St. Ann's Well, Malvern

St. Ann's Well is set on the slopes of the Malvern Hills above Great Malvern. It is a popular site on a path leading up to the Worcestershire Beacon and lies on the final descent of the Worcestershire Way. The spring or well is named after St Ann; the maternal grandmother of Christ and the patron saint of many wells. A building that dates back to 1813 houses the well or spring. Malvern water flows freely from elaborately carved water spout. The building also hosts a cafe. During the early 20th century, the now defunct Burrows company bottled and sold Malvern Water from this source under the St Ann's Well brand.


St Ann's Well is a natural spring which Palmer suggests may have been dedicated to Anu, a celtic water goddess. The name is a homonym of European and Middle eastern fertility goddesses such as Anatha, Anat and Anna Perenna.

The well itself was reputedly discovered in 1086 by Aldwyn of Malvern and named in the mid eighteenth century. It was supposedly named after the chapel in the nearby Malvern Priory which was named after an altar in the old priory. The monks dedicated the altar to St Ann as they identified her with the spring on the hill.The hill in question may have been known as Tan Hill after Tanfana the Belgic God of Fire, and St Ann may be a modification of that name. Tan is modern Welsh for fire and it's celtic use for beacon fires is proved by the fires lit in Brittany “at the time of the summer solstice”. St Ann's well is located on the eastern slopes of the Worcestershire Beacon, the highest hill on the range.

A 19th Century antiquarian speculated that "St Ann's Well — in its primary form means simply "the well dedicated to the sun"".

General History
St Werstan

According to James Nott one of the most important events in the history of Malvern was the arrival of St. Werstan, who established a cell on the hill side near St. Ann's Well. St. Werstan was a monk of the Saxon monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire which was destroyed by the Northmen. Werstan escaped and fled through the Malvern Chase, finding sanctuary on the Malvern Hills. Legend tells that the settlement in Great Malvern began following the murder of St. Werstan. Although the legend may be monastic mythology historians have concluded that he was the original martyr. A 15th Century stained glass window in Great Malvern Priory depicts the story of St. Werstan, with details of his vision, the consecration of his chapel, Edward the Confessor granting the charter for the site, and Werstan's martyrdom.

Healing waters

The quality of Malvern spring water was appreciated in the medieval period. The purity of St Ann's Well in particular was well known in the 15th century as a curative for the “many maladies suffered by mediaeval folk”. An old song attributed the Rev. Edmund Rea, who became Vicar of Great Malvern in 1612, alluded to the healing properties of the well:

Dr John Wall

The reputation of St Ann's Well water was scientifically confirmed by Dr John Wall, a Worcestershire physician, who analysed the water in 1745 and found that “the efficacy of this water seems chiefly to arise from its great purity”. Wall published the results along with accounts of miracle cures in Experiments and Observations on the Malvern Waters (1757). The chief aim of the publication was to raise money to make improvements to the primitive building at St Ann's Well. It is telling that his research demonstrated that it was necessary for the waters to be drunk on the spot and taken regularly to be successful.

The Well House was built in 1813 and was owned by Lady Emily Foley who granted the public free access to the spring water.

St Ann's Well was one of the most popular watering places for wealthy invalids in the early days of the Water Cure. From 1815 John and Hester Clifton lived in the cottage at St Ann's Well and their daughter provided refreshments for the Water Cure visitors in the Tea Gardens.

The unusual octagonal extension was erected in 1841.

In the 1850s, water from St Ann's Well was bottled by John and William Burrow at the Bottling Works Spring in Robson Ward's yard on Belle Vue Terrace in Great Malvern. Bottling ceased here in the 1950s and the former bottling works are now furniture showrooms. Water for the Bottling Works Spring is piped from St Ann's Well.

In 1866, John Down established a photographic studio at St Ann's well, and used the spring water for processing. He also constructed a camera obscura which was situated on the nearby St Ann's Delight.

