Courage in Adversity

Recently we launched The Gertrude Mitchell Story, an exhibition researched and curated by Dr Paul Fretwell with contributions by Gertude’s granddaughter Sally Trepte. Volunteer Simon Berry attended the launch and shares his thoughts on what he has learnt;

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Gertrude Mitchell may not be a well known name to current Malvern residents.
However, she was a very important person in middle 20th Century Malvern and hers is a fascinating story. 

Gertrude Barriball was born in Oswestry in 1881. In 1912 she married Harold Hastings Mitchell, but just two years later her husband became seriously ill and was bed-ridden.  Consequently the couple lost their house.   Undeterred Gertrude Mitchell then started up her own business in Worcester. Prior to marriage she was made a Buyer in a High Class Millinery shop in Cheltenham aged 21.  This experience enabled her set up her own shop in Worcester High Street after her husband was taken ill. This grew and became a great success.  She opened a branch in Malvern on Belle Vue Terrace in the early 1930’s.

In 1943 Gertrude Mitchell Ltd amalgamated with Cox & Painters at Warwick House where she took over as Managing Director. The Worcester business was sold in 1953 meaning she was focused totally on Malvern from that point. In 1959 she took over as Manager at the Mount Pleasant Hotel in Great Malvern.  Gertrude Mitchell’s life was not without tragedy.  As well as her husband’s ill health, she herself lost two children after pregnancies. 

Gertrude Mitchell was a business woman at a time when there were fewer female entrepreneurs than today and she was successful despite facing so many personal setbacks.  She was often said to have “courage in adversity” and some referred to her in more earthy terms as a “woman of grit”.  Drive and determination were needed for her to achieve success and she was a very strong character.  However, she was very supportive of her staff and treated them almost like her family.   It is understood that her staff loved her.

As part of the Route to the Hills project, Paul Fretwell spent over two years meticulously researching Gertrude Mitchell’s life and he has produced a fascinating exhibition about her.   He was delighted to make contact with Gertrude Mitchell’s granddaughter, Sally Trepte.  Sally generously allowed access to the family archive and gave permission for family photos - never previously seen by the public - to be used as part of the exhibition. 

I spoke to both Paul and Sally at the recent launch of the exhibition, which appropriately took place at the Mount Pleasant Hotel.  Gertrude Mitchell took over running the hotel at the age of 79!

Paul told me that he had originally been researching the history of the shops at Belle Vue Terrace and came across Gertrude Mitchell’s name in relation to a planning application in the archives.  He quickly realised that her life story was an interesting one, but lacked photographs.  However, after a plea for further information about her life story, Gertrude Mitchell’s granddaughter Sally contacted him and was able to help.

Gertrude Mitchell’s life story was a fascinating one.  She had a working life of over 60 years and lived to the impressive age of 100.  Paul said that her life story had made a big impact on him from an academic point of view.  However, he realised that for Sally and her family visiting the exhibition was a much more personal experience, providing detailed information about of a historical figure who had a major impact on their lives.

Sally Trepte, granddaughter of Gertrude Mitchell attended the exhibition’s launch with her husband Paul and daughter Sara.   Sally explained how she had googled “Gertrude Mitchell” and discovered to her surprise that Paul Fretwell was doing research into her life story.  Sally contacted Paul and was able to assist with his research and help him to acquire relevant photographs which she had in the family archive. 

Sally personally found Gertrude Mitchell to be a strong person and slightly overpowering.  Gertrude Mitchell was said to like everything “on her terms”.  However, she could also have insight and compassion and her staff found her to be marvellous.   Sally was grateful to Paul for the work he had done in researching the life story of Gertrude Mitchell and was clearly delighted to attend the launch event with her family for this exhibition. 

There is much more to say about this highly impressive lady and her fascinating tale.  If you want to see the exhibition for yourself (which includes some high quality archive photographs) it is due to be on tour in the Malvern area. 

Looking for something free to do this half term?

This half term Route to the Hills is going to bring you a range of free activities for lots of family fun guaranteed to stop boredom! Full details can be found on the events page, or check out our facebook for the latest information.

Biscuit Decorating

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  • Monday 28th May
  • 10am until 5pm (or supplies run out)
  • Great Malvern Priory Grounds

On Bank Holiday we are inviting you to come and get creative at the Route to the Hills stall as part of the Great Malvern Food Festival. Be inspired by history and create your very own edible people and designs for FREE in this fun drop in biscuit decorating stall. We will be running from ten until supplies run out, so make sure not miss your chance to create a delicious historical masterpiece!

History Hunters                                        

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  • Tuesday 29th May
  • 1:30pm, 2:15pm or 3pm
  • Malvern Link United Reform Church

Do you know the difference between dog, sheep and cow bones? Have you got a good eye for detail? Are you good at finding things? Then we challenge you to try being a History Hunter!

