My friends, authors and historians Cora Weaver and Bruce Osborne , recently published a well researched, richly illustrated book called Celebrated Springs of the Malvern Hills. Here is small extract;
These pure springs inspired the water-cure clinics at Malvern, lining the pockets of physicians such as Dr Gully and Dr James Marsden, autocratic father of the children in The Water Doctor‘s Daughters.
In 1851, Malvern water flowed from the famous Crystal Fountain at London’s Great Exhibition. When Queen Victoria drank a glass of this ‘nectar’ her royal mark of approval transformed a small Worcestershire town into one of the country’s most fashionable spa centres.
Cora Weaver conducts historically themed walking tours around the town based on Victorian figures such as Florence Nightingale, who underwent the ‘cure’ herself on several occasions. Who knows, soon there may be a Water Doctor Daughter’s Tour, visiting the houses and other sites associated with the story. The walk could wind up with a drink or two (definitely something stronger than water!) at the historic Foley Arms Hotel. A picture of Dr Marsden’s clinic, known as Hardwicke House, hangs on a wall in the main lounge.
Hardwicke House was demolished and replaced by an ugly 1960’s apartment block but many other significant buildings remain, including the Doctor’s old Turkish baths in College Street. Pictured below is Cotswold house, where the Marsden family were living when French born Celestine Doudet became their governess in 1852.
The appointment of Mlle Doudet led to tragedy. Two children died under her care in Paris, and the lives of their siblings would be changed forever. The girls’ maternal uncle, vicar of Malvern Priory Church, was moved to comment: ‘What a fatality seems to rest upon these children. God help them, it is beyond human skill!’ His words were prophetic . In 1868 the girls’ brother drowned in mysterious circumstances whilst living abroad, ‘in exile’. A decade later yet another shocking event occurred. One of the surviving girls died after ingesting belladonna liniment, which had been placed in a medicine bottle.
Cora was extremely generous with her help and advice when Rob and I were researching the book. She also delivered an entertaining introduction at the launch, held at the Foley Arms. Her own website, with details of all her publications , is at www.malvernwaters.co.uk By the way, I love the bubbling fountains Cora!
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE IDEA OF A WATER DOCTOR’S DAUGHTERS’ TOUR OF MALVERN? LET ME KNOW BY LEAVING A COMMENT BELOW.
UPDATE – JUNE 2015
Since writing this blog a self-guided Water Doctor Daughter’s walk around Malvern has been developed and is proving very popular. Here is the link.