Malvern is a spa town in Worcestershire. It has been famous for its bottled water since 1622. The town was the chosen location for the British government in case of evacuation from London during WWII.
On their first visit to Malvern, visitors can easily find themselves getting lost due to the number of places bearing the name 'Malvern'. This stems from the fact that the town of 'Malvern' is essentially a town surrounded by a collection of villages on the slopes of the Malvern Hills. These are known collectively as 'The Malverns' (as are the hills) and are listed as follows:
Great Malvern is the main town and population centre with the Priory Church and High Street. It contains the main railway station and most of the civic amenities. Malvern Link is a smaller settlement to the north, lying along the main road to Worcester, also featuring a nice common and old Victorian architecture. Malvern Wells is a small village south of the town, famed for its spring water. West Malvern is the only part of the town on the western face of the hills and overlooks Herefordshire. North Malvern is a small village to the north of the town. Little Malvern is a small village to the south featuring a lovely church.
The name Malvern probably comes from the ancient British language, with Mal-Bryn meaning 'Bare-Hill', the nearest modern equivalent being the Welsh moelfryn (bald hill). Iron Age tribes used the hills as a fortification, building a complex moat and trench network to guard their outposts, the remnants of which can still clearly be seen on British Camp. Little is known about the village until around 1075, when Benedictine monks began work on Malvern Priory. The village remained inconspicuous until the Victorian Age, when Malvern's famous waters, noted for centuries by locals by their purity, became of interest to experimenting doctors who began to advocate hydrotherapy in the waters as a cure for a wide variety of ailments. The resulting boom in medical tourism brought a great influx of wealth to the town, and the construction of a railway station in 1860 greatly increased the number of people visiting the area. Many of the prettiest and grandest buildings in the town date from this era, notably the former Great Western Railway Hotel, a grandiose building overlooking the railway station which now forms the main headquarters of the prestigious Malvern St James' College.
During the Second World War, Malvern was also important as it became the base for many government scientists working on RADAR (many of the huts and installations are still intact around the town) and the Defence Research Agency (DRA) continued to have a presence (and a large radar dish) in Malvern until 1995. The British government were also to be evacuated to nearby Madresfield Court in the event of the German capture of London. More recently, Malvern has established itself as a scientific centre with the old Ministry of Defence sites being bought by Qinetiq, one of the world's largest scientific technology firms.
Malvern is about 7 miles south-west of Worcester on the A449 road. It is close to Junction 7 of the M5 motorway.
Malvern is well served by trains from London, Birmingham, and south-west England. Trains are operated by First Great-Western and London Midland . The town prospered during the Victorian Railway boom with four stations running simultaneously up to the early sixties. Of these, two, Great Malvern Station (a Grade II listed building and worth a visit in itself) and Malvern Link Station remain open and very popular, serving the Cotswold line between Birmingham and Hereford.
The Malvern Hills are the area's most obvious asset with the 425 m (1,394 ft) Worcestershire Beacon rising directly above the town of Great Malvern. Further to the south, British Camp remains a brilliant example of an ancient Iron Age hilltop fortification with spectacular views across Herefordshire and the Vale of Evesham.
The Blue Plaque Trail is a more recent addition and points out the residences of some of the towns more famous visitors and citizens. These include the scientists Charles Darwin and John Cockcroft, the writer C.S. Lewis, famous nurse Florence Nightingale, the house where Franklin D. Roosevelt convalesced with polio as a child and the hotel Haile Selassie (Emperor of Abyssinia) fled to after Mussolini's invasion in the late 1930s
Great Malvern Priory is a former Benedictine monastery (built c. 1075) and is by far the oldest building in the mainly-Victorian town, providing a focal point in the town centre. The medieval architecture remains largely intact is one of the area's most beautiful buildings.
The Winter Gardens are a beautiful civic park in the town centre, featuring a band stand and ornamental lake.
Malvern Theatres are situated in the Winter Gardens, and play host to a wide variety of touring national theatre productions.
Morgan Motor Factory is a famous British sports car manufacturer, resident in Malvern Link.
Malvern Springs are dotted all over the hills, providing clean water on tap for free.
Malvern is at the northern end of the Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is a 9-mile long range of hills, rising up to 425m above sea level at the summit of Worcestershire Beacon. With around 100 miles of footpaths and bridleways criss-crossing the hills, this is a very popular area for walking and cycling.
Malvern features a number of excellent pubs serving a wide variety of local ales and ciders, many of which are prize-winning. Notable among the pubs in the town is The Nags Head on Bank Street, which was voted Britain's Pub of the Year in 2008 and features as many as 16 real ales on tap all year round .
However, the most obvious local beverage is the Malvern Water, which although no longer bottled commercially, can still be obtained from numerous springs around the town for free. The water is noted for its purity and was the source of the famous 'Malvern Water Cure' which contributed so much to the towns growth in the Victorian era.
- St Ann's well cafe, St Ann’s Road, Great Malvern, WR14 4RF (Climb the steps at the north edge of the Rose Bank Gardens, then make a u-turn and take the footpath up the hillside), ☎ +44 1684 560285.
To the west, arguably the prettiest direction to escape to, tourists will find the lovely little town of Ledbury and the impressive medieval county town of Hereford with its cathedral and situation on the River Wye. Further west lie the Marcher Castles built by the Anglo-Norman kings to guard the approaches to Wales.