In 1814, the founder of modern hydrotherapy Vincenz Priessnitz started to develop hydrotherapy and opened his first sanatorium. Eventually, many people came from Europe to try or study the water treatments. Dr Wilson was one of these visitors.

Dr James Wilson, a Victorian medical doctor, had heard about the reputed healing properties of Malvern Water. In 1842, he drove to Malvern to find out more. He stopped his carriage at the Crown Hotel (currently Lloyds bank, next to the current Mount Pleasant Hotel) to enquire further. He like the hotel, with its spring in the back garden, so much that he bought it and started his hydrotherapy business there. Dr Wilson operated out of this building for 6 - 8 years while he was building the purpose built Park View to service his clientel.

Dr Wilson sent word to another doctor, Dr James Gully, to invite him to move to Malvern and take advantage of the popularilty of the water cure. These two doctors worked along side each other happliy making use of the abundant supply of Malvern's spring water which even then was reputed to have considerable healing powers.  In 1846 Dr Gully authored a book called The Water Cure in Chronic Disease, helping him to become a leader in the field and to attract high profile clients to his clinic, including Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, Florence Nightingale, Lord Tennyson, and Samuel Wilberforce.

Dr Gully lived for several years in a house on the site of the current Council Building between Church Street and Avenue Road. He bought this house for todays equivalent of about £1m which sounds excessive until you realise that, at the time, he was earning today's equivalent of about £2m per annum.

The treatment he provided was not simply drinking the water, but involved being doused in the cold spring water early in the morning, walking through the countryside to the various fountains and spouts to drink the water, being wrapped in cold damp cloths, and taking a variety of baths in Romanesque style.  Dr Gully's original premises was in the current Tudor Hotel. Patient's accommodation was strictly segregated between the sexes, even for the married couples.  The two accommodation houses were linked by an ornate, enclosed bridge which was dubbed the "bridge of sighs".  The Tudor Hotel has been left unoccupied pending redevelopment in recent years.  In Feb 2010, it was damaged by fire

The careers of these popular doctors came to an unfortunate end with the death of Dr Wilson and Dr Gully moving away in disgrace after an affair with one of his patients. Dr Gully was also a suspect in the poisoning of Charles Bravo, a man who had married the woman that Dr Gully had previously had an affair with.  This murder has only recently been solved.

Despite the famous water treatments, Sir Charles Hastings who founded the British Medical Association (BMA) and lived in Worcester and later the Malvern Hills was highly critical of hydrothapy and in particular Dr James Gully.

Today you can indulge in a bit of modern water cure by visiting The Malvern Spa, a contemporary spa with hotel, health club and restaurant.


Books about water cures