Natural Spring Water, Spas and Cures

Flagons containing products made from Malvern's pure water
Large water flagons

This room focuses on Malvern’s famous mineral water and its medicinal qualities.

The use of Malvern’s natural spring water in health treatment can be traced back centuries. In 1622, Richard Banister published ‘Breviary of one Hundred and Thirteen diseases of the Eyes and Eyelids”. The water was analysed by Dr John Wall in 1756, who found it to have a very low mineral content…

“Malvern water, says Dr John Wall, is famous for containing just nothing at all.”

Natural Spring Water

A Water cure patient in a Sitz bath
Ned the Water Cure patient

The natural spring water was used externally for eye diseases, ulcers and skin complaints. It was used internally for digestive and other disorders. Cold water was poured over the patient to revive the blood circulation and to stimulate recovery.

With its pure air, pure water and beautiful scenery, Malvern became a desirable place to live. Its population rose sharply from c.1800. A contemporary town plan shows the many houses that were built along the Worcester Road at this time. Hotels, the Royal Library (now Barclays Bank) and the Coburg Baths quickly followed.

The Water Cure

A Water Cure patient packed with wet sheets and blankets
One of the Water Cure treatments

In 1842 the hydropathic (water cure) doctors, Dr James Wilson and Dr James Gully arrived and set up their practices. The famous, the wealthy and the curious tried the cure. Local inhabitants witnessed the arrival of celebrities such as Florence Nightingale who made many return visits. Charles Dickens and his wife, Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, the American writer Henry James, and many others also visited.

The Water Cure stimulated the trade in bottled Malvern water. Schweppes began its long association with our natural spring water at this time. Donkey rides on the hills became popular and provided employment for women and young children in particular.

However, by the late 1870s the Malvern Water Cure had declined, following the death of Dr Wilson in 1867 and the departure of Dr Gully in 1873. Malvern also faced stiff competition from much cheaper, but equally effective, treatments on the Continent.

St Anne's Well
St Anne’s Well