Malvern is a town in Worcestershire which developed rapidy during the Victorian period due to its popularity as a hydrotherapy spa based on the local spring waters.
Growth as a Spa Town.
In 1842, Dr. James Wilson and Dr. James Manby Gully, leading exponents of hydrotherapy, set up clinics in Malvern and the town expanded rapidly as a residential spa. By 1865 over a quarter of the town’s 800 houses were boarding and lodging houses.
The popularity of the town in Victorian times was sealed by visits from royalty and noted people. Queen Adelaide visited St. Ann’s Well in September 1842 and throughout the 1840s and 1850s Malvern attracted a stream of celebrated visitors including Charles Darwin, Thomas Carlyle, Florence Nightingale, Lord Lytton, Lord Tennyson and Samuel Wilberforce.
Some time after the birth of Charles and Catherine Dickens’s ninth child, Dora Annie Dickens on 16 August 1850, Catherine suffered a psychological breakdown. Charles sent Catherine to stay at Malvern to help her recover.
Charles had been visiting Catherine frequently in Malvern but had to return to London for engagements. On one such occasion, on 14 April 1851, Charles Dickens had returned to give a speech at the Annual Dinner of the General Theatrical Fund. After the event the news was passed to Charles Dickens by his friend John Forster that Dora had died suddenly and unexpectedly at the family home at Devonshire Terrace after suffering ‘convulsions’.
Charles Dickens did not immediately tell Catherine that Dora was dead, instead writing a letter to her in Malvern, delivered by John Forster, saying she was gravely ill. Catherine returned to London with Forster after receiving the letter where she learned of her death.