Michael Portillo visits the home of Queen Victoria's favourite bishop, and follows in the footsteps of Victorian health fanatics to the Malvern Hills.
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'In 1840, one man transformed travel in Britain.
'His name was George Bradshaw.
'And his railways guides inspired Victorians to take to the tracks.'
'Stop by stop, he told them where to travel,
'What to see and where to stay.
'Now, 170 years later, I'm making a series of journeys
'across the length and breadth of the country
'to see what of Bradshaw's Britain remains.'
Continuing my journey, my Bradshaw's is guiding me
through the beautiful county of Worcestershire.
From these lands, some harvested crops,
others divined water
and one in particular drew divine inspiration.
'On this stretch,
'I'll be visiting the home of Queen Victoria's favourite bishop.'
She commented that Bishop Perowne
had the best legs in tights
of any man on the Episcopal bench.
'Sniffing out the secrets of a famous 19th century condiment.'
That's a glorious, very concentrated smell.
'And following in the footsteps of Victorian health fanatics.'
There would be wet towels wrapped around you
and water poured upon you from a ghastly height.
-So, pretty bracing stuff.
'I'm travelling from central England to the west coast of Wales.
'So far, I've explored the stunning Cotswolds.
'Now I'm continuing west, through Worcestershire.
'Then I'll cross the border to hunt out South Wales' industrial legacy,
'finishing up at Milford Haven.
'This leg covers 25 miles.
'From Hartlebury via Worcester
'and on to the beautiful Malvern Hills.'
My Bradshaw's is leading me to Hartlebury Castle.
"For many centuries, the residence of the bishops of Worcester.
"The library of Bishop Hurd,
"together with some of Pope and Warburton's books
"are at the castle."
Clearly, these bishops were a force in the land.
'The pages of my guidebook are peppered
'with references to the residencies of Britain's elite.
'Just as today's tourists flock to Britain's stately homes,
'Victorian railway travellers could arrange a private tour
'of an outstanding country pile by writing to the housekeeper.
'In the 19th century, bishops were at the top of the social tree.
'And their palaces could rival the grandest ancestral seats.
'The bishop of Worcester's home was no exception.'
The first time I've ever seen Hartlebury Castle.
Huge, magnificent, imposing.
But not particularly like a castle.
'My tour will be led by Alison Brimlow,
'who chairs the castle's preservation trust.'
Welcome to Hartlebury.
It's awe-inspiring. I've been brought here by my Bradshaw's,
which says that it's the residence of the bishops of Worcester. Is that the case?
In 2007, the Bishop was moved to Worcester because this is too big and too expensive.
It has been home to bishops of Worcester for more than 1,000 years.
And the house tells their story.
'The first building on this site was a motive castle,
'built as a fortress for the bishop in the 13th century.
'It was rebuilt in the 1700s as this lavish private home.
'Exploring it today, I can see why readers of my guidebook were interested in its rich history.'
This is the medieval Great Hall of the castle.
Amended in the light of 18th century taste.
But very much the heart of the castle from the Middle Ages onwards.
So the oldest part that you can see.
'The portraits that line the Great Hall
'testify to the might and celebrity that the bishops once enjoyed.'
And what sort of temporal or political power did bishops have?
It developed over the years.
In the middle ages and pre-middle ages,
they were part of the political power structure of the country.
They mattered to the king and the warlords.
They had money, they had access to people.
We were very close to frontier territory with Wales -
the Severn and, beyond that, the risk of clashes with the Welsh.
So this place really mattered
to political stability in this part of England.
'By Victorian times, the bishops no longer raised armies,
'but still played a role in politics, as is the case today.
'Senior bishops sat in the House of Lords and many of them were prominent public figures.'
Do you have any eminent Victorians?
We have a number of eminent Victorians,
but I have to say, my favourite is Bishop Perowne.
Because of what Queen Victoria said about him.
He was bishop at the end of the 19th century,
so Victoria was not a young woman.
And she commented that Bishop Perowne
had the best legs in tights of any man on the Episcopal bench.
It's good to know that the royal eye was still all-seeing.
'Touring this palatial home,
'I can see why my Victorian guidebook thought it worthy of note.
'One room given special mention is the library.
'So before I leave, I would love to see it.'
This is the library that Bishop Hurd commissioned in 1781
when he came here as bishop.
He already had this wonderful collection of books
and he found there wasn't a library to put them in.
