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Friends Newsletter No. 21

March 2008

Discover Malvern Springs and Wells - Annual Coach Tour

Once again it is time to plan the legendary Coach Tour which is scheduled in 2008 for Sunday 4th May, the Bank Holiday weekend. The coach departs Belle Vue Island, Great Malvern at 2.00 pm and will be led by Cora and Bruce. The coach will return to the town centre about 5.00pm. Tickets this year are obtainable direct from Cora or from the Tourist Information Centre in the town centre and cost 4 pounds 50 pence per person. This year it will coincide with the Well Decorating celebrations and is an excellent opportunity to not only catch up on all the latest news about springs and wells, but to also see some of the recent restorations and decorated wells.


Freshford Thermal Springs in our previous newsletter.


Friend Katy Jordan writes:  I thought I would let you know the little I know about Freshford and the supposed hot spring.  There was once some kind of spa treatment or spa hotel at Limpley Stoke, as I recall.  It may be that this is the source of the story you have heard.  Alan Dodge has written a very full and scholarly history of Freshford and mentions various springs and conduits including the spring-fed horse trough on Staples Hill that you photographed.  Nowhere can I find any mention of geothermal waters in Freshford. 

I hope this helps.  All the best to you and Cora for 2008,


Danubius update - Trip to Bath


In January this year David Habershon of High Street Malvern and Cora and Bruce travelled down to the city of Bath to look at Danubius developments in the premier UK town of thermal waters. We are working with Danubius to look at the possibility of re-establishing Malvern as a major international spa town and this was an opportunity to not only discuss progress but also to look at the impressive work going on in Bath.


The Danubius site is the Historic hospital next door to the famous Hot Baths and the Thermae Bath Spa. The plan is to turn the building into a major health spa with residential facilities. The grand and extensive building dates from the early 19th century and demolition of later extensions has resulted in the discovery of significant Roman remains of the original bathing establishment in the vicinity. Water from the ancient Hetling spring nearby is to be used in the new spa facility. Other points covered in our discussions included St Werstan and the labyrinth in Malvern and how the theme could be developed alongside any plans that Danubius may propose for Malvern. In the picture Cora and David discuss the historic landscape adjacent to the development with Jon Ogden of Danubius. Later this year we are planning a similar coach trip to Bath, for those interested from Malvern.


St Werstan's Labyrinth - update


It is now a year since we first published the proposals for a St Werstan Labyrinth in Rose Bank Gardens. We have carried out site assessment, secured the input of various experts and gone to formal designs. This has all been done in conjunction with the Malvern Hills District Council who owns the gardens. We have secured funding and we have a positive consensus about the value and desirability of the scheme.  The final stage in the process is the installation of the labyrinth that we anticipate will be a fitting tribute to St Werstan, Patron Saint of Malvern Springs and Wells. Originally envisaged as a re-creation of a medieval meditation path for monks, we would like to see the labyrinth become an al fresco classroom, where children and adults alike can meet and learn about the geology of the Malvern Hills, the geography of the landscape, and the abundant local history and heritage. We hope the labyrinth will also lure people away from television and computer to amble round its granite curves before strolling round the rest of the gardens or on to the bracing hill slopes for a glimpse of flora, fauna, and our celebrated water sources.  


Before all this however we have submitted a planning application that is now live to confirm the site and general layout. As this is part of a longer term plan for the Rosebank Gardens we are also working with High Street Malvern to promote the development of the park as a major amenity for the region. It would be great to think that we will be able to install the labyrinth ready for summer 2008. We persevere!


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.


Heritage Lottery Funded Restorations Update


The HLF project has run its course of three years but there is still some work to carry out with the surplus monies left. At the time of writing the project has not resulted in the water being reinstated at a dry spout but it is hoped that this original objective will be satisfied soonest. The HLF team have provided the following plan.


Holywell: the restoration of the rest room and well room were always in the project, but next door there is the site of an early water bottling plant. It is hoped to revive the long tradition of bottling water at this site and therefore provide an income to sustain the historic building. So it was proposed to restore the old bottling rooms to right of the well room. The owner would then fit out one room as a small scale bottling plant whilst another room would be fitted out as an education room; this would tell the story of the building itself, attempt to explain the hydrogeology of the hills and tell of the water cure. The little room adjacent to the pump room has now been cleared of most of its mystic messages and debris.


Royal Well: This well with running water is to be found along the West Malvern Road towards the Wyche Cutting. The owners have kindly agreed to have it restored, and this includes improving access to the water by altering the level of the current collecting platform. It is hoped to reinstall a coat of arms above the well again.


