The Holy Well restoration was completed by the end of April 2009. Work continues on the new HOLYWELL Spring Water bottling plant.
On the 3rd May 2009 the Rt. Revd. David Walker, Bishop of Dudley, blesses the water of the Holy Well in a short ceremony during the Well Dressing Weekend. The YouTube video of the event can be seen here:
Because of their healing properties and early Christian usage, many ancient sites were named as “Holy” wells and were often on the route of pilgrimage to another holy place.
“We set out towards Worcester and by the way (thick planted with fruit) we deviate to the holy Wells trickling out of a Vally, thro a steepe declivity towards the foote of Greate-Maubern hills. They are said to heale many infirmities, as Kings-Evil, Leaprosie, and sore eyes.”
The Diary of John Evelyn, August 1st 1654
Remarkable cures have been attributed to this Holy Well since at least the 12th century and Nash says the spring had been “long used with great success, particularly in disorders of the eyes, scrophulos cases, old ulcers, leprosies and other diseases of the skin.” According to an early 17th century song recorded in Bannister`s Breviary of the Eye in 1622, water was bottled at Malvern`s holy wells and, perhaps because of the national drought of 1615, was widely distributed.
“A thousand bottles here, were filled weekly,
And many costrils rare, for stomachs sickly;
Some were to London sent,
Some of them into Kent,
Others on to Berwick went,
O praise the Lord.”
In 1558 Queen Elizabeth I gave the well to John Hornyold and the family owned it until 1919, but the first record of a building over this site was not until 1815. The present well house was erected in 1843, based on a building in Baden-Baden, Germany, and was visited once by Princess Victoria. Until the 1960`s the site became the commercial bottling plant for Cuff and Co. before it lapsed into disuse.
The Holy Well had been “standing dilapidated and slum-like” when it was bought by John and Thelma Parkes in 1970 and restored. At its reopening in 1977, Ian Masters, a thirteen-year old schoolboy from nearby Wells House School who had been suffering from a disease of the joints, reported, ” My doctor said he couldn`t cure it. I couldn`t move my arm without it creaking. Since I bathed it in the Holy Well, it`s been improving and is nearly better now.”
The Malvern Gazette, June 1977
Frequently in medieval times, those who believed they had benefited from, or been healed by the water of a particular well or spring, would return there to make an offering. For many years gifts and written prayers and wishes were left at the Holy Well in the adjacent “Sanctuary” room. Even today visitors leave objects and flowers at this well, which is now also Well Dressed every year on May Day.
“The Holy Well also appears to have been well-dressed centuries ago on the appropriate Saints Day – that of St. Oswald – when all who had been cured during the past year returned to give thanks, ‘make an offering according to their substance and invoke the continuance of the miraculous powers of the well’. St Oswald was supposed to have revealed the medicinal powers of the well to one of the monks who was a hermit on the hills. – There are stories in early books of monks wrapping cloths steeped in this water around ill patients, making them ‘sleep with the wet cloths on the diseased parts’.”
‘What to see in Malvern’ by Dr John Harcup 1975
During the 11th century a number of monks had left the Priory at Worcester to lead a more austere life as hermits in the ‘wilderness’ of the Malvern Hills. Later a group of these hermits came together as a community organised by their fellow monks Eldred and Jocelin, to establish the Little Malvern Priory in 1127. The monks at Little Malvern Priory celebrated St Oswald’s Feast Day during a recorded visit by Bishop Giffard in 1290. Perhaps one of these monks once lived as a hermit near the Holy Well and was given this vision of its healing powers, which led to offerings of thanks for miraculous cures being made here.
extract from Malvern “Hill of Fountains” by Rose Garrard 2006