So he set about rectifying that omission
and commissioned an architect in Shifnal, up the road,
to build him a library at the back of house.
I just absolutely love it.
I think it's the most beautiful room I've seen for a long time.
It's exquisite, isn't it?
'Apparently, Queen Victoria's grandfather
'enjoyed a meal in this very room.'
Bishop Hurd was a great friend of King George III
and his wife, Queen Charlotte.
And in 1788, he came to visit Hurd here,
visited the castle and had breakfast in this bay window.
-So, George III breakfasted here?
-Yes. And his nephew
has left us a wonderful manuscript record of what happened.
If you look at this page here, you can see what they had for breakfast.
Tea, coffee, chocolate - pretty ordinary.
Fruit, which is nice and healthy,
and jellies, which is children's afternoon tea, to me.
'This castle stands as a reminder of the bishops' historic power.
'Even in the railway age, they tried to assert their influence.'
During the 19th century, one of the bishops of Worcester, Bishop Philpott,
complained the station had been placed too far from Hartlebury Castle.
And that there was no conveyance to be had anywhere nearer than Kidderminster.
'He also moaned there was no waiting room, which seems to be the case today, as well.
'Luckily, in fine weather, I don't miss it.
'My journey continues south, towards this county's superb cathedral city.
I'm headed for Worcester.
My Bradshaw's says that it's known for china and boots and shoes.
I don't think of Worcester boots and shoes,
but the city's name is still inextricably linked
with the world-famous Victorian concoction.
'I'm getting off at Worcester's Shrub Hill Station.
'It opened in 1850
'and the current Georgian-style building dates from 1865.
'Soon after the railway arrived, it helped a small, local company
'to become one of Britain's best-known brands.
'I've come to the Victorian factory to meet manager, Nigel Dickie.
I've entered a fragrant, pungent, aromatic world here.
It's wonderful, isn't it?
This factory was opened in 1897.
It was a purpose-built factory.
I noticed Shrub Hill Station is close by.
Were railways important in the history of Worcestershire Sauce?
Absolutely critical. Mr Lea and Mr Perrins needed bigger premises.
And the fact that this land was purchased from the railways
and then, using the Shrub Hill Station and the goods yard there,
ingredients were being brought in, product was being sent out
that would end up in 200 countries around the world.
'Worcestershire Sauce was born in the age of Victorian imperialism.
'As the empire expanded, people developed more exotic tastes.
'One such adventurous gourmet
'is said to be behind the recipe for this famous sauce.'
The story goes that Lord Sandys, a nobleman of this area
who had reputably held a variety of offices,
including the Governor of Bengal,
came back from his travels with this recipe
and he went to two Victorian chemists
in Broad Street in Worcester and asked them to make up the recipe.
They did, with a variety of international ingredients.
But when they tasted it, it was quite horrible.
It was harsh, it was unpleasant.
So they put it down in the basement, in the cellar,
left it there for a year or so.
And when they were clearing out, they came across it again,
tasted it and found it had matured into this wonderful sauce.
'Amazingly, this curious blend of ingredients,
'including anchovies, garlic and tamarind,
'took off with the British public.
'Exports began in the 1840s
'and it was soon in international demand.'
Why is it so popular?
Something that makes a tomato juice that little bit special.
Tomato juice, my foot. It makes a Bloody Mary taste very good.
-The exact recipe is a closely-guarded secret.
And the technique of maturing the ingredients remains crucial.
This is where the process all comes together.
The smell in here is getting to the back of my throat.
Well, that's the malt vinegar.
That's what these ingredients
have been quietly and gently maturing in.
So if we look here, Michael, we've got, er...red-skin onions
and, er...let's have a look here.
Ooh! That does hit you!
Actually, that's, that's a glorious smell but a very concentrated smell.
We've got the French garlic.
It's huge, isn't it? That is huge!
-It's very good.
-Let me have a go at the anchovies.
These will be the Big Daddy of smell, I imagine.
Well, try that for size.
These anchovies are soaked in salt.
-Not too bad at all, actually.
They're an essential part of the ingredients.
I mean, fishy, of course, but, no not bad at all.
'In Victorian times, the ingredients were aged in wooden barrels.
'Nowadays, they're plastic.
'But in most other ways, the process is unchanged.'
Do not attempt this at home.
I never realised how much there was to know about Worcestershire Sauce.
But it's the genius of the Victorian imperialists, isn't it?
