Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:19 UK
Malvern Hills - waters and health
Water drop
The healing powers on Malvern water were first mentioned in 1622

The spring water that flows out of the many wells on the Malvern Hills has played a big part in the growth of the town.

People travel many miles to collect water from the wells and springs in the area, and Malvern water is bottled and sold across the world.

The town grew prosperous as people travelled to Malvern to 'take the cure', including Darwin and Dickens.

One of the biggest hotels, built to house visitors, is now a girls school.

The healing powers of Malvern water were first mentioned as far back as 1622 in Bannister's Breviary of the Eyes:

"A little more I'll of their curing tell.

How they helped sore eyes

Spring on the Malvern Hills
Hayslad spring - many people gather water from here

with a new found well.

Great speech of Malvern Hills

was late reported.

Unto which spring


in troops resorted."

Not the greatest piece of poetry perhaps, but an early mention of what was probably Holy Well, the first pure water source on the hills.

The water was bottled and sent all over the country, from as early as the reign of James the first.

Dr Nash, in the 18th century, quoted the lyrics of a song from that period:

"A thousand bottles there were filled weekly

and many costrels* rare

Warning notice
The local council puts up warning notices at springs

for stomachs sickly.

Some of them into Kent,

some were to London sent,

others to Berwick went.

Oh Praise the Lord."

(*Costrel = a portable container usually cylindrical or barrel shaped.)

Taking the waters

The popularity of the water cure at Malvern owes much to two doctors, who set up hydrotherapy centres in the area; Dr James Wilson and Doctor James Manby Gulley

Dr Wilson had first hand knowledge of the water cure practised by Vincent Priestnitz in Graefenburg.

Dr Gully, an Edinburgh graduate, had published a book on 'neuropathy' in 1837.

The first Water Cure establishment in Great Malvern opened in 1842, and was at The Crown Hotel, where Lloyds Bank now stands.

People staying there would have had treatment using water from St. Anne's Well.

The cure

The regime at a hydrotherapy centre consisted of plenty of fresh Malvern water, lots of exercise and a strict diet - which may account for its success.

There was an early start for those taking the cure:

Holy Well
The Swiss-style building contains the famous Holy Well

6am: 'Packing': The patient is wrapped in a long wet sheet and covered in eiderdowns.

7am: The patient is unwrapped, given a cold shower and rubbed down

The showers were of two types: the descending douche, where the patient stood under a stream of cold Malvern water: the ascending douche, which is best left to the imagination.

During the day patients too a hike up the hills, drinking a glass of water at each well or spring.

The infirm were allowed to ride up on donkeys until well enough to walk.

There was a strict diet, with no alcohol or rich foods.


Many famous people came to Malvern to 'take the cure', including Charles Darwin and his wife (their daughter is buried in the town), and Charles Dickens and his wife Katherine, who stayed there in 1850.

Darwin, tragedy and Malvern

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