The Malverns have attracted many famous and non famous visitors over the centuries. George Bernard Shaw described Malvern as, “Quite the best bit of England”. To Sir Edward Elgar, a country life was essential, ‘Here the conditions are exactly what I require’, he wrote.
As you approach Malvern from across the Severn Plain, the Malvern Hills rise dramatically to the highest point (425 metres) at Worcestershire Beacon. They consist of a ridge nine miles long running North to South and have been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From these easily accessible hills can be seen six counties.
Great Malvern is a superb example of a Victorian spa town, but its roots are much older. The oldest part of the town is the Priory Church, founded in 1085 by Benedictine monks. It contains some of the finest medieval stained glass in England. Close by, is the Abbey Gateway, which contains Malvern’s Museum.
Malvern Water is Britain’s oldest and best known mineral water – ‘The Original English Mineral Water’. In the 1750’s, Doctor John Wall, analysed the content of some natural springs and publicised its purity – “famous for containing nothing at all”. Doctors Gully and Wilson brought “The water cure” from Austria and built the first water cure house in 1845, which resulted in Malvern becoming a popular Victorian Spa resort. Over sixty springs can be found in and around Malvern. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II takes this water with her on overseas trips. It can be sampled for free at St. Ann’s Well, a short walk from the town and from the fountains, close to Belle Vue Terrace. Commercially, Malvern Water is supplied by the Coca Cola Schweppes Company, who have bottled it from their site in Colwall, since 1892.
Great Malvern Railway Station was built in 1861 to meet the needs of the Victorian visitors. It is one of the best preserved ornate small stations in the country and still has a direct link to Paddington Station in London. The platform roof columns are each decorated with a different design.
Gas lamp lights can still be seen in Malvern. They are believed to be the inspiration for the lamp in the forest of C. S. Lewis’s, ‘Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. The original lamps can be found in the Priory Churchyard, Holywell Road in Malvern Wells and Moorlands Road in Malvern Link.
Sir Edward Elgar and his music are inextricably part of the Malverns. He was born in 1857, a few miles away at Lower Broadheath. The cottage now houses The Elgar Birthplace Museum. He lived and worked in Malvern for thirteen years until 1904 and was inspired by the Malvern Hills, which he loved for their “Englishness”. ‘Caractacus’ was inspired by The Herefordshire Beacon.
Elgar is buried beside his wife, Alice, in the graveyard of St. Wulstan’s Catholic Church, on the slopes of the Malvern Hills. She died fourteen years before him. He said, “All I have done was owing to her”. He wrote, ‘The place she chose long years ago is too sweet – the blossoms are white all round and the illimitable plain, with all the hills and churches in the distance which were hers from childhood, looks just the same – inscrutable and unchanging’. His daughter, Carice, is close by. His funeral in 1934 was a private ceremony, without any music being played and the only flowers, a bunch of daffodils.
The unofficial English National Anthem, “Land of Hope and Glory”, is sung to, ‘Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1’.
The Morgan Motor Company, the last wholly owned British carmaker, in the country, has its factory (the “Works”) on Pickersleigh Road. It was established in 1918 and tours can be arranged to see the production of the hand-made cars.