Web site logo c. 123-mcc.com

 Angus and Rosemary's Miscellany

  of Malvern - Local History

History menu >

Biography of Ralph Barnes Grindrod MD (water cure doctor) 1811 - 1883


Ralph GrindrodOverview

Transcription of obituaries


More about family


Janet Grierson (biographer)



Dr Ralph Barnes Grindrod (1811-1883) was an orthodox physician, and a vigorous promoter of teetotalism, that is abstension from alcohol, who came to Malvern about 1850. Mostly forgotten now, but he would have been well known, both locally and nationally, in his day.

Janet Grierson has written extensively about Dr Grindrod, and you will find a copy of her well researched book (ref 1) in the Local Reference section of Malvern library.

By all accounts he was a philanthropic and good man, and our intention in creating this page for the Internet is to remember his part in shaping Victorian Malvern.

Ralph was the fourth son of James Grindrod, who in 1851 was a publican, and Mary, nee Stones. Janet Grierson thinks James Grindrod had earlier been a farmer.

Ralph's eldest brother Thomas William Grindrod (1804 - 1836) was a surgeon, who sadly died a young man; his brother James Newton Grindrod (1808 - 1867) was a restaurateur, but we know little about their brother, Joseph Stones Grindrod, who may have worked as a 'Dyer' in the cotton trade and who died at Manchester in 1852.

On 30th August 1837 at the Collegiate and Parish Church Manchester, the forerunner of Manchester Cathedral, Ralph Grindrod married, Mary Whiteley Hull, the daughter of a Worsted Dealer (ref 2); she was also a supporter of the Temperance movement. They had one son, physician Charles Frederick Grindrod (1847-1910) who was born on the Isle of Wight; Charles, who lived in Malvern Wells, was a friend of Elgar and the author of 'Malvern What to See and Where to Go'.

Townshend House

Ralph Grindrod set up his practice at Townshend House in Malvern about 1850; we think the house may have been so named because it was then at the 'end of the town'. Townshend House still stands next to St Edmund's Hall near the NE corner of College Road. See photo below, which shows a side view of the house and  a glimpse of St Edmund's Hall beyond.

Townshend House 2013

Townshend House

A picture in Malvern Library, showing the rear of the house, suggests the property once had a large rear garden where patients and visitors could promenade. Mrs Grindrod is said to have held a four day bazaar there to help raise funds for the building of the Lansdowne Methodist Church which opened in 1866. Cora Weaver and Bruce Osborne record there was once a spring and drinking fountain in the grounds (ref 3).

Townshend House

Rear of Townshend House, courtesy of Malvern Library

Grindrod was at Townshend House from about 1850 to 1880 when he retired due to ill health. His obituaries (ref 4, 5, 6) relate that he had been a vigorous promoter of the Temperance movement - he is said to have spent a 'fortune' promoting it - and in 1833, he was probably the first medical man in England to sign the total abstinence pledge. Perhaps he had observed the damage drink could do both at his father's pub and as a doctor ministering to the poor.

Ralph travelled widely in England lecturing and publishing in support of the Temperance movement and was president of the Manchester and Salford Temperance Society in 1841

The Temperance movement must have had some influence on Great Malvern, as the Malvern Book Co-op in St Ann's Road now occupies the dining room of what was once the Central Temperance Hotel (ref 9). Interestingly it is located midway between the Unicorn and Red Lion!

Central hotel

Former Temperance Hotel viewed from car park behind Unicorn Inn

Malvern Link drinking fountainAs late as 1900 a drinking fountain was erected by the Members and Friends of the British Women's Temperance Association, on the edge of Malvern Link Common, near the railway station, so that visitors could get a drink without having to go into a pub (see photo opposite).

Dr Grindrod also wrote books, promoted the education of the children of the poor, analysed local water supplies and was a member of the Town Board. In 1855 he founded the Malvern Advertiser newspaper which he passed on to John Sloggett Jenkins in 1867.

He was interested in geology and was a member of the Geological Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He amassed a large collection of fossils which in 1882 was acquired by the University of Oxford Museum of Natural History; some would have been unearthed when the railway tunnel was dug under the Malvern Hills.

By about 1861 his business must have been doing well, as a large extension was added to the rear of Townshend House designed by Edward C Allflatt, Architect and Surveyor,  (1832-1890) of Leigh in Worcestershire. In 1861 Dr Grindrod can be found living at Dr Wilson's Hydropathic Establishment in Abbey Road (now Park View).

Grindrod became a Freemason and helped found Royds Lodge which was consecrated at Townshend House in December 1867. Nowadays Royds Lodge meets in rooms off Belle Vue Terrace.