Beauchamp Spout: it had long been hoped to restore this popular spout on Cowleigh Road with its green glazed bricks. However, no owner could be found, and no funder will fund without an owner. Having advertised the dilemma in the media, and with no owner coming forward, Worcestershire County Council has kindly agreed that it would be prepared to take on that responsibility. So we hope to repair the glazed bricks, replace the red bricks, improved the drainage and consider fixing a more attractive spout for the water to flow from.


West Malvern Spout: This dry spout lies to the south of the old shop in West Malvern. Having sorted out various ownership issues, it is intended to make this a two stage project. The first stage is to repair the structure and the second, should budgets allow, will be to re plumb the water. This is no small task as it involves repiping the water down from Westminster Bank, some 300m away.


Jubilee Fountain: At Jubilee the biggest job was reconnecting the water; this was made considerably easier by Severn Trent Water generously putting in the connection to the large spring water pipe under the road for no charge. With the new flow we didn't want the existing tap left on and spring water flowing to fast for the drainage, therefore we changed the tap to a Victorian percussion tap.  The new tap will prevent water wastage but finding the tap was not easy and in the end we bought it on eBay!  

If all goes well, it is hoped to complete these projects in the summer of 2008.

STOP PRESS - The new bifurcating spout at Hay Slad has gone missing before we were able to take a picture. Was it stolen? We are on the trail. Did you get a picture? If so email a copy. Its sounds as if it was a magnificent piece of brass work.
Spouts and Fountains elsewhere - ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS (Life is Brief But Art Endures)

How about something like this for Malvern? This Californian mosaic fountain reflects the Napa Valley's role in the epic of the American West. The work of art seeks to capture the essence of the whole Napa Valley story, with its glories and its tragedies.

The mosaic captures the Valley's development, from the days of the Nappa Indians through the Spanish conquest, and on to the eras of Mexican and American domination. The development of agriculture featured at different times, cattle, wheat, prunes, grapes and wines, brought to market by horse, train and boat. The Hispanic, American and Chinese communities all played vital roles in this development. This heritage survives in Californian institutions, laws, culture and historic buildings.

The 'tragedies' include the elimination of the Nappa tribe of Wintum Indians by smallpox and harassment. Actions of some residents led to the burning of Napa's Chinatown and there was support in some quarters for Klu Klux Klan measures directed against African-Americans. Others who suffered persecution at sometime included Chinese, Catholic and Jewish peoples. These tragedies lie forgotten by many. Bringing the past into the present day consciousness, Alan Shepp's fountain can be found at the Napa River Inn, 500 Main Street, Napa, CA 94559.

The Spa at Oldends
In 2007 a pub sign 'The Spa' turned up at the house of Caroline and Merrick Feast in Malvern, the owners having purchased it at an auction. There then followed an extensive investigation by the Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells to ascertain its provenance - see our previous newsletter. With the help of the local media and John Tye a member of the Inn Sign Society, the following has been uncovered.


The small town of Stonehouse in Gloucestershire has a nearby hamlet called Oldends. Here there is a delightful country pub called the 'Spa Inn'. Dating from the 15/16th century, the building was once a farmhouse and its well became known for its medicinal properties. By the late 18th century, people were visiting to take the cure and accommodation was offered by the Comptons in a nearby building. A sale notice of 1815 records:


 'an acre and a half at Oldends, nearly opposite the Spa there, so justly celebrated for its Medicinal Springs; there is no doubt but these springs will rival those of Cheltenham.'


The celebrated saline spring continued to flourish and was encapsulated in a poem by the local poet W Lawrence in 1824:

Not far from church, along some pastured land,

Fam'd Oldends Spa and Compton's Cottage stand,

Where Crowds assemble with a fervent zeal

Their several wounds and maladies to heal

Hail saline spring thou source of inward peace

Pain's patent scourge and conqueror of disease.... etc.


A beerhouse was established in the mid 19th century, later taken over by a brewery. Here at the Inn the spa waters were taken from the well in the Spa Yard. A leaflet of 1872 records a small pump room on the site; the water apparently being sold at a penny a glass. The well still exists and is reputedly 175 feet deep and located beneath the living room floor of the Inn.


Today the Spa Inn is a traditional public house, popular at weekends for its meals service.  It never became another Cheltenham, but the legend lives on. The sign that started this investigation was probably changed when the brewery changed, altering the name slightly at the same time, as this is the only significant difference between it and the modern counterpart.


Source: From a brief history by John Anderson. (Can be seen at the Spa Inn, which is a good excuse to visit.)

Dates For The Future


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.


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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