Friends are the guardians of Malvern's water heritage (Malvern Gazette 1 March 2013 p.14). We are an independent voluntary group who relentlessly 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.
Mulberry Tree Project
We have been taking stock of the status of the 6 Mulberry Tree cuttings sent from Australia in 2009 to replace the Shaw Mulberry Tree in Priory Park, Great Malvern, England. Our experts advice is to plant them outdoors late autumn in their intended location. It is likely that we will plant two or three in a group initially, and then when they start to grow retain the healthiest. Before we do that however we need to determine which three of the six we use. When they arrived in England, the cuttings we named Bill and Ben were lodged at a secret nursery location near the Malvern Hills. After four years there they have grown into substantial saplings. They have also multiplied. In the picture you can see Cora and John with Bill and Ben but on the right there are a number of thriving next generation saplings, now the great great grandchildren of the mulberry tree that Shaw planted in Priory Park in 1936. When we have identified which ones go to the Park and secured a suitable protective railing and plaque, it should be all systems go for the big day! Watch this space.
St Werstan and the Crypt in the Priory - a Friend comments following the article in Newsletter 51.
"It does seem likely that the monks of Great Malvern Priory were venerating Werstan as early as the late C12. The crypt foundations were excavated during the Victorian period, and there is copy of a plan of the crypt in the grey folder on the museum reference shelf ... "Medieval and Tudor studies" ... currently on loan. It also looks very possible that it was Odda of Deerhurst who settled Werstan as a hermit in the forest of Malvern on Odda's manor of Powick in the early C11. Nothing can be proven, but these are a couple of additional items of potential evidence."
For more information on Odda (Hudde, Earl of Gloucester) as the donor of land that Werstan occupied see The Illumination of St. Werstan the Martyr (2007) pages 9,20,29.
Springs and Wells from the other side of the world, this time Malvern, in Melbourne Australia
In England we loose our water features like the Gothic Well at an alarming rate while in Malvern Australia new water features are being established. This one is nicknamed Foster's fountain after Di Foster who is masterminding the Mulberry Tree project with us. While working for the local Council, Di proposed that a drinking fountain should be established near the Mulberry Tree to enable locals to refresh in the heat of the Australian sunshine. We were delighted to learn that Di's mission was successful and, albeit not as historic as the Gothic Fountain, Foster's fountain now graces the pavement between the historic public park and the Mulberry Tree buildings. (see newsletter 52 for more details)
Also Shanghai has a tale to tell about us Brits.
The Shrimp Pond in Shanghai is now located in a very pleasant public park in the midst of this fantastic bustling city. Originally part of the awesome Jing An Temple complex the pool was fed by the Bubbling Well. The well was known as the sixth spring of China and could be drunk from an elaborately carved stone structure in the Nanjing Road (West). One day a monk named Shi Yan had procured some shrimps to eat from a fisherman. When asked to pay for the shrimps, the monk spat the shrimps into the pond. Fortunately they were still alive but had lost their feelers. Thereafter shrimps without feelers bred in the pond. That was until the Municipal Council of the British Settlement in Shanghai had the Bubbling Well levelled and landscaped. All the shrimps were lost. Fortunately the shrimps have now been replaced by carp. The historic carved stones from the original fountain were rediscovered in 1999 during subway construction and are now in the museum. The water garden provides a captivating haven of tranquillity in an otherwise hectic environment, as we found out on a field trip recently.
Do we have a similar story for Priory Park, Great Malvern? If you know of one do let us know.
Shaw Society in London and the Mulberry Tree
In late June, London became conversant with the exploits of George Bernard Shaw in Malvern and the Friends of Malvern Springs and Wells project to replant a genuine Shaw Mulberry Tree. Conway Hall in Holborn was the venue for an evening presentation to the Shaw Society by Cora Weaver on the reasons for the success of the Malvern Festival 1929-38. Cora outlined how a group of drama experts had come together in Malvern in 1929 to produce a festival in a town that had first class facilities and natural beauty. Someone wrote to the Malvern Gazette and complained that there was so much to do in Malvern during the festival - tea-time talks, balls, afternoon lectures, the Film Festival, garden parties, tea dances and of course plays - that festival-goers did not have time to climb the hills or visit the surrounding towns and villages. Cora's presentation included a unique collection of 1930s images of the Malvern Festival. Today Malvern has all but forgotten Shaw, despite his associations with Edward Elgar and the Malvern Festival that brought so much prosperity and fame to the town.
Now Friends plan to commemorate the impact Shaw and his colleagues had on Malvern by replanting a third generation Shaw Mulberry Tree in Priory Park, replacing the tree planted by Shaw in 1936 and blown down in a gale in the year 2000. The Shaw Society is just one of a number of enthusiastic participants in the project and an unveiling is anticipated in 2014 together with a number of associated events. Due thanks must be recorded to Coca-Cola who have made this idea a reality with their sponsorship.
