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Friends Newsletter No. 44

July 2012

Who are the Friends? Friends are a voluntary group who 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.

Gateway to the Springs and Wells -
Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells celebrate Jubilee Weekend outside the Mount Pleasant Hotel. The Hotel will soon be the venue for another celebrated event with the new book launch detailed below.




Celebrated Springs of the Malvern Hills.
Would you like to know where Dr Gully's Neubie House really was? Do you know where the Dumpling Fountain was - and did it look anything like a dumpling? And where is Darke's Tank, which provided such an important water supply to mid-nineteenth century Malvern? And who was Darke?  
The answers to these questions, and much more new information about Malvern's history, can be found in the pages of this beautifully illustrated book, Celebrated Springs of the Malvern HillsPrinted by Phillimore in large quarto, it contains 192 pages, 8 clear maps showing the location of 130 watery sites, and approximately 200 colour plates and black and white images, most of which have never been published. The book also includes a history of bottling Malvern Waters.

The book, the largest and probably the most elegant ever to have been written about Malvern, is £25.00, but, as a Friend of Malvern Springs and Wells, you can take advantage of our special offer. You are invited to come to the book's launch at the Gateway to the Springs & Wells - Mount Pleasant Hotel on Belle Vue Terrace - on Saturday 11th August between 10am and 1pm. Sit with a coffee (provided by the management) and look at a rolling on-screen presentation of images from the book, then buy your book at the special discounted price of just £20, using the voucher printed on the last page of this newsletter.

This is a sample of pages from the book.  Looking forward to seeing you at the launch.


                                                                                               Cora & Bruce

Quick Sand - Friend or Foe?


A potentially dangerous problem when dealing with spring water is quicksand.  We have all no doubt seen movies where the hero or heroine is sucked into the seething morass only to be rescued at the last minute or alternatively to disappear for ever.  Quicksand is fine grained sand that has liquefied due to water saturation. As a result it is no longer able to take weight and a heavy object will sink. As it sinks the sand consolidates around the object or body and this makes it difficult to drag it or oneself out. Also if clothes are worn, these become heavier with saturation and in turn add to the weight of the body, which in turn brings about an increase in the likelihood of sinking further. 


For this action to work you need sand that has water being forced through it. For example spring water emerging from a deep cavity that has become filled with fine sand. Fortunately such conditions do not prevail in the Malvern Hills to the best of our knowledge but can occur not only on the surface but underground in mines and caves. The trick to getting out is to float out of the morass. This is easier said than done if you are up to your waist, weary and wet.


The diagram is something that you can construct in your garage as an experiment to demonstrate the effects. Make a container that has a water supply in to the bottom. Add a layer of stones to distribute the water and cover with a gauze mesh to keep the sand above it. Fill with fine sand and stand something heavy on the top. Turn the water on and as the water seethes up through the sand the heavy object will sink without trace! Add some gauze covered overflow holes at the top so that you do not lose all your sand over the kitchen floor, even if you flood the ground floor of your home. Good luck - let us know how you get on.
New Gateway to the Springs and Wells    
Plans for a new visitor centre 'Gateway to the Hills' took a giant leap forward during Civic Week.  On Friday 8th June a reception and presentation was held to launch the Gateway project. The event began with a conducted walk through Great Malvern, led by Cora who outlined the impressive heritage and visitor attractions of the town. Ending at the Mount Pleasant Hotel for afternoon tea and cakes, Bruce then presented the case for the new visitor centre Gateway to the Hills, to be created by transforming the Mount Pleasant Hotel and grounds in Great Malvern. 


Bruce said that although not formally named a National Park, the Malvern Hills are arguably Great Britain's original National Park. Established as a protected landscape by Act of Parliament in 1884, the Malvern Hills Conservators own and manage the landscape on behalf of the nation, thus conforming to the international definition of a National Park. There are now 15 formal British National Parks, all established since the Second World War and the Malvern Hills makes an unnamed 16th. One big difference however between the Malvern Hills and National Parks is that the Malvern Hills lacks a formal Visitor Centre, often the first stopping off place for tourists.


A further issue with Malvern is the link between the town and the hills. Many visitors can see the hills but do not know how to reach them. This is now being addressed by the 'Route to the Hills' scheme initiated by Malvern Hills District Council. The Mount Pleasant is ideally located as the link between the landscape of the Hills and the townscape and this is addressed through the aptly named Gateway project.


