FIRE crews from across the county rushed to Great Malvern when a hotel at the heart of the town’s water cure heritage caught fire yesterday (Thursday, February 18).

The Wells Road just outside the town centre was closed to traffic as fire fighters fought the blaze at Tudor House, part of the historic Tudor Hotel. The call came at 9.36am after passers-by saw smoke billowing from the top floor and roof of the Grade-II listed building.

Fire appliances from Malvern were quickly supplemented by ones from Worcester, Ledbury, Droitwich and other stations, with 12 pumps, an aerial platform and other support vehicles on the scene. An ambulance service Hazardous Area Rescue Team was also called out.

Incident commander John Price told the Gazette that tackling the fire was a complex operation, because the building was unsafe. He said there was no indication that anyone was in the building, and the fire did not appear to threaten nearby buildings.

As smoke continued to billow from the building's upper storey and chimneys, snow started to fall, causing emergency services to request grit.

Firemen used the aerial platform to break holes in the tiled roof to gain access, others wearing breathing apparatus entered the ground floor, and still others used ladders to reach upper-storey windows and take hoses inside.

Tudor House was built in 1852 to house Dr Gully's male water cure patients. It was designed by architect S S Teulon (correct) whose works are reckoned by the Victorian Society as some of the most important in the country.

Just last week the society called on Malvern Hills District Council serve a Urgent Works Notice on the owner of the site Some years ago it was used as a DSS hostel, and has stood empty more recently. There is planning permission to convert it into 16 luxury apartments.