A ceremony celebrating the re-opening of the fully restored Clock Tower, together with a ceremony blessing the waters took place on Sunday 3rd May 2009. When you have watched the video, you may read the full history of the Clock Tower from 1835 to the present day by scrolling down the page.
1835 – 1836 First water ‘Tank’ fronted by a single storey Well Room is built by Charles Morris a generous benefactor of the poor and a batchelor (1799 – 1856). He was “Proprietor of Houses, of Portman Square, London”, who came annually to stay for the summer season in Malvern from the 1830’s. ‘The Tank’ was filled with 50,000 gallons of spring water from North Valley and had a public spout in the well room. To the right of the ‘Tank’, Morris builds North Malvern Spout, a second tank of smaller size also for the use of the poor.
Dedication plaque on the Tank; –
HAVE PLACED THIS STONE HERE TO RECORD
THAT THESE TANKS WERE ERECTED
AT THE SOLE EXPENSE
OF CHARLES MORRIS JUN.r ESQ
OF PORTMAN SQUARE LONDON
IN 1835 AND 1836.
YE YOUNG AND AGED POOR
THAT THE BLESSINGS OF GOD
BE ABUNDANTLY POURED UPON HIM
WHO HAS HERE POURED
ABUNDANT BLESSINGS UPON YOU.”
1835 Lamb’s etching is published, dedicated to Morris’s mother, showing the single storey North Malvern ‘Tank’ building and well room (now the ground floor of the Clock Tower) and side spout (North Malvern Spout). Above them on the cliff a bridge is shown (Quarryman’s Bridge), with a waterfall, probably the first water supply to ‘the Tank’.
1838 North Malvern National School built opposite Clock Tower by Morris.
1840 Morris builds Lower Wyche Spout, Malvern Wells.
1842 The hydropathic Doctors Wilson and Gully open commercial ‘water cure’ establishments in Great Malvern. In the next 30 years the population increases rapidly as many new residents, visitors and patients are attracted to the Malverns, hoping to improve their health by taking the waters. New wealthier houses are built from quarried Malvern stone with their own well, while poorer homes often share a public spring or spout.
1843 Second storey built on top of the ‘Tank’ well room by Morris to support single clock. In those days before many people could afford watches, this not only enabled workers to arrive on time, but local residents knew exactly when the quarry blasting would happen twice a day. But the clock was said to be a bad timekeeper, possibly because of the force of the blasting.
1844 Morris builds West Malvern Tap on West Malvern Road for “the inhabitants of the neighbourhood”.
1855 Lack of rain, plus the now numerous Hydropathic establishments taking supplies from the valley springs, causes increased shortages of water for domestic use throughout Malverns.
1856 Morris dies suddenly in London and his sister Jane (spinster) takes on maintenance of Morris sites.
1858 Mechanical chiming bells without a clock face are installed in Malvern Priory in memory of Charles Morris.
1864 Residents report that the North Malvern Quarries are using most of the water from the ‘Tank’.
1866 Great and rather angry controversy in the Malverns over water supply and sewerage. Earth closets strongly advocated against water closets, owing to shortage of water.
1867 Malvern’s roads have become so dusty due to increased traffic and lack of rain that visitors complain. The Council introduce a street watering cart for the first time.
1870 Royal Well public spout built at the Wyche, the gift of William Ryland, supplying 10,000 gallons a day.
1872 Water shortages continue due to increasing demands on natural water supplies combined with low rainfall. Construction of a large reservoir in the valley above Clock Tower begins, but within months the weight of storm water causes the interior arches to collapse injuring several workmen, so the site is filled in. Sections of stone arches can still be seen today on the hillside. Water meters are installed in residential properties in Great Malvern to conserve water by charging for the amount used.
1877 North Malvern Reservoir is constructed 150ft above Clock Tower by the Urban District Council. The local paper reports the ceremonial “public inspection” of the huge empty arched structure on 3rd March, when visitors ascend the steep hill in a steam lift and then go down inside.
“The commanding escarpment of the hill, overlooking the North Malvern Post Office, was gay with bannerets and streamers, with the sound of the harp and fiddle, the trumpet and the drum, the applause of men, and the merry voices of women and little ones. Immediately below the new reservoir there is a huge cairn of debris, and on an inclined plane immediately above this a steam lift has been in use, but on Monday this rather primitive looking machine underwent a transformation, …”draped in pink and carpeted for the use of the ladies”… so as to safely and comfortably transport about a dozen ladies at a time. From two o’clock until five it was incessantly in requisition raising bevies of belles from the road to the mouth of the reservoir in the rocks, over a hundred feet above, and in bringing them down again, and so to a certain extent was fulfilled our contemporary’s splendid dreams of the time when visitors will be conveyed to ‘Malvern’s breezy height’ in a passenger train.”
“Around the landing stage and the mouth of the reservoir there was a large concourse of people waiting their turn to descend inside… The interior of the reservoir was reached by descending a cork-screw flight of good stone steps, which for the occasion were also provided with a stout temporary handrail, abundantly swathed in evergreens, which had the double effect of improving the appearance of this part of the structure, and hiding from the sight of the timorous the yawning gulf beneath them.”
1878 The North Valley spring supply proves insufficient to fill the new Service Reservoir’s capacity of 738.000 gallons. Water is then piped from a tank near the Wyche holding Dingle Spring water, but this supply can still only partially fill the reservoir as its base is 4ft below that of the reservoir.
1886 Dog trough installed at Clock Tower well room.
1887 “Great drought” reported with many springs drying up to a trickle from March to November.
1890 Plans to build a new reservoir at British Camp costing �26,000 are adopted at a public meeting. The following year the Malvern Water Act is passed to make way for the reservoir at British Camp.
