Great Malvern with Malvern Wells

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

MALVERN (GREAT), a parish in the lower division of the hundred of PERSHORE, county of WORCESTER, 8 miles (W.) from Worcester, containing, with the chapelry of Newland, 1693 inhabitants. This place is romantically situated on the eastern declivity of a range of hills, separating the counties of Worcester and Hereford and extending from north to south for nearly nine miles, the greatest height being one thousand four hundred and, forty feet, and varying from one to two miles in breadth from east to west: of these the most prominent are the Worcestershire and Herefordshire beacons, the summits of which command most extensive and interesting views of the surrounding country; comprehending, in the distance, the counties of Monmouth, Radnor, Brecon, Salop, Warwick, and Stafford; and nearer, the counties of Worcester, Hereford, and Gloucester, with their stately cathedrals, together with the fertile and richly-cultivated tract of country watered by the Severn, and finely clothed with wood.

Around the base of the Herefordshire beacon is a double intrenchment, from six to twelve feet deep, and in some places more than thirty feet broad, dug by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, as a boundary between his portion of Malvern Chase and that belonging to the Bishop of Hereford; and in other parts of these mountains are similar works. The more ancient portion of the village is irregularly built, and consists of houses scattered on the declivity of the mountain; but since the celebrity of the springs and the purity of the air have made it a place of fashionable resort, handsome ranges of modern houses have been erected; and, in detached situations and at different degrees of elevation, several beautiful villas have been built as private summer residences.

There are a chalybeate and a bituminous spring, the water of which is remarkable for its purity, and for its gently aperient and diuretic properties; the former is in the eastern part of the village, near the church; the latter, called Holywell, is situated two miles to the south of it; and on the eastern ridge of the hill, and at St. Anne's well, on the north side of the Worcestershire beacon, there are some respectable hotels, and every accommodation has been provided for drinking the waters, and for hot and cold bathing: the public library is a neat building of the Doric order; and in every direction there are romantic and agreeable walks.

The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Worcester, rated in the king's books at £8. 3. 4., endowed with £200 private benefaction, and £400 royal bounty, and in the patronage of Edward Foley, Esq. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, formerly the church of the Benedictine abbey, was, at the dissolution, purchased by the inhabitants, and made parochial: it is a venerable and elegant cruciform structure, partly rebuilt under the direction of Sir Reginald Bray, in the reign of Henry VII., and combining the Norman and the later English styles of architecture, with a fine square embattled tower rising from the centre; the exterior is in the later English style, and, with the exception of the south side, which, from its having been anciently concealed by the cloisters of the abbey, is of plainer character, exhibits a good specimen of that style, and the north porch is very rich; the interior retains much of the original character; the nave is in the Norman style, with low massive piers and circular arches; the chancel is in the later English style, and is lighted by a fine range of clerestory windows, with rich and elegant tracery; the east window and that in the north transept are particularly beautiful, and several portions of the ancient stained glass, and of the original wood work in the roof, the carved seats, and other evidences of its antiquity, are remaining.

A few years since, the church was repaired and beautified at the expense of the neighbouring gentry, to commemorate which a small window was fitted in, having the arms of the various benefactors superbly emblazoned upon it. It has lately received an addition of three hundred and eighty sittings, of which two hundred and eighty are free, the Incorporated Society for the enlargement of churches and chapels having contributed £260 towards defraying the expense. There is a place of worship for Methodists.

A Sunday school, in which about ninety children are instructed, and a school of industry, are supported by subscription. Here was a hermitage, endowed by Edward the Confessor, which, after the Conquest, was converted into a Benedictine priory: an abbey and conventual buildings having been erected, in 1083, by Aldewine, the hermit, and endowed by Gislebert, abbot of Westminster, with ample possessions, it became, in consequence, subordinate to the abbey of Westminster, and subsisted till the dissolution, when the revenue was estimated at £375. 0. 6. of this abbey, the parish church, already noticed; the ancient gateway, a beautiful specimen of the later English style; and the abbey barn, a building in the decorated style; are the remains. A celt, of a metal apparently between brass and copper, about five inches long, with a beautiful patina, and a small ring, was found here, at a considerable depth below the surface of the ground, about the middle of the last century.

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