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 World War II.
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’ used to consist of several separate settlements, and that it is still surrounded by a collection of villages on the slopes of the Malvern Hills. These villages are known as ‘The Malverns’ (as are the hills) and consist of:
Great Malvern is the main town, with the historic Priory Church, a few shopping streets 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.