You'd go to the empire, get a recipe and make it fundamentally British.
'I'm leaving the factory to explore the city centre.
'Worcester got its railway late, in the 1850s,
'after a long campaign by residents.
'The city had always thrived, thanks to its strategic position on the River Severn.
'But the Industrial Revolution
'saw other nearby towns develop while Worcester was left behind.
'It was hoped that a rail link would boost local industries,
'including one that gets a special mention in my guidebook.'
Bradshaw's says one distinct branch of manufacturer is glove-making
to the amount of 500,000 pairs of leather and kid-gloves annually,
employing 1,000-2,000 persons.
And luckily for me, the hotel where I'm staying tonight
is a converted glove factory.
'Gloves had been made here since the Middle Ages.
'And in the 1700s, 30,000 people were employed in the trade.
'When the railway arrived, the industry experienced a sharp decline
'due to a flood of foreign imports.
'But some firms survived
'by embracing the latest manufacturing techniques.
'I've come to a factory built in Victorian times
to meet historian Philippa Tinsley.'
So this was once the Fownes Glove Factory.
So we opened here in 1887
and at one point had 1,000 people working in the building.
We've got some pictures here
of the seamstresses working in the sewing rooms.
They're absolutely packed in. Are they using sewing machines?
Yes. It became very mechanised at the beginning of the 19th century.
And Fownes was one of the great factories here
that really made a success
of being an industrial process of making gloves.
Why did Victorians wear gloves so much more than we do?
I think a lot of it was to do with that sense of hygiene.
Of course, there was a lot of more horrible things around
that we're used to now.
But it was an enormous fashion thing, as well.
I've got a pair here that you can see
were made about the same period that Fownes was opened in the 1880s.
And you can see just the exquisite workmanship and lace
and the beautiful buttons that have gone into creating these.
They loved beautiful things. There's such exquisite detail on that.
'19th century etiquette could require ladies
'to be gloved at all times.
'But by the late 20th century, things had changed.
'And Worcester's glove trade came to an end.
'This factory closed in 1974.
'And now it's going to give me my bed for the night.'
It looks like a fine day and I'm in the mood for some music.
'On this leg of my trip,
'I'm continuing south west along a section of line built in 1859.'
Of course, the railways moved around goods and people.
But they also spread ideas and culture.
I'm on my way to the Malvern Hills,
which were, for much of his life,
home to a composer whose music I've known since childhood.
Sir Edward Elgar.
'In the late 1800s,
'the railways helped Elgar to transform Victorian English music.
'I'm alighting at Great Malvern's stunning station to find out how.'
Great Malvern station is absolutely magnificent.
I love these columns decorated with foliage and palms.
And the buildings are exquisite.
The reason for this is that a great landowner here was a Lady Foley.
And even though this is a provincial place,
she insisted that it have a station that is really grand.
'The station opened in 1860,
'when Elgar lived in hope, but was yet to achieve glory.
'I'm meeting historian Chris Bennett to hear the story.'
It seems as though we meet really in an Elgarian setting, don't we?
The most perfect railway station.
It's a beautiful Victorian Great Malvern station. It's lovely.
Pretty much as Elgar himself would have remembered it.
Now, Elgar was born quite early in Victoria's reign.
How important a figure did he become in Britain's music scene?
Well, he became very important.
In Victorian times, mid 19th century,
England was known as the land without music.
We'd had all these great German and Austrian composers,
but in England, there'd been no-one since Purcell in the 1700s
who could rank alongside those great European composers.
And Elgar really did lift English music,
British music back up to compare with the great Europeans.
'Elgar was born in Worcester
'and lived most of his life within sight of the Malvern Hills.
'After a brief attempt at living in London, he fled back in 1891.
'But travelling via railway kept him in touch with music in the capital.'
He was the sort of person who had to have new musical experiences.
Whereas there's lots of music in Worcester and Malvern and Hereford,
I would think it might have been rather conservative programming.
Elgar was convinced he had to go to London
to hear the best of new music.
Which for him meant the Crystal Palace concerts,
and that meant a long journey on the train.
But it was possible. He got up at 6:00am.
Walked to the station, train at 7:00am.
Got to London at about 11:00am.
Then on the Underground to Victoria, onto the Crystal Palace.
If he was fortunate, he heard a bit of the rehearsal in the afternoon.
Then the concert at teatime,
over in time to get the last train back from Paddington to Worcester.
