Planet Suffolk: Bringing together the Suffolks of the world

The Suffolks, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England

The Suffolks is the unofficial name for a part of the Montpellier district in the town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in England, situated at 51°53’ N 02°04’ W. It encompasses Suffolk Square & the surrounding streets.

Population:-  No specific figures available for The Suffolks. The estimated population of Cheltenham as at 2008 was 112,000.

How to get there:-

By road: From Gloucester & the west, take A40 eastbound into Cheltenham, then turn right into Andover Road, which then becomes Suffolk Road.
From Oxford & the east, take westbound A40 (London Road) into Cheltenham, turn left into Sandford Mill Road, then left again into Old Bath Road before turning right into Thirlestaine Road. Follow this road until it becomes Suffolk Road.
If approaching from the north or south on M5, exit onto A40 at junction 11, then follow route as from the west.


By rail: Nearest railway station is Cheltenham Spa



The closest major airport to Cheltenham is Bristol International. From there take M5 northbound, then follow directions as above.
Gloucestershire Airport is situated close to the A40 & junction 11 of the M5.

Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time.   Daylight saving time in summer +1 hr.

Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

History & Derivation of Name

Suffolk Hall VAD Hospital

The Suffolk Kitchen & The Suffolk Anthology

Montpellier

Cheltenham

 

 

For lots more photos of The Suffolks, Cheltenham, go to the Photo Gallery

History & Derivation of Name

Based around the square of the same name, The Suffolks refers to an area of Cheltenham adjacent to Montpellier.  Montpellier is known as one of the most attractive and fashionable areas of Cheltenham, the home to the famous Cheltenham Ladies’ College, which has a worldwide reputation (see Montpellier section, below).  Both Montpellier and The Suffolks have a distinctive architecture with many café’s and bars that provide a continental flavour.  The Suffolks is the area around Suffolk Square, a square of 19th century Regency buildings with a central bowling green, where up-market boutiques mix with cafés and specialist craft establishments.  It is a very popular centre for antiques. Many consider these streets to be the true artisan area of Cheltenham, with many of the creative professions, such as landscape designers, interior designers, silversmiths and photographers, choosing to locate here away from the bustle of the town centre.  Renowned as a place for browsing and great finds, it also has two popular pubs - The Beehive and the Suffolk Arms.

                                                                                                                                    The Suffolks 1834

The name given to the area is obvious when you have a Suffolk Road, Suffolk Parade, Suffolk Place, Suffolk Court, Suffolk Lawn, Suffolk Villas, two Suffolk Mews, three Suffolk Lodges, three Suffolk Houses, a former Suffolk Mansions, a former Suffolk Hall and, of course, Suffolk Square*. The name is ultimately derived from the Earl of Suffolk (see Suffolk Misc. page Suffolk as a Title) who owned the land which was developed after his death in 1820.  The square contains predominantly late Georgian and early Victorian villas and terraced houses that give a distinctive identity to the area.  There are a high number of listed buildings within Suffolk Square, and it is a Conservation Area.    

*There is also a Suffolk Street,  a few hundred yards to the south of Suffolk Road & therefore outside The Suffolks,  which is a short residential street running between Norwood Road & Bath Road.

Prior to the 19th century the area was open, undeveloped farmland. Galipot Farm, dating back to medieval times, stood alone in the fields for over a century while the rest of Cheltenham took shape.  It was described as “lately erected” in 1694 when it went by the name of Gallypott Hall and, although no image of it is known to survive, it was most likely quite a large residence. (A ‘gallipot’ was a small earthenware pot or jar; possibly a reference to the size of the original building.  The name remains in use today as a ‘Galipot Cottage’ stands in nearby Andover Road.) In the late 18th century it was part of the property of John de la Bere, who owned most of this area at the time.  Gallypott Hall was a popular spot for social gatherings during the heyday of the original Cheltenham Spa.  In 1808 Gallypott Hall and its surrounding fields were bought by the Earl of Suffolk, whose main residence was not far away at Charlton Park in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire. He demolished the old farmhouse and had a grand bow-fronted house built on the site by the local architect Joseph Rainger.  On the 1809 map of Cheltenham, the property is shown as “Earl Suffolk’s House”, and by 1824 it was definitely known as “Suffolk House”.