The 1881 census recorded Dr Grindrod as a retired medical practitioner living at Montpellier House in Albert Road North, which later became Ivydene and part of Malvern Girls' College; the college eventually sold Ivydene which has recently been modernised and converted into apartments.

Ralph Grindrod Barnes MD died at a property named The Ruby in Malvern Wells in 1883. He was survived by his wife and son. The building, possibly dating from the 17th century, is rumoured to have been named, by a descendant, after HMS Ruby which served in the fleet of Admiral John Benbow.

In 1881 The Ruby was occupied by George Moorcroft, a lodging house keeper, and later in 1911 it was occupied by Arthur Walker, born Bewdley about 1839, and Ralph Grindrod no doubt rented an apartment there to be near his son and daughter in law at Wyche-Side.

Dr Ralph Grindrod does not appear to have come from a particularly wealthy family, so we wondered by what route he became a doctor, when educational opportunities were more limited than they are now, and how he could afford to buy Townshend House in Great Malvern; perhaps he got a mortgage.

The medical register records he was admitted to the Society of Apothecaries (London) in 1830 - probably after working as an apprentice to his elder brother Thomas, and was admitted MD by Doctorate in 1855 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been given authority to grant degrees.

Other sources say he had been awarded the degree of MD by the university of Erlangen, which is in Germany, on the strength of his publications.

It is of note that the preface of a book of sermons, commemorating the founding of Lansdowne Methodist church, contains a tribute to Dr Grindrod (ref 7).

The Wesleyan Methodist Pulpit in Malvern.


preached at


of the


In 1866,


by Rev WM Punshon, Rev W Arthur, Rev JH James, Rev C Prest, Rev J Priestley, Rev G Smith, Rev G Wood.



of Malvern


This Volume of Sermons is respectfully inscribed in thankful acknowledgment of the learned doctor’s great gift of healing but more especially of his large charity and high christian character.

Dr Grindrod had helped raise funds for the building of the church and may have supported the Methodists partly as a means to further the Temperance cause.


Transcription of obituaries

Malvern Advertiser

Dr Grindrod's death was reported in the newspaper he founded, the Malvern Advertiser, on 24th November 1883. To quote:


It falls to our lot, in the round of duty, to record the death of Dr R B Grindrod, which happened on Sunday last at Malvern Wells.

With the history of Malvern the name of Dr Grindrod has been intimately associated for upwards of 30 years, while as a public man, of even national prominence, he occupied a foremost position in the great Temperance movement for 40 years. Of the labours of those years – their magnitude and their valuable results, we purpose to give a sketch.

Born in Cheshire in 1811, he was at a suitable age apprenticed to his brother, who had a good practice in Manchester; and while studying there he had excellent opportunities for gaining a sound education in the principles and practices of the medical profession.

At the comparatively early age of 20 he received his first licence to practise medicine at Halton Castle, near Runcorn; and it was while exercising his calling as medical officer to some Working Men's Clubs that he was painfully impressed by the scenes he witnessed and came to the conclusion that drink was the Working Man's great bane.

He set to work at once and introduced many changes in the rules of these societies, and in other ways dealt some heavy blows at what he saw was working such mischief among artisans. His removal brought him into close connection with the Manchester Temperance Society – a society which aimed at making men moderate drinkers; but Dr Grindrod speedily saw that to work on such lines was not only a fallacy but a mockery. He therefore, in 1833, threw his heart and soul into the advocacy of entire abstinence, and was unquestionably the first medical man in England to sign the pledge and to advocate teetotal principles.

In 1835, in conjunction with the early apostles of the great reform, Dr Grindrod delivered lectures on the nature and injurious properties of alcohol; he also recommended classes and lectures for the benefit of reformed drunkards; the establishment of coffee taverns, of late so largely developed; the closing of public houses on Sunday; Temperance Societies and Bands of Hope.

It was after one of these lectures that John Cassell, at that time working as a carpenter, signed the pledge, and thus laid the foundation of that fame with which in after years his name was so widely known.

From that time forward Dr Grindrod's labours as a lecturer were very onerous and their results were incalculably great. He visited principal towns in England, to each of which he gave two or three evenings. Vast crowds listened to the exposition of the new doctrines, and very many signed the pledge. Everywhere the lectures were a success, and in those places – not a few – where public discussions followed, the temperance lecturer was declared not simply to have the best of the argument, but the opponents were left unsupported.