Home perhaps 11:00pm.
'The railway revolution
'allowed Elgar to have the best of both worlds.
'Experiencing avant-garde music in London
'whilst living among the scenery
'that inspired some of his greatest work.'
It's beautiful country.
What do we know about how Elgar experienced it?
Elgar loved the countryside. He got so much inspiration from it.
We know this from his diaries, letters and notebooks.
And he was one of these people
who go on very lengthy walks, bike rides.
Always took his notebooks with him.
And as musical ideas came to him, he would jot them down.
So this area in and around the Malvern Hills meant so much to him.
'Success came to Elgar late in life.
'But in the 1890s, his reputation was established.
'In 1901, the year of Queen Victoria's death,
'he set words to his Pomp and Circumstance March
'for the coronation of Edward VII.
'It has since become an unofficial English anthem.'
In his music, he captured the countryside,
especially the beautiful countryside around here in Malvern.
And his ceremonial music
perfectly caught the atmosphere
of the great state occasions in London.
Why it is English, I don't know, but English it certainly is.
And the English absolutely love it.
'It's nearly time for me to catch my next train.
'But first, I've heard there's a curious sight
'in the sidings at Malvern Station.'
Hello. I'm sorry to trouble you.
-Good to see you.
-Are you living in this thing?
-Not at the moment, no.
I'm in the midst of its restoration.
I've spent a couple of years restoring the outside
and now I plan to restore the inside in order to live in,
subject to planning permission.
-Did you find it here at Malvern Station?
-No, no, no.
I bought it from the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway
and I've restored the outside there
and then brought it here and put the rails down,
built the platform and put the fence up.
-Why would you want to live in a railway carriage?
-Would you mind if I come aboard?
-No. Come and have a look.
It's beautifully nostalgic of an old corridor train.
What are you going to do with the carriage?
Well, I've got a plan here that shows what I plan to do.
Originally, being a first-class carriage, it has seven compartments.
That one's the original compartment, which we'll retain as it is.
These two then will be one bedroom, dressing room knocked into one.
This one here is a study with views up to the hills.
-The view is fantastic.
-And then the rest
an open-plan area with living, dining and kitchen.
How long do you imagine that will take you?
I thought this would take 6-12 months and it's taken two years.
So it's very much just keep plodding along with it,
eventually, it'll be done.
I think it's fortunate that you are so young.
-Otherwise, you might never see the fruits of this.
-This is very true.
'Living in a railway carriage isn't everyone's idea of luxury,
'but in Bradshaw's day,
'it would not have been considered a suitable address.'
Before I leave Great Malvern Station,
there's a tunnel I want to see, known as The Worm.
Which was originally established...
for the convenience of first-class passengers and their luggage.
And such class divisions were quite typical in Victorian times.
And then it curves around to the right
and I think it now ends in a dead-end.
'This tunnel used to link directly with the old Imperial Hotel.
'A smart establishment that gets a gushing review in my guidebook.
'But now the hotel has been converted into a school
'and first-class passengers
'must encounter the hoi-polloi as they exit the station.
'My last stop for today is just a hop and a skip up the line
'on the outskirts of the town.
'I'm on the trail of a natural resource
'that helped Malvern to thrive in Victorian times.'
Bradshaw's describes the Malvern Hills as,
"A healthy, fashionable and agreeable watering place.
"Limestone and sandstone with syenite, granite, etcetera,
"are the chief ingredients in this range,
"which is green to the summit."
I must say, I've always associated the Malvern Hills
with the healthiest and purest water.
'To see where this famous water comes from,
'I'm leaving the train at Colwall, outside Great Malvern.
'Up the road is a public fountain,
'where, since Victorian times,
'passing travellers have had the right to stop and take refreshment.
'I want to sustain that tradition.'
-Hello. Are you sampling the water?
That's absolutely wonderful! What could be better?
I agree with you. But this water is obviously famous to you.
-You knew what to expect.
I came to buy some. Unfortunately, they don't sell it here.
So I've got to go to a local supermarket and buy it.
-Or pop down the hill and come back with a plastic bottle or two.
-Even better than beer.
'These days, we're more likely to swig our spring water from a bottle.
'A trend that can be traced back to Victorian times
'when the railways helped to spread the taste for Malvern water.
'This public fountain is in fact part of a Victorian bottling plant
'thought to be the oldest in the world.
'It's still operating today and is run by Rhys Humm.'
