According to local legend, the health-giving properties of Malvern water were known in medieval times, and there is a distinctive record of notable names extolling its virtues. The occulist Richard Banister wrote about the Eye Well (close to Holy Well) in a short poem in 1622. Further praise came from the botanist Benjamin Stillingfleet, the poet Thomas Warton and William Addison (physician of the Duchess of Kent).
Malvern water, then, had a strong reputation – and the bottling and shipping of its water increased. The leading exponents of hydrotherapy (Dr James Wilson and Dr James Manby Gully) erected clinics in the town – and it rapidly grew as a residential spa town. By 1865 over a quarter of the town’s 800 houses were hospitality venues.
Celebrated visitors included Catherine Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, Florence Nightingale and Lord Tennyson.
As the railways developed, Malvern became almost overwhelmed with visitors; often bringing 5,000 a day. Eventually, in 1865, a public meeting was called to denounce the rail fares – twice of other lines – as exploitative of the tourism industry.
As the popularity of hydrotherapy declined towards the end of the nineteenth century, many hotels were being converted into private boarding schools and rest homes. Following the town’s modernisation in the nineteenth century, the Malvern established itself as a centre of scientific research.
Read more about spa towns in our feature here.