Rambling the Ridges of Malvern’s Great History
Our spa hotel in Worcester is blanketed by a rich tapestry of history and heritage. A heritage that we are proud to be a part of and even more proud to present you with ahead of Local And Community History Month 2017, which takes place next month.
Here is the History of Malvern…
This glorious land has had many names since the times of old. ‘Malferna’, ‘Malverne’ and ‘Much Malvern’ have traversed the tongues of generations. However, the name Malvern was originally derived from the ancient British or old welsh moel-bryn, and they pretty much called it how they saw it; “Bald Hill”.
As time passed, titles turned, townships grew and fell, but the great hills of Malvern stood rooted and unchanged. Lined with flint axes and arrowheads, the peaks and ditches of the Malvern Hills became both a safe haven and perfect vantage point to the early Bronze Age settlers. Along the crest of these massive geophysical boundaries is a littering of Bronze Age earthwork, possibly dating from around 1000 BC, around The Wyche Cutting, an ancient pass through the hills, used in prehistoric times as part of a salt route from Droitwich to South Wales.
Further impressions of history were to be found embedded into the hillside. On the summit of the Malvern Hills, close to where Malvern was later to be established, lies a site of extensive Iron Age earthworks, hill forts and encampments. It was here that a 19th Century discovery was made, when over two hundred metal money bars were unearthed. This suggested that the site was of European Iron Age origin – The La Tène people ventured to these lands around 250 BC, leaving a small horde of their craft buried in the surrounding area.
Hill forts continued to play their vitally omnipotent roll, dominating the English landscape right up until the Roman invasion when, one by one, they fell to the sheer might and volume of Roman siege tactics.
Ancient folklore tells of how the British chieftain Caractacus made his last stand at British Camp. The legend tells of his capture after a heroic battle before he was transported to Rome, where an impressed Emperor Claudius released him into grand wealth and a Roman villa. However, the story remains disputed, and despite the Roman historian Tacitus’ implications of an alternative site, the nearby excavations of Midsummer Hill fort, Bredon Hill and Croft Ambrey all show evidence of violent destruction around the same time as British Camp. Very little is recorded of Malvern over the next thousand years. However, what we do know is that the top ramparts of British Camp would later be refortified, this time by the Normans.
The Norman exodus met the Malvern Hills shortly after the Battle of Hastings, and they quickly began working on a monastery in 1085. The land it was being built on belonged to Westminster Abbey and the surrounding land was known as Malvern Chase, a chase being an open area where animals are kept for hunting purposes. The monastery quickly rose, and soon belonged to thirty monks. This Great Malvern Priory would evolve rapidly over the next few hundred years.
However, the success and good fortunes of the priory vanished in the 1530s when King Henry VIII rectified his financial problems by plundering the funds of the Pope’s Catholic monasteries. Challengers were swiftly dealt with by Thomas Cromwell. In 1539, the King’s escapade meant the Malvern monks had to surrender their lands and their homes to the King.
Times were tough but now in the 1600s the Malvern Hills and great woodlands would again shroud its townsfolk from battles and bloodshed. The English Civil War blundered on by leaving Malvern unscathed.
The Victorian era brought prosperity, when in 1842, Doctor James Wilson and Gully set up their water cure establishments in Belle Vue at the centre of town, enabling visitors to ‘take the waters’. The A-listers of the time flocked to sample these wonderfully watery wares, including Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens. The reputation of the purity of Malvern spring water was firmly established by J Schweppe & Co. in 1851 who presented it to the world at the Great Exhibition in London.
Today, with a myriad of museums, hill top walks and natural spas, Malvern’s history is alive and well to be discovered by all. Rambling along the ridges and exploring the immense Iron Age hill fort whose 2000 year old ramparts still remain clearly visible, lets you see it through the eyes of all those who stood here before us. Expansive views across the great Malvern Hills dominate the surrounding Worcestershire and Herefordshire landscapes. These hills have witnessed the rise and fall of ancient empires, great Kings and monasteries, the growth of a beautiful spa town, and the continuing trade of Malvern’s natural and historical treasures.
If you need somewhere to stay while exploring the local and surrounding area, stay at The Bank House. Nestled in the historic heart of the countryside, our spa hotel in Worcester offers relaxation and tranquil spas for those looking for a luxurious place to rest after a long day exploring the historical sights and wonders of the incredible Malvern landscape.