcoming.


To find out more about St Werstan, patron saint of Malvern Springs and Wells do read 'The Illumination of St Werstan the Martyr' available from the Priory bookshop and elsewhere or call Cora for a copy - price 9 pounds 99 pence.



The County Museum was the location of a particularly unpleasant poisoning recently.  At the High Table the Prioress from nearby Westwood House collapsed as a result of being poisoned by monkshood. This all supposedly took place in 1394 and was the subject of a murder mystery in which museum visitors were invited to participate in solving the crime. You will doubtless recognise some of the cast of this fictitious plot. Next year it is hoped to do a MURDER AT THE WATERCURE and Malvern will be where the murder takes place. This will be followed by an enquiry to be held at Hartlebury Castle. The events and circumstances will be most realistic and Friends are invited to participate in the proceedings. The final arrangements are still being formulated and so watch our Newsletters and make a note of the date, when announced.  The Murder Mystery is a regular annual event in the calendar of the County Museum and there are usually six performances over the weekend sometime in November.


Mystery of The Spa pub?

One of the Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells has come up with a mystery that we would be intrigued to resolve. Can you help? Somewhere there is or was a Whitbread public house that was called The Spa. We know because the Friend has bought the old sign at an auction. He and his wife would be very interested to know where the establishment is. Is it still called The Spa? Or has it been destroyed or renamed? Email to cora@malvernspa.com if you think you know the answer. If we find out we will publish it in the next newsletter.


Forgotten Malvern spring water Baths come to light


Friends will be pleased to learn that we continue to discover amazing artefacts of Malvern's former 19th century water cure, Recently we came across the remains of Dr Wilson's Baths. Dr Wilson and his colleague Dr Gully were without doubt Malvern's foremost Victorian water cure doctors. Their hydros were near the town centre and the buildings still exist, albeit as apartments now. With building conversions and demolition it was assumed that the baths had been buried or demolished. Imagine our surprise therefore when we were invited to one of those subterranean scrambles that led us to the baths themselves! Not available to the public, we conducted a survey of the historic facilities for inclusion in our next book on Malvern Springs and Wells.


Would you be interested in participating in an exploratory rubbish clearing and dig next year to reveal more of Malvern’s spa heritage? Let us know if you are prepared to come and get dirty one Sunday.


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. 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 are now collector's items!  Due to the ever increasing numbers of Friends (now in their hundreds), we have to make a small charge for occasional Newsletters of 5 pounds for 4. This only applies to renewals and new Friends.

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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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