MALVERN HERITAGE PROJECT
Malvern Heritage Project ; Springs Restoration; Works 2004 - 2009Financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund
Managed by the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty office
in partnership with Site Owners & the Malvern Spa Association
A tour of what's been done.
The end is near and it seems appropriate to look back at this long running project and take a broad view of what has been done. Born of an idea from the Malvern Spa Association, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this project has restored 17 spouts, produced walks leaflets and information boards, updated the MSA web site and sent teachers into schools to tell of the water.
Although the various Malvern Spa Association Newsletters have covered in detail much of what has been done when it happened, this article pulls all this together in the form of a tour that a traveller could take.
St Ann's Well
First to be restored and first on the tour, the main aim at St Ann's was to restore the Victorian gardens around the well house itself and in accordance with the MSA's aims, restore flowing water wherever possible. Here there was a source that fed the well room but in past times there had been a trickle by the doorway from which donkeys drank. The corroded pipe work to this was traced hundreds of metres up the hill. Plainly not practical to reconnect with its source, an electric pump was put in the well room tank that when turned on feeds the outside spout.
This spout was due a christening in memory of a legend. The name ‘Old Moses' was chosen and had a poignant ring to it. It recalled the donkey, who at first had the privilege of transporting the young Princess Victoria on her visit to Malvern. This privilege became a burden as everyone wanted to ride where the royal rump had ridden and Old Moses collapsed and died.
So when it came to the opening of St Ann's Well in December 2005, Emily the donkey came too, as ambassador for her kind. Ever vigilant, the auditors of accounts did query the expenditure on this event, wondering at the mix of 8 bottles of port, 100 mince pies and 10 kilos of carrots. If they had been there, their questions would have been answered and they would have met many Annes. It so happened that as the work neared completion on St Ann's Day, Anne Jenkins was the Regional Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, so invites were sent out to as many Anne's as could be thought of to attend the opening. This mass of Anne's and one Emily brought in the local television news.
The ceremony had a few words from Anne Jenkins, a blessing of the waters by John Barr, the vicar of the Priory, and music to set the scene. The work that had been done was described, the remodelling of the pond, the addition of ‘fern' style benches and chairs, the shoring up and repointing of retaining walls, the resurfacing of the tarmac with a lighter coloured resin bonded surface, the replanting of the gardens and of course the newly christened Old Moses Spout. This event was reported in much fuller detail in Newsletter 17.
North Malvern Clock Tower presented an unexpected challenge. The tower itself was owned by Malvern Town Council, the land around the tower together with the parapet walls belonged to the Malvern Hills Conservators. Just to enrich the mix, the building was listed, so came under the aegis of Malvern Hills District Council.
For many years the entrance to the well house at the bottom of the tower had been boarded up and no water flowed. The project aimed to restore the flow and add some eye catching iron gates. Rose Garrard, who had done so much to promote Malvern water in the past, produced a design for the gates. Its sinuous curves reflected the flow of water, whilst the ivy leaves recalled the ivy that was once encouraged to crawl over the tower. Being a new design on a listed building, permission was needed. The application was nothing but thorough, and included painted iron bars cut only slightly too large to fit in any filing cabinet. With permission granted, Andrew Findlay of Eastnor Forge became the gate creator.
The actual building work on the tower stopped before it started. Having made an announcement in the Malvern Gazette that work was soon to begin, the police sequestered the tower. Officers were perched on the top keeping an eye on nefarious activities in the bushes below. This went on for nearly 6 months and increasingly questions were being asked about the delays. Sworn to secrecy, much time was spent on contemplating the line between discretion and deceit. Eventually, the Malvern Gazette reported the capture of a drugs dealer from Wolverhampton who had used the tower as his rendezvous. With that, work could begin in earnest in the spring of 2006.
In view of the kerfuffle in the bushes at the base of the tower, Ian Rowat, the Director of the Malvern Hills Conservators, convened a public meeting to discuss what to do about the overgrown bushes. There was no dispute about their removal and soon afterwards the field staff moved in and cleared the site.
