Malvern Water: Bottled Up

Ian Bradley on the precarious past of a pure Worcestershire water.

Coca-Cola’s sudden decision to cease bottling Malvern water has been taken as marking the end of an era and representing a tragedy for the town that could well claim the title of Britain’s ‘watery’ capital.

In fact, the history of bottling water from the Worcestershire hills and of Malvern’s position as a pioneer spa and centre for hydrotherapy have long been marked by both setbacks and revivals.

Local legend has it that the health-giving properties of the water percolating through the pre-Cambrian rock of the Malvern Hills and emerging in over 60 springs were well known in medieval times. There are stories of St Oswald revealing to a hermit the medicinal powers of what became known as the Holy Well on the hillside above the modern village of Malvern Wells and of monks in the Benedictine Priory, built in 1085, using water from another local well to cure people.

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