|E.g., a well-dressed well in Wyche.|
...in the 12th and 13th centuries the Holy Well was dressed annually with offerings, probably on August 5th, in thanks to St Oswald for water cures there. In 1615 there was a national drought, but as Malvern`s springs kept flowing they "were (well) dressed as a token of gratitude for a plentiful supply of water" (Malvern Advertiser 1870).We passed a long row of hotels built in the 1800s to accommodate all the people who came to town for the waters. Including Charles Darwin, who spent several months here taking water treatments at Dr Gully's Water Cure Establishment. This involved wrapping the poor patient in cold water-soaked sheets, much dumping of ice-cold water over the head, brisk walks in the countryside, and lots of consumption of the famous Malvern water. The woman at the little museum in Great Malvern told us that of course people's health improved, they were away from the polluted cities, eating well and doing exercise, perhaps for the only time in their lives. (In any case, as any honest doctor will tell you, most patients will get better on their own, treatment or no treatment.) Darwin himself was pleased with his therapy, and continued it for a while when he returned home.
When his dearest daughter, Annie, fell ill in 1851, Darwin brought her to Malvern, where Dr Gully was sure he could cure her. After a week she seemed to be improving, and Darwin left her to return home, confident he'd soon return to Malvern to find her quite recovered, but instead he was summoned back within a fortnight because she was getting worse. He went alone, as his wife, Emma, was heavily pregnant and unable to travel.
|Annie Darwin's gravestone|
|Montreal House, Malvern|
It is somewhat ironic, however, that she does this in a churchyard. This doubtlessly gave comfort to Emma, who was a serious believing Christian, but for Charles any remaining doubts about the Christian version of God died with Annie. Her painful and pointless death served no purpose, and she had done nothing to be taken at so young an age. Darwin wanted to believe in things which, if they had no Purpose, at least made sense. Evolution did.
Charles stayed at Montreal House, one of the hotels in that long row of such establishments on Worcester Road in Malvern, now bearing a plaque commemorating that fact.
But, in fact it was more than Darwin that drew us to this part of England. It was the Victorian age poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who spent her childhood at a place called Hope End, not far from Malvern and close to the Old Country Farm where we are staying. She grew up here, and though she like Annie was plagued with an illness, it had nothing to do with Annie's disease, nor with the spas or water-cures.
However, it's late, we're tired, and that story is for another day.