Following the presentation, the Gateway to the Hills project was launched with a champagne toast, when young Joshua Thiele skilfully rang a welcoming peal on an historic brass hand bell looked on by 'AJ' the manager and Bruce. Joshua, from North Staffordshire, was visiting Malvern with his family, and was one of a number of tourists and local people at the launch. Then Cora and Bruce together cut the ribbon at the entrance to the Mount Pleasant's new Malvern Tea Rooms, the first stage in the development of the extended facilities.


Following the launch the guests then explored the gardens. They saw the buildings and grounds that will be developed as the Gateway visitor centre. This will provide services including advice, accommodation and refreshments for visitors, whether they are travelling by car, bike or on foot. It will offer a range of specialist interpretation and information resources, including guided walks, books, maps and special events, complimenting those offered by Malvern Tourist Information Centre. There will also be heritage artefacts on display portraying the heritage of the town and hills. In addition it will be a new way of discovering the celebrated Springs and Wells through a passport scheme. The unique position of the Mount Pleasant means that it will be the re-creation of the vital link between the Hills and the townscape. It is adjacent to the historic 99 steps and processional way of the ancient Monks of Malvern Priory, as they once made their way to and from the hillside hermitage of St Werstan the Martyr, the founding monk of Malvern.


"We believe this is a much better proposition than trying to re-establish a tea hut on the summit of the hills or a series of ad hoc services scattered over a wide area," said Bruce, "The Gateway will be the visitor centre for what is really Britain's original National Park".


Archaeology Discovery at Royal Malvern Spa.


We were recently invited to explore some archaeology at the Royal Malvern Spa at West Malvern. In particular, high on the cliff at the rear of the now demolished spa site, is the remains of a double curved step and evidence of a water supply. Researching contemporary scripts that described the spa in the 19th century, we have been able to identify this as the remains of the original plinth that held the central statue fountain. Investigation of early images, particularly the depiction on a celebration medallion, suggests that the main hall was at first floor level. This enabled us to clarify in our minds why the remains were poised nearly 20 feet above the present ground level. In addition numerous decorative stone ornamentations were found in the vicinity, which also appear to be artefacts from the original building.


The Royal Malvern Spa Hall and Pleasure Gardens were officially opened on 7 May 1883. The following contemporary texts describe what we have discovered:


'...the central attraction is the statue fountain, in a recess on the east side. It is approached by stone steps, is screened off by ornamental woodwork, and is fixed in the midst of an effective grouping of rockery, virgin cork etc., while just above is a pretty fairy cataract adown which water can be made to tumble at will independently of the drinking stream. The statue is in composite marble, designed by Messrs.Rogerson (Liverpool) and modelled by an Italian artist; it represents an angel dispensing the elixir vitae from a water lily in the left hand, while on the right arm rests a scroll thus inscribed - 'God's water. Drink and thirst not. Pure water is life.'...the water from this spring is proved to be very remedial in gout, rheumatism, liver and renal complaints, and general debility.' Either side of the main fountain stood two Indian Gods, said to be over 2000 years old. Outside there was a further fountain in a rustic grotto.


In the pictures: Cora climbs the precarious cliff that was once the back eastern wall of the spa building, to find the peculiar rounded plinth upon which once stood the angel dispensing the healing waters.


Having unearthed a significant piece of Malvern's past we have to consider what is best done to preserve these artefacts. This is a question that remains unanswered at the moment.



Springs and Wells elsewhere - Poxwell - Dorset  - Just 6 miles from Weymouth in South Devon is a village called Poxwell. As one might expect with a name like that it has a very elaborate fountain alongside the main road. Driving past recently, one can not help wondering what the water was used for! The name originates from the 'Pokes well' and dates from when the locality was occupied by the Romans in the 1st century. The Keep Military Museum of Devon and Dorset, situated just 5.5 miles away from Poxwell, gives visitors an excuse to pass by and have a look at the well. You will note that the roadside facility was fed by a conduit, erected by John T Trenchard. Esq for the use of the Poor of his parish Poxwell 1843. The Manor House was built in 1613 to Jacobean style, and remained in the hands of the Trenchard family from 1699 until the 1970s. Cairn Circle stands on the edge of the village, a small stone circle about 14 feet in diameter. Sometimes dubbed the "mini Stonehenge", stop by one summer day and explore.

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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