Work on the structure of the tower progressed smoothly. Starting from the top: rain water had in times past spewed from the dragon gargoyles on the top of the tower. Sadly the throats of the dragons kept getting clogged with moss, the water then backed up and eked its way down the inside of the tower. Internal down pipes solved this.
The clock itself had been installed by Smiths of Derby in 1906, and it was restored in 2006, by Smiths of Derby. The southern face of the clock had had its glass face blacked out with tin, so often had it been smashed by the blasts from local quarries. With the end of quarrying long gone, the southern face was restored. Once lit by gas, electricity was installed to bring the faces to light again at night.
Down at the base of the tower, in the well house the water now flows capriciously. This was always the case; it had prompted the building of the tower and the 50,000 gallon tank behind it in the first place (see cover picture). That tank, is no longer water tight. Much time was spent tracing the water supply and eventually it was concluded that the well head lay some 50 m above the old chlorination plant, under a large round manhole cover. Too far to pipe to the tower, the supply was picked up in a sump under a square manhole cover on the path to the current reservoir. The blue MDPE pipe was then threaded through existing drains, into the back of the 50,000 gallon tank, through the tank and to the tap. From there it falls into a stone basin.
The stone basin is not original to the building. It came from one of Rose Garrard's shopping expeditions. Knowing that a local auction was selling off humble stone water toughs which would be used at other sites, Rose was given a budget and sent to bid. The next day Rose called to say that she'd got what we wanted but she'd gone over budget. This was no surprise as she seemed to have bought half the ruins of ancient Rome, and this included the magnificent stone basin that now stands in the well room. And by how much had she burst the budget ?- £10. A bargain at any price.
There were some unexpected savings on the budget as well. The contractors unearthed the original brick path from the road to the tower. We had thought that we'd have to build one anew.
Earl Beauchamp Spout
Out on the Cowleigh Road, this is another popular water collection point despite the hazards of a busy road. Just 30 metres beyond the spout is a car park with a woodland path to the spout, yet time spent chatting to contractors at the site has revealed a reluctance of water collectors to use it.
This spout was not in the original plan because no one seemed to own it, then Worcestershire County Council stepped in to ‘own it for the project'. With cash savings elsewhere on the project, new life could be breathed into the spout. This ornate spout constructed of terracotta and green glazed bricks has a good flow of water through it. In fact it is rumoured that the nozzle had been tampered with and had come off once, and such was the pressure that passing cars were being washed! When tamed, the water continues through a number of properties down to the moat at Madresfield Court.
The bricks had succumbed to frost damage over the years so were in need of replacement. The terracotta ones came easily but the green glazed bricks, once made by Royal Doulton, seem beyond the skills of modern brick makers. So once again the term ‘honest repair' has been used to justify the new bricks, whose newness will be revealed by their older neighbours.
Even during the lifetime of the project the water nozzle had been bent, no doubt to make it the easier for some big bottled collectors. Fearful of flooding the road again with an unstoppable flow, an ornate and antique cover has been made to thwart the nozzle benders.
Westminster Bank spout in the parish of West Malvern has a magical quality about it. The water seems to flow from the roots of an old tree. It was this quality that residents asked to be preserved in the restoration. Behind the spout itself is a family of tanks and a maze of pipework, the vestiges of former supply lines to houses in West Malvern. Having found the spout's tank, this was cleaned out and the pipe work rodded. Some of the stone work around the spout was repointed and finally the fence that guards the perimeter of the spinney behind was renewed.
West Malvern Tap
It was from one of the unused tanks at the Westminster Bank that the supply to the West Malvern Tap was taken. This long dry supply eventually began to flow again on the 8/8/08. 20 minutes seems a long time for the water to get from Westminster Bank to the tap, but that's how long it took initially. The water now flows in a blue plastic pipe that runs down the track, and then through the old tank system behind the wall and into the tap. One of the big cost savings on the project was the laying of this pipe. Thoughts of burying a pipe on the side of the Malvern Hills turn to stone and heavy diggers. A few trial holes showed that this might not be the case so we took a risk and employed a lightweight mechanical mole. This device driven by compressed air, burrows through the soil without much surface disturbance and it worked! Our thanks go out to Ron Mason, the owner of the Tap for all his help in the restoration work.
