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Friends Newsletter No. 65

May 2015

Friends are the recognised 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.
Revelation about Malvern Holywell Water - a supermundane source?
Holywell Water has great repute but the following story adds to the fame of this Malvern water. A certain gentleman was going through customs with a large green bottle labelled Holywell Water on his way to far off lands. Then the customs officer stopped him for a search. "What's this in the bottle?" queried the officer. "It's Holy Water from the famous Holywell spring in the Malvern Hills," was the reply.  The officer requested that the cap be removed so he could take a detailed look at the bottle contents. "This appears to be whiskey not water," was the officer's observation. "Wow!" exclaimed the gentleman. "It must be a miracle to be sure. It truly is holy water."
Hay Slad spring now bifurcating properly
You will recall in our last newsletter details of the difficulties we were experiencing in getting a solution to the problem of Hay Slad spout not flowing as it should. All winter there had been a continuous flow of comment that it was taking hours to fill up containers. The great news is that just after the newsletter went out we were pleased to receive a call from the Malvern Gazette who was able to tell us that all was now well. Editorial appeared in the Gazette the following weekend confirming the good news. Engineers from Severn Trent Water had followed up on their visit with Cora by installing a new control valve and flushing the pipes. Lots of people had complained and a unified effort between the various organisations involved, including the Malvern Hills Conservators, had produced the solution. Our thanks go out to all involved in the restoration of flow on behalf of all who use this popular filling up point for Malvern water.
In the picture above the famous bifurcating spout now flows as it should.

Schweppes 1951 Grotto - did it commemorate 100 years of bottling Malvern Water?
The Great British Grotto Grading has led to some interesting discoveries. At the Festival of Britain in 1951 Schweppes had a spectacular grotto in Battersea Park. A Friend from the Blue Mountains in Australia recently wrote to us as follows:
"I came across your "Schweppes Grotto and Battersea Park" web page when ogling to see if I could find any mention or images of this Grotto, that it seems everyone has forgotten.
I spent a lot of time in Battersea Park as a child as we lived locally, it was spectacular, and my sister and I would always go to the grotto .. it was free!   From my memory it was definitely in the area marked A on the map, if you had asked me to pinpoint on a map without seeing the suggested locations I would have put it there.
I was interested to see that there was a suggestion that the Grotto was removed after the Festival of Britain, this wasn't the case as our visits were in the late sixties, early seventies.  I remember the four chambers, especially Air with the North, South, East and West winds and the sound of the wind, I remember the bridge across the molten lava.  By this time it had seen better days and though I remember sound effects, I don't remember the aroma effects. For me it still remains a magical place, I think many had forgotten about it by the 60's / 70's  ... It was our little secret."
Read on the web what we know so far at:
www.grotto.directory  - go to INDEX and click on Battersea Park
Ruination of the Malvern Hills?
With all this talk about cafeterias and cable cars on the hills we recently came across an alternative hill top attraction. Climbing the hills above Oban on the Scottish western coast we came across this tower. It is the ruin of a late 19th century hydropathic establishment that was never completed. It is a popular walking spot for locals and tourists alike. Now overgrown it is a  monument to Oban's aspirations to become a Victorian spa town like Malvern. Ironically today Oban probably attracts more visitors with it's romantic ruin than it would as a spa!

Narrow Escape for Holy Well Building
During a winter field reconnaissance trip we were up at Holy Well and saw the tree that nearly fell on the bottling works recently. Tumbling down from the high bank on one side of the iconic building, the tree just caught the roof of the old baths house at the rear. Had it fallen a few feet closer to the front entrance the damage could have been catastrophic. There are many mysteries still associated with the history of this building and how it was replicated in Colwall when Schweppes moved their bottling plant there.
For example we frequently assume that Schweppes bottled Malvern Water at the Holy Well from 1851 when they launched Malvern water at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. Not so as the advertisement below from the Medical Times and Gazette Advertiser April 5 1856 shows. This is verification that Schweppes took over the Holy Well in 1856 not 1851. Before that they likely bottled the water from St Ann's Well, calling it Soda Water. It also states that their new Holy Well manufactory produced what was named as Schweppes Seltzer Water, replicating that from Nassau in Germany.
Selters is a German luxury mineral water brand which gained popularity with Europe's wealthy during the nineteenth century. For centuries Selters was enjoyed at the highest tables, and was even drunk by kings and emperors. It was bottled in stoneware bottles or krugs in the early nineteenth century but today comes in attractive blue glass bottles. Schweppes had earlier imported Selters, Nassau's mineral water to England since the 1820s and it is thought to have arrived in the U.S. as early as 1846. For more details see Newsletter 60 in our Newsletter archive.
In order to reproduce Selters water it suggests that Schweppes modified the original Malvern Holy Well water in some way, possibly with the addition of carbon dioxide to make it sparkling as well as possibly adding specific minerals,
Cora has recently written and is about to publish a history of the Holy Well. Her 36 page booklet, which contains many new revelations about the well, will be launched at a talk she is giving about the Holy Well to Malvern Civic Society at 7.30 on 12 June in Christchurch (the church, not the church hall) in Avenue Road. Visitors are welcome for a modest entry charge.
Holy Well is the only site in the Malvern Hills where local water is bottled and long may it be so, in spite of falling trees.

The Willow at the Willow Spring
In January 1969 Conservators' Board member Mr Ballard suggested that a new willow tree should be planted at the Willow Spring. The Willow Spring was named because of the pollarded bay willow tree that once grew beside the spring. The bay willow is a small, native tree that grows in wet or boggy ground. There are several types of willow tree: this is the Salix Pentandra, a reference to the male flowers, which have five stamens.
The size of the tree in this 1845 etching suggests that it had been planted many years earlier. It was to the north-east of the spring; had it been to the south it would have provided shade to travellers and invalids who trekked there for a drink of Malvern's famous spring water.
The tree was probably pollarded to reduce the number of dead leaves around the spring. The tree may have fallen with age or, if regular pollarding had stopped, the weight of extra branches may have caused it to fall. Is it now time to reinstate a willow tree at the location? We hoped this would have been done as part of the Heritage Lottery Funding some years ago but not so.
Photograph - If a new tree were planted in the same position as the old one it would be too close to the road. Perhaps a new bay willow tree might be planted to the south or west, in memory of Malvern's water heritage.
Supermundane Springs and Wells
A new expression has come into use amongst the springs and wells fraternity recently   What does it mean? Well, supermundane means "of or relating to what is elevated above earthly things". The expression supermundane springs and wells suggests that some sites have a spiritual presence that elevates them beyond the dimensions of everyday of life on earth. Which ones would this apply to?
The grotto at Davenham has a water source that suggests mythological associations, albeit man made. Also some holy wells have in the past been seen as places of pilgrimage for those who seek to follow ancient religious cults. Furthermore many Malvern springs and wells have reputedly ancient healing properties. Are these supermundane? 
Let us have your views please.
Step into Spring on the Malvern Hills
A Friend was walking recently on the east side of the hills, a little below the Worcestershire Beacon, and was amazed to see this gushing 'spring' blocking the footpath. Was this an opportunity to name a new spring on the hills? How about Cable Car Spring? However, a couple of traffic cones on the path suggested something different. Alas, the gush was coming from the reservoir above.

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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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