Donkeys Book Cover

“By the time the little village of Great Malvern was made a town in 1851, there were as many donkeys as human residents.”  
Rose Garrard 2008

A fascinating gap in Malvern’s history has been uncovered in this delightful book.  Before the apparently glamourous years when Malvern became known as “The Metropolis of the Water Cure’, the town was already famous for its multitudes of hire-donkeys.   Alongside the development of the springs, spouts and holy wells, over the centuries the numbers of donkeys here had steadily increased, providing vital transport to carry the sick up the steep hill slopes to take the healing waters and as rides for the adventurous to admire the ‘picturesque’ views.   

Yet this unique history of Malvern’s donkeys seemed to have almost faded away when, a year ago, the sculptor Rose Garrard began to piece together her research on the important role of donkeys at the springs here.  From the coming of the Romans to Britain, to the growth of the medieval monasteries, from the influence of aristocratic benefactors to the impact of the water-cure Doctors on the growth of ‘modern’ Malvern, donkeys played a vital but unsung role in Malvern’s development as a spa town. 

This beautiful new book includes both tragic and humorous events from Malvern’s past, with intriguing glimpses of a growing middle class community where impoverished women ran donkey-hire stands and small children toiled uphill as donkey-drivers in return for food.  Their hard lives often highlight the harsh divisions between the Victorian gentry and the poor, and although apparently long forgotten, some of the last hire-donkeys and their women owners are still recalled by local residents.

Rose has now brought many of these ‘lost’ facts to light in this wonderful and unique book, enhanced by her new research about particular water sources gained from her work as an artist when helping to restore Malvern’s springs.  It is also filled with a treasure trove of over 200 rare illustrations, many lent by local families, collectors and organisations but never published before, including 70 superb colour plates.   This book is original, informative and fascinating to read, bringing to life many little known aspects of Malvern’s past through true tales of the donkey-women and the once famous hire-donkeys at the springs, spouts and holy wells.  Not to be missed - this is a book to treasure.

Available in Great Malvern from September 2008 at Malvern Museum, the Tourist Information Centre, Aquarius, and Beacon Books, plus from the printers - Aspect Design, 89 Newtown Road, Malvern, Worcs WR14 1AN. email: allan@aspect-design.net  -
Price £20 plus £3 post and packaging.