Great Malvern

Being in Birmingham, I took a day trip to Great Malvern, which is easily reached by train.

I’ve been many times to Malvern and have always liked walking in the hills, which the station poster told me consisted of some of the oldest rocks in England, formed over 650 million years ago.

Malvern is also known for its mineral water. The poster continues: “Rainwater filtering through cracks in the rock emerges from over 100 springs around the hills. In 1085 a community of Benedictine monks founded a Priory here, benefiting from the pure water. Centuries later, a fashionable Victorian water cure made Malvern a magnet for wealthy visitors. Facilities were built as a result which, with the town’s natural charms, attracted writers, artists and musicians to Malvern.”

The most famous practice, in the nineteenth century, was set up by two doctors: James Wilson and James Gully. They located their Water Cure Practice (based on the then popular European “Cold Water Cure”) in Malvern. The most popular source of water was St Ann’s Well. The new railway (1860) ensured a steady flow of wealthy middle- and upper-class people “taking the waters”. Patients were cured but not because of any magical properties of the water. Some of these wealthy patients were ill due to overeating and excessive alcohol consumption. The doctors’ health package, “consisting of pure water, pure air, proper diet, regular exercise and lifestyle changes” worked wonders! More “water doctors” arrived and a building boom in Malvern followed.

When Dr Wilson died, a Dr Fergusson took over the practice. A few years later, Dr Wilson’s partner, Dr Gully, became embroiled in the most famous unsolved murder mystery of the nineteenth century. Dr Fergusson gamely continued but when three patients got typhoid because of contaminated water, the practice went bankrupt and closed.

During the Second World War, a government department carried out secret research in Malvern, which included the development of radar for detecting aircraft.

After the war, the scientific establishment remained in Malvern and the town claims it was the root of many innovations, including flight simulators, cathode ray tubes, LCD displays, and touchscreens.

After my walk, I looked around the attractive (and small) town centre. I went to a few bookshops before finding a friendly cafe for coffee and cake. I wasn’t able to visit everything because many places shut at 4pm!

I bought a couple of books in one of the charity shops. The person at the till was wearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt. I mentioned that I used to listen to them when they first came out and that I was surprised they were still going! We then discussed more music from that era. Despite being a teenager, she was familiar with many of my favourite bands from the Eighties, such as The Jam, The Smiths, and The Cure. She said some bands were still touring and that she had gone to see several of them.

Since the bookshop was shutting, I walked to the station. When I got there, the station staff told me my train had been cancelled! I found a seat on the nearby green and read for an hour.

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