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 Doctors 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.

Malvern Water-cure Springs

Enduring the water-cure!

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.

Cotswold House, Great Malvern.

Cotswold House, Great Malvern.

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    By the way, I love the bubbling fountains Cora!



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.



  1. Ah, an author and an historian and a lady after my own heart! What an interesting post. There are so many fascinating snippets of history to be unearthed and explored. This is one of them. I think the tour is a grand idea. I love walking through historical places with people who are really knowledgeable about the place and its history.

    • Pauline

      Thanks S.A. There could be no better person than Cora to conduct such a walking tour. She is so friendly and enthusiastic about the history of Malvern, and as you can gauge from the sample of her own book, she is extremely well-informed. It is pure serendipity that our books complement each other so pefectly. Sadly, the Marsden girls lacked a ‘guardian angel’, but I sometimes think one has been watching over my book on their behalf.

  2. Sounds good but don’t forget St Ann’s Well!

    • Pauline

      Oh yes, would provide the walkers with some good exercise…unless there are still a few donkeys for hire as in the old days of the water-cure

  3. I think a guided tour would be excellent it would bring the past to life. Very interesting post. Jen.

    • Pauline

      Thank you so much for the feedback Jen, I really appreciate it. Looks as though the launch will be in Malvern rather than London too, so everything would link in very well. Would be great to be able to give a boost to the town museum etc as well.

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