This half term we have teamed up with Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service to set you a series of challenges all inspired by Malvern’s history. From bone identification to spot the difference, we want to test your skills in this fun family friendly event. What’s more Action for Children will have a baby and toddler section so that your siblings can play whilst you hunt away! Complete every task to win a small prize!

To book please email stating which time you want, how many children, their ages and a contact number.

Casey Bailey: Words                                 

  • Wednesday 30th May
  • 1pm until 4pm
  •  Malvern Cube

Route to the Hills and Malvern Cube are excited to offer a FREE afternoon with Casey Bailey, rapper, poet and educator on 30th May. If you are aged 11-14, come and create a rap or spoken word piece which explores what living in Malvern means to you. 

Places are limited so please contact Kelda on 07841 344691 or to book.

Take Part and Take Away Fair

Discover, Play and Take Away!

Monday 14th May


Lyttelton Wells


Interested in history? Need inspiration for new child-friendly activities? Want to help benefit the local community?  Then come along to the Route to the Hills Take Part and Take Away Fair, designed to inspire the delivery of fun and history based activities for children of all ages.

Over the last 3 years Route to the Hills has been entertaining and educating local children and adults with a series of free games and activities based on Malvern history. Now that the project is ending, we are looking at ways to continue the fun for everyone, and so would like you to get involved and help.

On May 14th we are inviting you to come and have a go at the various games and activities Route to the Hills has produced over the years. From Room Escapes* to quick crafts, we have something for everyone (including your little ones), so pop along and be inspired with activities for all occasions and ages.

Suggestion packs with instructions on how to do all the activities will be available for free, so if you see an idea you like, you can use it the future. What’s more, all our left over materials and equipment is up for grabs when the project ends in the summer, so you can recreate our more complex activities for absolutely nothing (first come first served basis).

This event is free to attend, and you can bring along your little ones providing they are supervised at all times. Booking is advised, as we will restrict entry if the maximum capacity is reached.

For more information please email the Learning and Community Engagement Officer on

*Room Escape

This activity must be pre-booked and is done on a first come, first serve basis. There are two sessions you can sign up for, either 3pm or 4:30pm, each lasting about 45 minutes in total. You can pre book by emailing Katy on the address above, or if we have spaces left, you can book on the day. Please note each session will have a maximum of 8 people, and we may put you with other people you don’t know to maximise the number of people who can take part.

At 4pm we will do a walk through for anyone interested in learning how it works but not wanting to ‘solve it’ themselves. This will last a maximum of 30 minutes.

Young people produce their guide to Malvern!

Last year over 100 year 7 students from Dyson Perrins CoE Academy worked with Route to the Hills to produce a new guide of things to see and do in Malvern aimed at their own age group.


Malvern Essentials for Young People features 29 places recommended for teenagers and includes places to eat and visit, things to do on a budget and things that are better enjoyed with friends or with family. It also includes a short history of Malvern and local hints such as the best spots to take a selfie and tips about where free wi-fi is available.

While there are already numerous leaflets and online information available for visitors to Malvern, young people felt there was nothing that really reflected how they viewed the town or what they enjoyed doing.

Zoe Wilding, one of the students who worked on the guide, said: “I like Malvern because it’s a nice small town and includes lots of places for people to go and meet other people. It’s also got the Malvern Hills which are amazing.”

Jacob Brown, another of the pupils involved, added: “I think Malvern is good for someone my age because there are lots of places to hang out enjoy themselves.”

Malvern Essentials is now available to pick up for free from the Malvern Tourist Information Centre, perfect if you are hosting a young person this Easter!

Bringing history to life

A year 4 class from Grove Primary School have travelled back in time and brought the Malvern Water Cure to life by retelling it's unique development through a series of short videos they researched, scripted and filmed in front of a green screen. 

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In the week preceding the students learnt about the Water Cure using the materials and resources found in the Water Cure Loan Box, developed by Malvern Museum as part of Route to the Hills.

Karen and David, from Innovate Educate, then worked with the pupils to craft six stories about the water cure and film them in front of a Green Screen based on what they had learnt with their teacher Alison Matthews.

Students got to dress up as various Victorian characters (including Florence Nightingale!) and  use ipads to film the scripts they had been rehearsing. They developed not only historical and technical skills, but refined their literacy and collaborative skills, managing to effectively work as mini production teams.

Everyone involved were delighted with the students final work, as well as their positive attitude throughout the day, and we hope that the skills shared with teachers will allow them to continue their learning in a fun and engaging way.

For more information about the Loan Boxes or Learning Resources being produced, please contact Katy via email on