I get the impression of a highly automated process, but rather small.
This looks like a very exclusive water.
It really is indeed, yes.
We only do 1,200 bottles a day, which sounds a lot,
but by industry standards, it's miniscule.
'When this factory opened in 1850,
'it was said to have been Britain's first mineral water business.
'And it soon became famous thanks to a brilliant marketing ploy.'
In 1851, the water from this plant
was taken to the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace.
The Victorians decided it would be a fabulous idea
to display it in a magnificent 10-tonne fountain
for all people to try.
This is where Queen Victoria first came across Malvern water.
'The local industry got a further boost
'after the railway reached Colwall in 1861.'
Now, back in the 19th century,
-would the water have been sent around the country by train?
One of the bottling plants in Malvern was put near the railway station for that reason,
so the water could be shipped out across to London,
in particular, on the train links.
'As the railways transported water out of Malvern,
'they also began to bring in health tourists
'to experience its healing powers.
'The water cure was a craze that swept Victorian society.
'Well-to-do visitors flocked to spa towns to down litres of water
'and endure a regime of cold baths and bracing walks.
'Rhys has led me to the source of one of Malvern's 70 springs.'
This is the primary source of the Holywell Spring in the Malvern Hills.
-Pouring out down here.
Now, my Bradshaw's refers to the Saint Ann's and Holywell springs.
-So this is Holywell.
And he says,
"Water much resorted to, and useful,
"especially in glandular and skin complaints.
"The pump rooms were built attached to each of the wells."
So, why is the water good for people?
We're stood upon thousands of tonnes of Precambrian granite,
which is the oldest and densest rock in the country.
It does not contribute a mineral to the water,
as is the case with most mineral waters.
It actually cleanses and purifies the water.
So as such, the water itself is famed for containing nothing at all.
'Thanks to this pure water, Malvern was made for hydrotherapy,
'which Bradshaw's says is, "Carried out with much success
"at the establishments of doctors Gully and Wilson".'
Bradshaw refers to two doctors called Wilson and Gully
who apparently were involved in hydrotherapy.
-Have you any idea what they were up to?
Malvern's famous water cure.
That ran here for a good 40-50 years.
Victorian gentry would come here and partake of the water cure.
-Drinking it or bathing in it or what?
There would be a lot of drinking of it,
a lot of walking on the hills and a lot of bathing.
A sitz bath, for example, was a very cold bath.
There would be wet towels wrapped around you
and water poured upon you from a ghastly height.
-So, actually pretty bracing stuff.
'The clinics set up by the two doctors in Malvern
'were among Britain's first water cure centres.
'It was claimed that the regime could remedy everything.
'From sore throats to vertigo.
'And it won advocates among the celebrities of the day.'
Charles Darwin was rather a large fan
of Malvern's Victorian water cure.
So he came here and partook of it. He was a rather sickly man,
but he came back slightly better off, I believe.
-It probably gave him the idea of the survival of the fittest.
'The water cure might have proved a short-lived fad,
'but bottled mineral water seems to be here to stay.
'And the appeal of these magnificent hills
'is undimmed since Bradshaw's day.'
As new railways spread wealth and power
through Britain's fertile landscape,
you can understand why, at the close of Victoria's reign,
Sir Edward Elgar, a Worcestershire composer,
much stimulated by natural beauty,
would choose to extol this land of hope and glory.
'On the next part of my journey, I'll discover Britain's hidden micro mines,
'in private hands since Bradshaw's day.'
The harder we work, the more coal we get,
the better off we are. So it's great.
'Uncovering the railway engineering behind an industrial icon.'
So we've got, effectively, an enormous railway wagon
-that spreads across these rails on either side.
-That's exactly right.
'And seeing why the Victorians fell for this romantic ruin.'
Absolute perfection, isn't it?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Michael Portillo takes to the tracks with a copy of George Bradshaw's Victorian Railway Guidebook. Portillo travels the length and breadth of the country to see how the railways changed us, and what remains of Bradshaw's Britain.
All this week he is travelling west, from Oxford in the heart of England, through the Malvern Hills and into Wales, taking in the unique Victorian heritage of the South Wales coastline.
Today Michael visits the home of Queen Victoria's favourite bishop in Hartlebury, sniffs out the secrets of a famous 19th-century sauce in Worcester and follows in the footsteps of Victorian health fanatics to the Malvern Hills.