In 1838, the National Temperance Society, of which Earl Stanhope was the president, offered a premium of a hundred sovereigns for the best essay on the Temperance question. Twenty competitors entered the lists: 'Bacchus' and 'Anti-Bacchus' divided the judgement of the three appointed adjudicators, two of whom were in favour of the former, while the third pronounced judgement for the latter. 'Bacchus' to which the first prize was awarded was found to be from the pen of Dr Grindrod. Well do we remember the interest excited by the publication of this work. It was marked by extra-ordinary research, and by the collecting and collating of facts, and the statement of great principles; indeed it remains to this day a marvellous and matchless storehouse of argument, illustration, and sound scientific knowledge; and had Dr Grindrod done nothing beyond this he would have attained an imperishable fame.

But his pen was incessant, as his brain was active, and in his leisure moments pamphlets, leaflets, and brochures on various subjects were sent forth – the 'Wrongs of our Youth' and the 'Slaves of the Needle' being among his productions.

The heavy and continuous strain which Dr Grindrod's busy life entailed, and the necessity for rest, caused him in 1850, to make Malvern his permanent abode – permanent alas! at longest in the sense of a few years.

For thirty years Dr Grindrod was at the head of Townshend House, and for that long period, he was in labours abundant. To all who are in any way acquainted with the town, the story of his work is well known. In all efforts to benefit society, especially among the working classes, he was sure to be found, and his advocacy was always enlisted on the part of the poor and helpless. Dr Grindrod had a large heart; and if the largeness of his heart could have met the needs and supplied the necessities of the suffering of the distressed, there would have wanted no better, no other, human helper.

Liberal in his views and catholic in his sympathies, Dr Grindrod, though an earnest Churchman, was the friend of all Christian movement and readily lent his Winter Promenade to his Conformist and Non-conformist friends, and many and important were the meetings in aid of Christian philanthropy and benevolence held there.

About two years since Dr Grindrod retired from Townshend House in enfeebled health, and soon after he had a severe illness which developed symptoms of disease of the heart. A lengthy sojourn in Wales, whither he had removed, for a time seemed to do him much good, but a return of his old symptoms in an intensified form gave proof of serious evils which at no very distant day would tell their fatal tale.

A few months ago he returned from Wales and took up his residence near his son, Dr C Grindrod, at Malvern Wells. He suffered much during these brief but mournful months; and on Sunday last death terminated his mortal career and released him from the pain and afflictions of a checkered life crowded with work and teeming with philanthropic purposes and efforts.

We have sketched Dr Grindrod as the active and energetic man whose powers were devoted to some of the noblest pursuits and aims of an unselfish life; as a Christian he was a humble follower of the great Master, into whose presence and glory we cannot doubt the disciple has now entered and is forever at rest. Dr Grindrod has left a widow who, during the years of her husband's great work, was a fit and noble help, and to her aid much of the success of the early days of Temperance is due.

We need hardly ask the sympathy and condolence of our readers for the widow.

The funeral took place at St Peter's, Malvern Wells, on Thursday, the Rev RFS Perfect and Rev CL Banister being the officiating clergymen.

Amongst those who attended were Dr C Grindrod and Mrs C Grindrod as chief mourners, Rev DF Perrott, Rev FW Davenport, Dr Fernie, Dr Pike, Dr Holbeche, Messrs WS Burrow,  W Marshall, JS Jenkins, Henry Wilson, T Cox, J Nott, R Melvin, Henry Jones, James Jones, HJ Jones, John Jackson, J Bray, A Sparkes, W Davis, A King, W Price etc.

From the Births Marriages and Deaths column of the same newspaper.


GRINDROD – On the 18th inst, at Malvern Wells, Ralph Barnes Grindrod MD, formerly of Townshend House, Malvern, in his 73rd year. Friends will kindly accept this intimation.

HURD – On the 21st inst, Thomas Hurd, many years porter at the Newland Almshouses, aged 82 years. Much respected.

(Note: nowadays we might be tempted to think that his book 'Slaves of the Needle', mentioned above, was about drugs but in fact it was about the poor working conditions of dressmakers and needlewomen.)

The Manchester Guardian

Newspapers from the place of his birth, in reporting Dr Grindrod's death, emphasised how he had supported the Temperance movement. To quote:

The Manchester Guardian November 24th 1883 says: - The Alliance News announces the death on the 18th November, at Malvern Wells, of Dr RB Grindrod, in his 73rd year.

Although seldom amongst us of late years, Dr Grindrod was a native of the county of Chester, and was born in 1811, but his parents came to live in Chorlton-upon-Medlock whilst he was very young.

He was apprenticed to his elder brother, who was a surgeon practising in that part of Manchester. Mr Grindrod became house medical officer of the Chorlton Dispensary, and contributed a paper on hydrophobia to the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association in 1836.

