Out of thy famous Hille
There daily springeth
A water passing still
That always bringeth
Great comfort to alle them
That are diseased men
And makes them well again
So Prayse the Lord!
Rev Edmund Rea, Vicar of Great Malvern 1612
In May this year we visited friends in UK who took us to the famous spa town of Great Malvern in Worcestershire. Between the 17th and 19th centuries the town had become popular for the health-giving properties of its waters, and because it was situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, invalids and tourists seeking cures, rest and entertainment flocked there. Many famous people, including Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens' wife, Catherine came to 'take the waters'. The water was also bottled and shipped, hydrotherapy clinics were set up, hotels developed and residential villas built.
In the delightful Priory Museum we saw many artefacts dating from the time that the town was enjoying a popularity as a spa. Some of these have already featured in previous posts: Market Share, and Museum Piece.
This exhibit depicts a visitor taking the cure, in his Oxford Hip Bath. He doesn't look too comfortable, and is wearing a reather worried expression, but perhaps he's objecting to being snapped in this rather ungainly position.
I wonder if he'd already had a 'shallow bath' like the one portrayed in this engraving. I don't suppose the water was very warm, and the attendant looks as if he's enjoying administering the 'cure' rather more than the client does in receiving it.
The advertisement for Essington's Hotel confirms my suspicions. It offers both hot and cold baths, though why anyone would choose the latter is beyond me. Perhaps some visitors went home with more chills, aches and pains than they arrived with.
For those willing to venture out of the hotel and take a trip to some of the hillside springs, or view some of the breath-taking scenes from the surrounding hills, donkeys were the transport of choice. Donkeys would stand outside the hotels like modern taxis, waiting for passengers. There were ten donkey stands in the town, in addition to seventeen Hackney Carriage stands.
Queen Adelaide visited the famous St Ann's Well and requested a donkey ride and helped to popularise this method of transport. When Queen Victoria's mother also encouraged these jaunts, one of the donkeys used was re-named 'Royal Moses'. Very enterprising of the donkey's owner!
No opportunity was missed to capitalise on the floods of visitors as the next picture shows. Teas and Cadbury's Chocolate must have made a welcome change from the strange-tasting waters. I have sampled the waters at Bath, and once was quite enough for me! Behind the donkey lady in the picture above, is a chart listing some of the minerals to be found in the waters.
Great Malvern was an interesting place and I can recommend a visit if you are in the area, but whatever you do check before you go for interesting things to see. I thought I'd done pretty well snapping away at anything I thought would be useful for a blogpost! Then I did a little more research and realised that we had walked close to, but missed, a magnificent statue to the composer Edward Elgar and the 'Enigma' Fountain by the sculptor Rose Garrard. The fountain is a tribute both to Elgar who lived there, and to the pure spring water which feeds it.
Just a little further down the road, also by Rose Garrard is this wonderful 'drinking spout' called by 'Malvhina'. Here she has been 'dressed' with flowers for the May Day Festival.
The spout bought back spring water to the town, for the first time in forty years, from three springs on the hills above. You can read more about this clever design sculpted in stone and bronze, and the symbolism behind it here.
Continuing a theme from my post last week, where I casually mentioned literary connections in the places I'd visited, I have to point out that William Langland's 14th century poem, 'Piers Plowman', was written in Malvern, J.R.R. Tolkien frequented Malvern pubs with C.S. Lewis and both found found inspiration there (NB: it wasn't the waters that did it!).
The picture prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday had a group 'taking the waters' at The Twin Wells of Lisdoonvarna in County Clare at the turn of the century. They don't look too impressed either, but then their attention was probably drawn to the female attendant, who seems to have been mummified. When it comes to ladies and spring water I think I'd rather take my chances with Malvhina!
Why not take the cure yourself by sampling the restorative posts of other Sepia Saturday contributors?
Both images by Bob Embleton via Wikimedia Share alike Licence
Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."