In 1892, Lady Foley donated a Sicilian marble spout and basin. The spout is a dolphins head which is positioned above a shell shaped basin. A plaque above the spout reads:

Old Moses

From at least 1817 donkeys were used to carry visitors up the hills and by 1852 there were numerous donkey hire stands. One particular donkey named Old Moses carried a young Princess Victoria to St Ann's Well where she officially opened a new path from Nob's (now St Ann's) Delight to Foley Walk.

Blind George Pullen

Blind George Pullen earned his living playing the euphonium and dulcitone almost every day for 50 years from about 1880 to entertain visitors to St Ann’s Well. It is said he could “recognise the sound of regular visitors’ footsteps and would play their favourite tune as they approached”.


In 1963 the Malvern Hills Conservators made the decision to demolish the “lump of Victoriana” known as St Ann's Well. John Betjeman, poet and founding member of the The Victorian Society expressed concern about the plans for the building and his support and strong public feeling for St Ann's Well convinced the Conservators to change their minds.


In 2005 the gardens at St Ann's Well, were restored by the Malvern Spa Association, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Malvern Hills Conservators. The work was funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. On December 9, 2005 the completion of the work was celebrated by over 100 people at St Ann's Well. Music was provided by Master H & The Nominus Minstrels and local harpist Jonathan Penley. A BBC Television crew filmed the celebration of the restoration, which concluded with a rendition of a 17th century song about Malvern water.

St Ann's Well today

In addition to its Malvern water spout, St Ann's Well also houses a vegan and vegetarian cafeteria. In 2009, the Malvern Hills Conservators announced plans to take St Ann's Well cafe back under their own management on expiry of the tennancy on 31 March 2010 to achieve a long-standing goal of providing a visitor information centre. The announcement was met with opposition from local residents and visitors to the area and a public meeting was called by the Malvern Hills Conservators to address the concerns of the public on November 12, 2009. Thirty-six members of the public attended the meeting and asked a total of 26 questions regarding plans for St Ann's Well. At a the meeting of Malvern Hills Conservators on March 11 (2010), supporters of the proprietor of St Ann's Well asked a further 29 questions, some of them concerning the plans for the cafe and others about other aspects of the Conservators work. In June 2011 the Malvern Hills Conservators announced that the dispute over the lease would be investigated by a committee.

St Ann's Well in cultural life
New Age philosophy

Alfred Watkins believed that St Ann's Well was the start of a ley line that passes along the Malvern ridge through several wells including the Holy Well, Walms Well and St. Pewtress Well. In Early British Trackways (1922) Watkins gives another example of a ley line that he believed passed through Priory Church, Malvern and St. Ann's Well to Little Mountain (Westbrook) via Arthur's Stone, Cross End, Moccas Church, Monnington Church, Credenhill (old) Court, Pipe and Lyde Church, and Beacon Hill.

In the late 1970s Paul Devereux stated that he had discovered the “Malvern Ley” which began at St Ann's Well and ended at Whiteleaved Oak. The alignment passes through St Ann's Well, the Wyche Cutting, a section of the Shire Ditch, Midsummer hillfort and Whiteleaved Oak. British author John Michel wrote that Whiteleaved Oak is the centre of the “Circle of Perpetual Choirs” and is equidistant from Glastonbury and Stonehenge.

Since 2008 an Interfaith "Blessing of the Waters" Service featuring songs, chants and blessings from many faiths has been held at St Ann's Well.

Malvern Fringe Festival

Until recently St Ann's Well was the starting point for the annual Malvern Fringe May Day procession. The first procession was held as recently as 1994.

Music, poetry and dance

Nigel Kennedy used the Octagon room as the location for a promotional video shoot for his 1996 album, “Kafka”.

Dick McBride, American beat poet and City Lights store manager, celebrated the publication of “Remembered America” (2004) with a reading in the Octagon room.

Robin Broadbank, flamenco guitarist and former producer for Nimbus Records performed at the Octagon room in October 2004.

Flatworld recorded their eponymous album at St Ann's Well in 2005.

In July 2009, over 100 Morris dancers participated in the “Day of Dance” at St Ann’s Well. The event was organised by Old Meg Morris, a mixed Morris dancing side based in Malvern. The sides came from around the country, each with their own particular style of dancing, representing various Morris traditions.

Building Activity

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