Some years before this, whilst living at Halton, he had become interested in the question of temperance, and in 1834 he presided at a meeting in Oak Street, when a Total Abstinence Society was formed. He was the first medical man who joined the new movement, and probably was the first of all the 'teetotal doctors', having taken the pledge in 1833.

He had soon a melancholy opportunity to show his skill, for on January 26th, 1836, at a temperance meeting held in a new building in Oldham Road, the floor gave way; two persons were killed and over 60 injured. One of those who visited the sufferers by this disaster was the kind hearted Dr Stanley, then rector of Alderley, who was much interested by Dr Grindrod's work, and by his conversations with the reformed drunkards and others to whom he was introduced.

Bishop Stanley himself became an 'abstainer', but after a time resumed his use of alcohol in obedience to the dictates of his own physician, who did not share the new views.

Dr Grindrod was exceedingly active as an advocate, and one of his converts was Mr John Cassell, the founder of the well known publishing firm. Great interest was excited by a discussion he had with Mr Youil, a local brewer, whose lecture on ale was delivered to an audience of many thousands in Stevenson Square.

Dr Grindrod's book 'Bacchus' gained a prize offered by the National Temperance Society, and had a large circulation. He wrote in favour of the reduction of the hours of labour in shops and factories, and was also active as an opponent of the socialism of Robert Owen.

 (We wondered why and if this was because Owen was a Humanist rather than a Christian).

He contemplated taking orders in the Church of England, but this intention was abandoned, and he devoted several years to a series of lectures on the medical aspects of alcohol.

In 1850 he settled at Malvern where until his retirement few years ago he had a large hydropathic institution, which was also a centre of philanthropic and scientific work.

Dr Grindrod's first medical qualification, obtained in 1830, was that of LSA, and at later dates he received the degree of MD from Erlangen and Lambeth. From Union College, New York, he had the diploma of LLD which was presented in flattering terms by Edward Everett, then the American Minister in this country.

Dr Grindrod was also a Fellow of the Linnaean Society and of various other learned associations both at home and abroad. It was not however as a man of science that he will be best remembered, but as a man of philanthropic instincts and as one of the early workers in the temperance movement, which since his labours began has made such remarkable progress.

From the Malvern News

The interment of the mortal remains of the deceased gentleman took place on Thursday, in Malvern Wells churchyard.

The choir sang a hymn as the funeral cortege entered the church, where the first part of the burial service was conducted by Rev FRS Perfect (vicar), and Rev CL Banister, of the Wyche. The procession then left the church, while the 'Dead March' in Saul was played on the organ by Mr FF Rogers, and proceeded to the grave.

The mourners were Dr Charles and Mrs Grindrod and Rev Powell, and numerous temperance and other friends fell in behind the funeral procession as it left 'The Ruby' at Malvern Wells, the house in which the deceased had died.

Amongst those who attended to show their last mark of respect to the deceased doctor were: Rev WS Symonds, Rev FW Davenport, Dr Fernie, Dr Pike, Messrs Holbeche, W Marshall, Henry Wilson, WB Burrow, H Jones (Link), JH Jones, James Jones, J Nott, Davis, Melvin, Jackson, J Bray, JS Jenkins, and W Wharton, and Messrs King and Price who attended as old servants.

The coffin of polished oak was covered with a violet pall and wreaths of beautiful flowers. Great sympathy is felt for the widow, and her son, both of whom are greatly respected and beloved.


Philanthropist Ralph Barnes Grindrod was buried in the churchyard of St Peter's Malvern Wells, on the corner of Green Lane. The church has since closed and the building converted into apartments, but the churchyard is still there and Janet Grierson relates that the grave is marked by a massive stone cross.

St Peters churchyard

General view of St Peters churchyard

We attempted to locate RB Grindrod's memorial expecting to find a tall cross dominating the other monuments, but we did not find it. There are many 'heavy' stone crosses typified by their depth rather than their height, and the inscriptions on these are now mostly concealed by leaves and ivy.

The inscription relates (ref 1) that RB Grindrod was born 19th May 1811 at Swettenham cum Kermincham and died 18th November 1883; and it contains the text:

A servant of Jesus Christ, complete in Him

Mrs Grindrod, died 11th March 1888, was buried with her husband and a further text added:

Them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him

A resident has since suggested the memorial may lie on the boundary of the churchyard, below the church; please do let us know if you find it.



We have attempted to identify some of the mourners from the newspaper reports of his death. These included:

Rev William Samuel Symonds (1818 - 1887), rector of Pendock, who was a geologist and author of scientific articles.

Rev Francis William Davenport who was the vicar of Christ Church in Avenue Road.