1895 British Camp Reservoir is opened by the Duchess of Teck, collecting water from many springs.
1900 Above Clock Tower, “Quarryman’s Bridge” is shown in a photo-postcard, but now without the waterfall as this supply has been piped.
1901 Queen Victoria dies. A further storey added to the ‘Tank’ tower to support a new clock with four gas lit clock faces and a flag pole, to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII. It is now known as “the Clock Tower”. Malvern’s spring water supplies from the hills become critically low.
1907 Bromsberrow Water-works opens on 29th March, costing �25,000 and provides an ample supply of pure water, which is pumped up to North Malvern Service Reservoir, operated today by Severn Trent. Treated water supplies are piped to homes in North Malvern for domestic use.
1914 – 1918 First World War
1939 – 1945 Second World War. Sixteen bombs fall on the Malverns including one at Willow Spring.
1942 Chlorination building is built in North Valley to treat the spring water, but there is never enough water pressure for it to operate. North Malvern homes are supplied with electricity for first time.
1947 Clock Tower well room, Earl Beauchamp’s Spout and other North Malvern public supplies cut off by the Urban District Council to conserve water. The disused chlorination building is vandalised.
1970 The South West Worcestershire Water Board divert untreated spring water from North Malvern Service Reservoir to run ‘to waste’ in the storm drain and the reservoir is supplied solely with treated Bromsberrow water.
1987 All Britain’s natural supplies of water are privatised by the Conservative Government. Within 20 years at least a quarter of the ‘British’ water companies are foreign owned.
2006 Restoration begins at the Clock Tower. The original blue brick path to Well Room is uncovered on 10th August and the overgrown “Quarryman’s Bridge” and “Roman Path” water channel are rediscovered by the MSA on the same day. But four winters with lower than average rainfall, plus a very dry July, cause no spring water to flow in the valley above the Clock Tower until 22nd October. MSA aims to reconnect the spring supply to the Well Room.
2007 Clock Tower cleared of undergrowth and shrubs by Malvern Hills Conservators to reveal the ground floor for the first time since the 2nd World War.
Finally in May 2009 the Clock Tower was officially reopend with due ceremony (See the YouTube video at the top of this page). The work done is probably best explained in the following few paragraphs, penned by David Armitage in his article published in the MSA Newsletter No. 24
North Malvern Clock Tower presented an unexpected challenge. The tower itself was owned by Malvern Town Council, the land around the tower together with the parapet walls belonged to the Malvern Hills Conservators. Just to enrich the mix, the building was listed, so came under the aegis of Malvern Hills District Council.
For many years the entrance to the well house at the bottom of the tower had been boarded up and no water flowed. The project aimed to restore the flow and add some eye catching iron gates. Rose Garrard, who had done so much to promote Malvern water in the past, produced a design for the gates. Its sinuous curves reflected the water flow of water, whilst the ivy leaves recalled the ivy that was once encouraged to crawl over the tower. Being a new design on a listed building, permission was needed. The application was nothing but thorough, and included painted iron bars cut only slightly too large to fit in any filing cabinet. With permission granted, Andrew Findlay of Eastnor Forge became the gate creator.
The actual building work on the tower stopped before it started. Having made an announcement in the Malvern Gazette that work was soon to begin, the police sequestered the tower. Officers were perched on the top keeping an eye on nefarious activities in the bushes below. This went on for nearly 6 months and increasingly questions were being asked about the delays. Sworn to secrecy, much time was spent on contemplating the line between discretion and deceit. Eventually, the Malvern Gazette reported the capture of a drugs dealer from Wolverhampton who had used the tower as his rendez-vous. With that, work could begin in earnest in the spring of 2006.
In view of the kerfuffle in the bushes at the base of the tower, Ian Rowat, the Director of the Malvern Hills Conservators, convened a public meeting to discuss what to do about the overgrown bushes. There was no dispute about their removal and soon afterwards the field staff moved in and cleared the site.
Work on the structure of the tower progressed smoothly. Starting from the top: rain water had in times past spewed from the dragon gargoyles on the top of the tower. Sadly the throats of the dragons kept getting clogged with moss; the water backed up and eked its way down the inside of the tower. Internal down pipes solved this.
The clock itself had been installed by Smiths of Derby in 1906, and it was restored in 2006, by Smiths of Derby. The southern face of the clock had had its glass face blacked out with tin, so often had it been smashed by the blasts from local quarries. With the end of quarrying long gone, the southern face was restored. Once lit by gas, electricity was installed to bring the faces to light again at night.
Down at the base of the tower, in the well house the water now flows capriciously. This was always the case; it had prompted the building of the tower and the 50,000 gallon tank behind it, in the first place. That tank, was no longer water tight. Much time was spent tracing the water supply and eventually it was concluded that the well head lay some 50 m above the old chlorination plant, under a large round manhole cover. Too far to pipe to the tower, the supply was picked up in a sump under a square manhole cover on the path to the current reservoir. The blue MDPE pipe was then threaded through existing drains, into the back of the 50,000 gallon tank, through the tank and to the tap. From there it falls into a stone basin.
The stone basin is not original to the building. It came from one of Rose Garrard’s shopping expeditions. Knowing that a local auction was selling off humble stone water toughs which would be used at other sites, Rose was given a budget and sent to bid. The next day Rose called to say that she’d got what we wanted but she’d gone over budget. This was no surprise as she seemed to have bought half the ruins of ancient Rome, and this included the magnificent stone basin that now stands in the well room. And by how much had she burst the budget ?- £10. A bargain at any price.
There were some unexpected savings on the budget as well. The contractors unearthed the original brick path from the road to the tower. We had thought that we’d have to build one anew.