With the money saved by the West Malvern mole, we were able to restore other equally deserving but initially neglected spouts. One such lay just below The West Malvern Tap in St James's churchyard. Best described as a grotto; the rodents whose watery grave it was, might have thought otherwise. Despite the promise of visible pipes, the site was dowsed and no incoming supply was discovered. So the old grating suspended just above the water has been replaced by a finer one, the remnant from an ancient church heating system. The stone work repointed, and a low maintenance planting scheme now grows in the bank above the grotto. All this was done under the helpful, watchful eye of the Churchwarden, David Matthews.
Further south along the West Malvern Road, the traveller will come to one of the most popular spouts for collecting water. Many will remember the queues of heavy drinkers there, straining to carry their water bottles back to their cars. Not sure if this fraction really works, but those queues may have been halved since the arrival of the bifurcating spout. Where once there was one pipe where one bottle could be filled, there's two. Now people actually talk to each other as they fill up, rather than queue in British silence.
Andrew Findlay of Eastnor Forge made the bifurcating spout out of solid copper to a design by Rose Garrard. The clever bit about it is on the inside. The turbulence meant that the flow from each of the bifurcating arms was uneven. Within the copper body lies an adjustable choke that so far seems to favour neither side in the race to top up the bottles. Under one's feet, is found the only other visible change to the site. Replacing the grass and gravel path there is now a brick sett path.
Heading yet further south along the West Malvern Road, you come upon the Royal Well, by the road side, and under private ownership. Starting from the top: a new coat of arms was found and coloured by Rose Garrard. Those with an eye for heraldry will notice that it is not quite contemporary with the spout, but such is the whim of auctions. All the stone dedication plaques have been recut, and a swan neck pipe fixed onto the old pipe to help collect water. The grate upon which the collectors stand their bottle is of the same church batch that is in St James's Spout.
With no more than a basin and a dribble, this spout stands on the uphill side of the road to Colwall. Here the brick work was restored and the drains investigated. Why the drains? Well as 2008/9's harsh winter reminded us, water, roads and frost make skids. Unable to find anything but a primitive soakaway, it was decided not to over improve the water flow to the spout. What was done here was very similar to Weaver's Well, a spout on the eastern side of the hills below the Wyche Road that almost mirrors Willow.
Travel along Jubilee Drive and you come to British Camp: there you will find Wynds Point Fountain. Long since dry, this belongs to the Cadbury family who own the house. Its old water supply no longer existed and in a moment of dream thinking from the ladies on the project, the Cadbury connection could have been exploited to make a chocolate fountain! In the end only the structure was shored up. The stone work had been connected to the railings and as trees had fallen and buckled these, the block work had shattered. So here all that needed to be done was repair the railings and square up the stone work again.
Heading north along the Wells Road, Jubilee Fountain stands at the junction of Green Lane. Neglected and dry for so long because ownership was unclear, this spout now flows with spring water. It was discovered that the monument belonged to the Parochial Church Council and they were prepared to lease it to the Parish Council, who now have tenure of it. Our thanks go to all those in both organisations who helped untangle this legal web.
Thanks also go to Severn Trent who freely connected the spout into the spring water collector main that runs the length of the road from the Clock Tower in North Malvern to the reservoir at British Camp.
Those with an eye for fine brassware will note the percussion tap that waits to be pressed to get water out. This is contemporary with the fountain and was bought, after several upsets from ebay. Our ingenious blacksmith, Andrew Findlay was able to forge a fitting that hopefully will mean that the tap and fountain will never part company.
The remaining works included recutting the stonework, repairing the knee high railings and replanting around the base of the monument. The shrub at the back has been deliberately pruned to mimic the image in the earliest photograph we have of the site. To some eyes it appears Japanese in trimming and this coincides with the fashion for things oriental, when the photograph was taken.
Almost directly above Jubilee Fountain, on Holywell Road, sits Holywell itself. Undoubtedly one of the most ancient sites in the area, Holywell building has had its ups and downs. Always a collection point for water, and often a bottling plant, this dual purpose is being revived by the project owner of the site, Mike Humm.