In 1801 John de la Bere decided to dispose of some of his land holdings and sold a substantial part of his estate to Henry Thompson. Thompson was a wealthy London merchant banker and underwriter who had moved to live in Cheltenham and who, in 1809, built the first Montpellier Spa and developed the Montpellier Walks and Rides around which today’s Montpellier Gardens were planned.  In 1807 Thompson bought a further field known as Horne Acre from John de la Bere.  The 1820 Post Office map of Cheltenham shows the houses he built there, which today is the eastern side of Suffolk Parade at the southern end near to Suffolk Road.  The earliest deeds date back to 1814 and 1815, and in 1820 Suffolk Lodge was in place, so it seems that the ‘Suffolk’ name was already being extended elsewhere other than the Earl of Suffolk’s residence.  The name ‘Suffolk Parade’ came into use before 1826 because it is recorded in a book published in that year (Griffith’s New Historical description of Cheltenham).  Thus, this part of ‘The Suffolks’ developed quite separately and at an earlier date than the main estate around Suffolk Square.  Houses in the northern end of Suffolk Parade, which are now occupied by antique shops, boutiques, cafés and brasseries, were built around the 1840s.  In the early 19th century the first individual houses were given names rather than numbers, such as Suffolk Lodge.  However, when the developer built a number of properties together he just numbered them in sequence from one, so the southern part of Suffolk Parade was numbered 1 to 13, and when the developer built those in the northern end they were also numbered from 1 to 14.  To overcome this apparent duplication, the road became Suffolk Parade North and Suffolk Parade South.  In 1893 the whole road was renumbered, incorporating those houses like Suffolk Lodge that had not previously had a number, so it was able to revert to being just Suffolk Parade.  Two of the shops in this road have incorporated Suffolk in their name: The Suffolk Kitchen and The Suffolk Anthology (see below).

For a few years, Suffolk House stood on its own in the fields just as Galipot Farm/Gallypott Hall had done.  But in 1820 the Earl of Suffolk died and his daughter sold off the surplus lands on either side of the house, which were snapped up by James Fisher, a hotelier and property speculator.  He proceeded to lay out a new residential square, employing local architect Edward Jenkins.  A group of four terraced houses were in place in 1820 at the northwest entrance to the square, and this group was given the name of Suffolk Place; at a much later date this name was transferred to the road in front of the houses.  One house within the group was given the name Suffolk Court.  All are now divided into apartments.  Work on the square itself began in 1823 and the first completed houses were ready in 1826.  By 1834 Suffolk Square had been established with magnificent terraces and grand houses using the classic Regency layout of a central communal garden with houses facing towards it around all four sides.  A Regency Gothic church dedicated to St. James was also built in 1825 (see photo, above left). The church is no longer used for service and has been converted to a restaurant.  By the end of the century, terraced housing had been completed in gaps along the north side of the square, but the area has remained relatively unchanged from 1834.  The square green was used as a bowling green and remains in use as such today, being the focal point of Suffolk Square.  

Suffolk House was demolished in 1935 and the present “Suffolk House”, comprising three interlinked blocks of apartments, was constructed in 1936 in the modernist style, and there are four separate addresses: Suffolk House East, Suffolk House West, Suffolk House South and Suffolk House Central.  The coach house and a few cottages are the only surviving relic of the original Suffolk House.  Just to confuse matters further, there is now another Suffolk House on Suffolk Road (see below relating to the former Suffolk Mews, 1840 to 1919).  

Along the east side of Suffolk Square there were three sets of semi-detached villas and a house built by Edward Jenkins in c.1840.  These seven buildings became known as Suffolk Mansions in the 1920s and 1930s.  Today, the semi-detached villas are better known as Faithfull House.  Lilian Faithfull CBE (1865-1952) was an English teacher, headmistress, womens rights advocate, magistrate, social worker and humanitarian.  She was one of the first women to go to university, and in 1907 she became the principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College.  She remained in that position for 15 years.  In 1920, she became Justice of the Peace for Cheltenham, becoming one of the first women magistrates in England.  Lilian Faithfull was active as a social worker, improving conditions for the poor.  In 1946 she founded the Old Peoples Housing Society in Cheltenham, later renamed the Lilian Faithfull Homes.  Between 1946 and 1955 this charity set about linking these Grade II listed buildings on the eastern side of Suffolk Square into one nursing and residential care home that would become Faithfull House.  The houses have had most of their original Regency features restored, and now provide all round residential care for its residents.  Lilian Faithfull died at Faithfull House in 1952 and was buried in Cheltenham.


In 1832 Edward Jenkins built two identical, large Regency-style buildings on the south side of Suffolk Square.  They went under various names but were better known when they became boarding houses for Cheltenham Ladies’ College in 1883: Bunwell House and Roderic House.  In 1984 the College sold the properties.  From 1985 to 1987 the site was redeveloped.  As the buildings abutted each other, Bunwell House and Roderic House were further linked to form Montpellier House (see photograph, left).  The two parts are known as Montpellier House East and Montpellier House West.  Both are Grade II listed buildings.  They have been divided into prestigious luxury self-catering, serviced apartments.  They can be bought for long-term accommodation or used for short-term rentals, particularly popular with a certain type of wealthy clientele when Cheltenham race meetings and festivals are in full swing.  