In the picture Cora considers the participation of Barry Jackson and other well known figures in the success of the Malvern Festival at the recent Shaw Society lecture.
Morden Hall and its Mulberry Tree
Mulberry Trees have a prestigious persona and were clearly acquired and treasured by the gentry, aristocracy and famous. Morden Hall Park is a National Trust property in South London and was formerly the home of the Hatfield family. It is unusual in that it includes a former Snuff Mill and a waterways complex that results from the River Wandle flowing through the grounds. It also contains a supposedly 300 year old Mulberry Tree. Investigating this tree we discovered it in the vicinity of the Rose Garden where it was planted by the Huguenots. It is small compared to the mulberry tree in Malvern, Melbourne and the one that blew down in Priory Park.
To visit the location, which includes many family attractions such as picnic area, arboretum, Visitor Centre and cafeteria as well as extensive scenic grounds to explore and has free admission, go to Morden Hall Park, Morden Hall Road, Morden, London, SM4 5JD It's is just off the A24 or A297, south of Wimbledon and north of Sutton.
Picture above - Bruce at the Morden Hall Mulberry Tree.
To find out more about the River Wandle and its fascinating springs, fountains and wells go to www.wandlewaters.com
Protect out unique water heritage
Following the demise of the street entrance to the Gothic Well featured in our previous newsletter, urgent efforts are now being made to secure some protection for our springs and wells. We will keep you updated and welcome input from any Friends with ideas that could lead to greater protection. Solicitations have already been made by us to the local Planning Department as a start.
Fun with Spring Water
Spring water in the town centre played an important part in the success of Malvern's pre-war festivals, 1929-38. Hotels and guest houses were supplied with untreated spring water that had been harnessed into the public main. The Jacob Fountain offered a refreshing drink of St Ann's Well water without having to trek up the hillside to the source. Swan Pool, which is constantly nourished with spring water, had become a boating lake offering hours of entertainment, fresh air and exercise. The open-air swimming pool in Priory Park, which was fed from the spring at the Tudor Hotel, provided the same for the cast and visitors during the day and late at night, after the evening shows (see picture).
Today we have two festivals - Civic Week in the summer and Autumn in Malvern - but making the most of our spring water has become a thing of the past. Perhaps we could liven things up a bit and attract younger age groups by doing something with it. How about raft races on Swan Pool; finding different ways of getting across the water using recycled materials; plastic duck or home-made boat races? We've got the racing waterfall of spring water at the north end of the pool, the pool itself, and the stream that flows down the south end of the park where Shaw's mulberry tree used to stand, and where Elgar's bust once stood on a plinth. Let's have some fun and a bit of fresh air and exercise!
Disaster at Malvern Spring - seventeen year old Russell O'Neill.
We recently heard of another death at Gullett Quarry on the Malvern Hills. Young people frequently bathe in the spring water filled quarry and risk their lives by jumping from the cliff into the often icy cold water. This is in spite of extensive warning signs outlining the dangers. Such tragic circumstances pose a major problem for managing the hills and the balance between retention of the stunning landscape feature and individuals' enforced safety is difficult. The answer is not to fill in the quarry (after all it would make a useful land fill site), or to fence it like a prison. Young people think they are invulnerable and embark on reckless adventures, whether it is on the roads, on holidays abroad or when exploring the dramatic landscapes of England. What would you do - send us your views?
Jacob Fountain unveiled again
The Jacob Fountain in the Malvern Theatres was first unveiled by Stanley Baldwin, MP and Prime Minister in June 1931. Dr Jacob had devoted himself to the welfare of Malvern and the three cherub drinking fountain was seen as a fitting and lasting tribute to his work. At the turn of the 21st century, the fountain was subject to much damage during the refurbishment of the Winter Gardens. It lost its plinth and was rescued from an antique dealers van in a nick of time. The surviving fountain was eventually re-sited in the cafeteria window in the Malvern Theatres where it has remained, occasionally decorated but by and large ignored. In July 2013 it was unveiled for a second time, this time by another Baldwin from Parliament, Harriett Baldwin MP. The occasion was to celebrate the start of Malvern Civic Week and the cleaning of the fountain with monies from the Kay Trust.
Now the fountain is cleaned we would hope that this is only the first stage in restoring this magnificent water feature back to former glory. Whilst it may be impractical to lay on water, the plinth could be reinstated as stage two. In addition stage three could be the reinstatement of decorative corner features where polished urns once stood. Finally stage four could be the introduction of a modern technology, sequencing lighting display using coloured LEDs and spotlights to give an impressive visual effect from both inside the theatre complex and through the window overlooking the park. We have submitted ideas including available funding sources to the management but for the moment the fountain is still not receiving the attention it deserves.
For much more information on this fountain see "Celebrated Springs of the Malvern Hills" (2012) site number 105.
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