Since the construction of the building in the 1840s the well room and restroom on the south side of the building have been open to the public. Over the years, damp, time and vandals had made their mark. Here all the stone work in the niche of the spout had been worn away and the trough into which the water fell had cracked. Being a listed building meant that replacement of these was not always smiled upon, so ‘honest repair' was the order of the day. This means that what's been repaired can be clearly seen, rather than disguised as original. So although the plan is to replace the marble in the niche and the 1970s tile work, the trough will be lined with glass.
Not wishing to make the rest room too comfortable, it will have a pew as befits a ‘holy' place, where resters will be able to contemplate an information panel about the long history of this site.
In the rooms to the north of the well room, the project is in the throes of creating a small education room. Here there will be displays of rocks and bottles, one being the origins of Malvern Water, the other being the carrier of its fame to distant parts. Information panels will tell the story of the water cure and its importance to Malvern. But in the room behind this is where the real business will be taking place.
The owner has decided to revive the bottling of water here, in the place where it was originally bottled. The operation will be only small scale and visitors will be able to see the goings on through a window in the education room.
Heading north towards Malvern, on an uphill area of open common, lies Lower Wyche Spout, another gift from Charles Morris who built the North Malvern Clock Tower and the West Malvern Tap. The flow was but a dribble. Dowsers had shown us where to find the brick sump and just to confound the dowsing sceptics, where we dug we found the sump, just uphill from the retaining wall. With the sump repaired and a new pipe lain through the tank at the back of the outlet, water flows generously. What's not collected falls into a drain to feed the animal trough by the side of the road below.
Once again repair work needed to be done to the stone structure, both the re-cutting of the dedication plaque and repointing the walls.
Tucked away in a place that no one ventures is Ellerslie Spout. Like St James's this deserves the name ‘grotto', as it sits by the main Wells Road just below the Wyche Road. Overgrown by trees and shrubs, the first job was to just clear the site to assess what might have been. What was revealed was a crumbling rough stone wall with carved tablets set into it. There were signs of where water once might have flowed, but no more. So the wall was shored up and the tablets replaced. The originals are now with Malvern Museum.
It is sad that this spout, like so many others find themselves isolated by busy roads. Maybe this is inevitable because they refreshed parched travellers or was it that the roads led to the spouts? Whichever came first, spout or road, wiser heads can discern, but how about a Malvern phrase to usurp the ‘chicken or egg' conundrum, replaced with ‘spout or track'?
Barnards Green Fountain
Someway distant from the hills and even from its name, on the Guarlford Common, lies the Barnards Green Fountain. Originally dedicated to the horses of the Boer War it stood on Barnards Green roundabout. Moved for road improvements, it is now far from its water source and had suffered the depravations of time. The lettering of the dedication plaque was indecipherable and the structure of the basin was cracked. With both these remedied, it stands to remind passers-by of the nation's debt to the kingdom of animals.
Down on Spring Lane in Malvern Link lies a spout with a distinguished name in a less than distinguished spot. Belonging to the Madresfield Estate, it has been tucked away off the road, beneath a damson tree for decades. The first job here was to attract the eye to it. Rose Garrard came up with a landscaping scheme that included brick pillars and a wending stone path. The path takes you to a white glazed brick trough. These bricks had been frost damaged and so were replaced with specially made ones. In the centre of the trough, was a lion's head with a little mossy beard, through which the water comes. It seems in keeping with today's passion for warnings for fools, that you should never drink from a lion's mouth; doubly true in this case as the water is unusually polluted. We know this because the water is tested by the District Council's Environmental Health Department who publish the results on their website for all to see.
Now at the end of the tour and without making too much of an Oscar ceremony of this, we must pay our dues. None of this would have happened without the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Malvern Spa Association. Our gratitude goes out to all the spout owners and in particular the Malvern Hills Conservators upon whose land so many of the spouts lie. Our patient architects, Osbornes of Hanley Swan deserve much credit, as do our contractors. The Clocktower was restored by P B Builders and Holywell by Westdeane; all the rest were done by Guy Sterry Landscapes. Our special thanks go to Guy, who as a local man took a particular interest in the work.
We hope their work will stand the test of time and encourage these fascinating pieces of our heritage to be cherished as they deserve to be.