Suffolk Mews is a courtyard development built in 1987 next to Montpellier House on the former gardens and tennis courts of the house in the southeast corner of Suffolk Square adjacent to Suffolk Parade.  The development comprises 17 properties in all, 10 cottages, 5 apartments and 2 bungalows arranged around a lawned garden, with access from the main entrance to Montpellier House through an archway into the mews.  These residences are reserved for retirement homes/sheltered housing.  
 
Suffolk Mews revived the name that had existed from 1840 to 1919 on a courtyard on the south of Suffolk Road opposite to Bunwell House (Montpellier House West).  This particular site was associated with road transport for 140 years.  There were two villas erected on the then Commercial Road (now Suffolk Road) in 1830 and they remain there today: Andover Lodge (on the corner with Park Place) and Bahama Villa (now 66 Suffolk Road on the corner with Andover Street).  In between was a property consisting of stables and coach houses surrounding an open courtyard, (for which the correct term is “Mews”), hence by 1840 this was known as ‘Suffolk Mews’.  The business there hired out horses and carriages, provided stabling and secure lock-ups, and traded in the selling and buying of horses and carriages.  In 1910 there came a significant development when bicycles then cars became available for hire or purchase as well as the traditional horse drawn business.  In 1915 it became Suffolk Mews Garage and, finally, in 1919 the horse and carriage business was given up in favour of the motor business.  Suffolk Mews Garage was bought the same year and renamed the Montpellier Motor & Garage Co.  The business built over the courtyard and Suffolk Mews disappeared.  The company had taxis, cars, light lorries and a charabanc.  It traded successfully for the next 60 years, becoming the Montpellier Service Station, with an emphasis on the sale of petrol by the mid 1970s.  It finally closed in 1980 bringing to an end the association of this site with road transport.
         
The garage was demolished and replaced by a modern three-storey office building in the 1980s.  This was occupied by a division of Natwest Bank and known as Natwest House until 2016.  When Natwest vacated the premises, the owners renamed it Suffolk House and at the beginning of 2017 it became the headquarters for the UK National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), which is responsible for providing information, advice and opinion on vocational, academic and professional skills and qualifications from all over the world.  The official address is Suffolk House, 68/70 Suffolk Road.

Suffolk Lodge is another name that has appeared more than once.  The earliest one was in Suffolk Parade.  It was among the first houses built there as it is recorded in 1820, before the houses had  numbers.  In 1840 it was a large detached house with a sizeable garden.  In about 1868 the house was bought by John Balcomb and, soon after, he moved his family chemist business to Suffolk Lodge.  As noted above, in 1893 the whole of Suffolk Parade was renumbered, incorporating those houses, like Suffolk Lodge, that had not previously had a number.  The Balcomb & Co. family chemists continued, now at 10 and 11 Suffolk Parade, but still commonly known as Suffolk Lodge, until 1921 when the property was sold and became two shops.  The name Suffolk Lodge then gradually fell out of use.  In 1982 Mike and Lella Dey bought the property and re-combined numbers 10 and 11 to form The Retreat Wine Bar, still in place today.     

A grainstore was built about 1884 behind No. 2 Suffolk Road that had a frontage on a small alleyway beside that house.  In 2005 permission was granted to convert this into an office which became known as Suffolk Lodge, 2 Suffolk Road.  In 2007 this was converted into residential use.  Another Suffolk Lodge is at Back Montpellier Terrace.  It is a garage converted in 2013 into a one bedroom single level apartment. 

On the other side of Suffolk House, on the east side of today’s Lypiatt Road, and not directly connected to the development in Suffolk Square, five large detached Regency-style houses were built by Edward Jenkins (Imperial House, Stanmer House, Carrick House, Compass House and Burlington House). These were originally collectively named Park Place, built along the existing Painswick turnpike road.  The exact date of the buildings is not known, but they were not there in 1820.  A request for street lighting in 1827 suggests that at least some of the houses were built and occupied by then, and it seems likely that they were built by the architect Edward Jenkins in 1826.  The name Suffolk Lawn is first recorded in 1830 and that is how it appears on an 1834 map, but the road itself was not officially named, although referred to informally as ‘Suffolk Lawn’.  A new Italianate terrace of 18 houses opposite to Suffolk Lawn was built between 1847 and 1849, and was given the name of Lypiatt Terrace (after a field name shown on a 1776 map as ‘Lippetts’ and not after the nearby Gloucestershire country estate of Lypiatt Park, as most people believe, although the latter probably influenced the spelling).  The road was still without a name, although informally known as either Suffolk Lawn or Lypiatt Terrace until 1906 when Cheltenham Borough Council decided on the present name of Lypiatt Road. Most of the other Suffolk Lawn houses have been converted into business premises, but Stanmer House (see photo, above) is still residential, now converted into prestigious apartments.  It is a Grade II listed building  and retains most of its original features, including wooden internal shutters across the ground floor windows and its original sweeping semi-circular driveway, designed to provide convenient access for carriages. (Burlington House was formerly Suffolk Hall and is dealt with separately in the next article.)