Dr William Thomas Fernie who had taken over Dr Gully's water cure business at Tudor House on the Wells Road.

Henry Wilson could have been a schoolmaster at the Link boarding school.

Dr Thelwell Pike (1834 - 1915) had an apartment at Montpellier House in 1881 and so would have been a neighbour of Dr Grindrod. He was probably a convential doctor, rather than a hydrotherapist.

Dr Arthur Oliver Holbeche was a physician and surgeon in West Malvern; he later assisted at the Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals in Malvern during WWI.

Possibly W Marshall was William Marshall, a solicitor of Abbey Road.

Walter Beeken Burrow of Malvern Wells was the elder brother of John Severn Burrow. The brothers were Chemists and Druggists and later bottlers of mineral water on Belle Vue Terrace.

John Nott ran a grocery shop on Church Street.

A John Bray, of Abbey Road, was a fishmonger.

John Sloggett Jenkins was the proprieter and editor of the Malvern Advertiser newspaper which had been founded by Dr Grindrod in 1855.

A Sparkes and W Davis had shops in Church Street.

Townshend House

Another view of Townshend House

More about family

Most of Ralph Grindrod's family did not live to a great age; his mother Mary died, aged 45 years, in 1825, when Ralph was aged 14 years, and his sister Elizabeth died a teenager.

Ralph's father, James, however, lived to a good age and died at Manchester in his 87th year (ref 2). In 1829, then aged 52 years, he had married, second, Elizabeth Waller, aged 22 years and the couple had two sons, Ralph's half brothers (ref 8).

Edmund Waller Grindrod (1838 - 1878) became a publican like his father and died aged 40 years. He left a widow, Ellen, and three surviving children; in 1891 she was running the Griffin Inn in Stockport Etchells.

William Wilby Grindrod (1839 - 1868) became a pawnbroker and died aged only 39 years. He left a widow Ellen nee Baker, a dressmaker, and four children.

So when Dr Ralph Barnes Grindrod died in 1883 he was the last of his generation. Perhaps moving to Great Malvern away from the squalor of Manchester and abstaining from alcohol had promoted his longevity!

Quite possibly his family line has been continued by nephews and nieces.



On the front of Townshend House can be seen a green plaque, placed by Malvern Civic Society.

Plaque on Townshend House 2013The inscription on the plaque reads,

Formerly Townshend House, where Dr Ralph Grindrod practised the Water Cure (1851-1880)

Townshend House is now owned by Malvern College and has lately been used as a Music School.

Ralph's son Charles Frederick Grindrod became a physician, in 1873, like his father, and lived in Great Malvern at Wyche-Side in Malvern Wells. At one time he was a neighbour and friend of Edward Elgar who lived at Craeglea, now 86 Wells Road. He was a keen photographer and took a portrait photograph of Elgar about 1903 which was gifted to the National Portrait Gallery in 1934 by Elgar's friend, architect, Arthur Troyte Griffith (who is mentioned in the Enigma Variations).

Charles like his father was a writer and was the author of  'Malvern What to see and Where to go' (1899). He married Mary Ellen Higgins, but they had no children.


Janet Grierson

We thought you might like to see the covers of Janet Grierson's excellent and well researched biography about Dr Grindrod, which we borrowed from Malvern library, see below. If you are interested in either the history of Victorian Malvern or the Temperance movement it is worth a read.

Front cover

Front cover

Rear cover

Rear cover

Historian Janet Grierson, also wrote a charming book about 'Dr Wilson and his Hydro', copies of which can be obtained from Malvern Museum. Janet lived at the Hydro for fourteen years, after of course it was converted into apartments. She died at Davenham in 2011 aged 98 years and is buried in Great Malvern cemetery.

Go to beginning of The Victorian 'water cure' doctors of Great Malvern

Else continue with next section, about Doctor James Loftus Marsden


  1. Grierson Janet, Temperance, Therapy & Trilobytes, Dr Ralph Grindrod: Victorian Pioneer, published by Cora Weaver, printed by Aldine Press, ISBN 1 873809 42 5
  2. Indexes of births, marriages and deaths
  3. Weaver C, Osborne B, Aquae Malvernensis
  4. Malvern Advertiser, 24th November 1883
  5. Manchester Guardian, 24th November 1883
  6. Malvern News, 24th November 1883
  7. The Wesleyan Methodist Pulpit in Malvern, 1866 John Snow and Co, 1866 transcribed by David Price
  8. England and Wales Census
  9. Conversation with Angus MacDonald, January 2016

The Malvern Hills logo

Back to top

If you can add to this story do please get in touch.