Were Water Cure Patients cured?

For two months in 1847 Alfred Tennyson’s aunt, ‘made a trial of the Water Cure, wore a compress and was towel packed, and seemed better for the cold bath’.

Charles Darwin

Throughout the 1840s Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the naturalist and scientist, was frequently ill. In the spring of 1849 he came to Malvern. He wrote to a friend: ‘We have taken a house for two months, and have been here a fortnight. I am already a little stronger… but Dr. Gully feels pretty sure he can do me good, which certainly the regular doctors could not… I feel sure that the water cure is no quackery.’

To his cousin he wrote, ‘I much like and think highly of Dr. Gully. He has been very cautious in his treatment and has even had the charity to stint me only to six pinches of snuff daily. Cold scrubbing in morning, two cold feet baths and compress on stomach is as yet the only treatment, beside change of diet &c. I am, however, tomorrow to start a sweating process… I expect fully that the system will greatly benefit me, and certainly the regular Doctors could do nothing.’  After four months in Malvern Darwin reported: ‘I consider the sickness as absolutely cured. The Water Cure is assuredly a grand discovery & how sorry I am that I did not hear of it, or rather that I was not compelled to try it some five or six years ago.’

Florence Nightingale

In 1860 Florence Nightingale wrote, ‘ … I should not be here were it not for Malvern. In August 1857, after my work at the Royal Sanitary Commission, and after four weeks of anxiety and exertion, I was told that my life was not worth 24 hours purchase – and I knew it too. I owe three years of … life to the water-cure at Malvern.’

Further Reading: all available at Malvern Museum

Harcup, John W., The Malvern Water Cure, Capella Archive (2010)

Weaver, Cora, A Short Guide to: Malvern as  a Spa Town (2003)

Weaver, Cora, A Short Guide to: Charles Darwin and Evelyn Waugh in Malvern ((2009)

Weaver, Cora, Florence Nightingale and the Water Cure (2010)