The main thoroughfare to the south of the square is named Suffolk Road.  Its original name was Commercial Road in the 1830 directory because it was the main road along which commerce entered Cheltenham from that direction.  It was only sparsely built on with three houses along it in 1835.  However, the residential expansion south of Suffolk Square began in 1840 when four houses were built on the south side of Commercial Road just to the southwest of Suffolk Square.  These houses were named Andover Place, the name ‘Andover’ being applied to a number of new roads south of the ‘Suffolk development’ being built at this time; Viscount Andover was the courtesy title of the eldest son of the Earl of Suffolk.  The four houses of Andover Place were originally considered part of Suffolk Square and listed as such, but later their name was given to the stretch of road in front of the houses.  By 1855 the western end of the main road was called Suffolk Road as it was considered more appropriate to residential development.  By 1872 the name had also been extended over the eastern end of the former Commercial Road, that name had now fallen out of use.  In 1958 the name Suffolk Road was extended to the westernmost part of this thoroughfare, previously known as Andover Place (now 72 to 78 Suffolk Road). 

The Suffolk Arms on Suffolk Road (see photo, left) is one of Cheltenham’s oldest and most traditional pubs, established in 1824, originally as a coach-house and inn.  The pub has been a popular meeting place for the locals of The Suffolks and it is well known for its high quality food.  The Suffolk Arms more recently has become famous in this part of Gloucestershire for the authentic Thai food served within its walls. Next to the Suffolk Arms is a row of six terraced houses called Suffolk Villas built in 2002 on the site of a former garage. These are set back with enclosed front gardens.

The Suffolks Annual Street Fair, held every Bank Holiday Monday in May, is another famous event with over 45 stalls selling  jewellery, cakes, local produce, furniture, clothes, plants and flowers, and arts and crafts.  Live music is provided by a walking jazz band, plus local rock and folk bands.

Another feature that has arisen in recent years is the concept of self-catering vacation apartments.  This is particularly attractive to short-term stays during events such as Cheltenham Races or the musical festivals.  Each apartment has a lounge, TV, adjacent fully fitted kitchen, with a separate bedroom and bath/shower room.  Weekly housekeeping and change of towels and linen are  included in the price.  This is seen as an alternative to the more traditional and costly hotel accommodation.  In 2010 property at 62 Suffolk Road was converted into the “Suffolk Road Apartments”.  Another property, not actually part of The Suffolks, but a few streets away in Exmouth Street is a converted house calling itself “Suffolks Apartments”.

We acknowledge the information provided by The Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society in its publication of the Historical Gazetteer of Cheltenham compiled by James Hodson (revised 2003).  This is an invaluable source on the early history of the buildings and streets of The Suffolks.  

Please don't forget to sign the Guestbook 

Top of Page

Suffolk Hall VAD Hospital

Burlington House, one of the large houses in Lypiatt Road (formerly Suffolk Lawn) was for the first hundred years of its existence named Suffolk Hall.  It came of note in the 1830s as the home of the actress Harriet Mellon (1777-1837).  
The daughter of strolling players, she ended up marrying the Duke of St Albans.  
Suffolk Hall was rented by them, and Harriet and the Duke were renowned for their musical and dinner parties.  In the second half of the 19th century it became the Suffolk Hall Preparatory School for boys.  It was very much an early school for young boys who were likely to go on to Cheltenham College.  Its most prominent pupil was Ivor Brown (1891-1974), a writer best known for his works on literature and the English language.  He had a particular interest in Shakespeare, publishing several books about his life and career.  From 1942 to 1948 Brown was the editor of The Observer, after which he continued as The Observer's drama critic until 1954.   

At the outset of the First World War, Mr Soames, the owner of Suffolk Hall, loaned the house for use as a hospital.  It was staffed by No 26 Gloucestershire Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), and opened on 9th December 1914.  The large gymnasium and schoolrooms made excellent wards.  A theatre was completely fitted up, and here all the operations were performed until June 1917, after which the more serious cases were removed to the General Hospital owing to the shortage of surgeons, those from Suffolk Hall having left for service.  The hospital received cases direct from the front, except during the winters of 1915 and 1916, when it acted as garrison hospital for the troops stationed in Cheltenham.  The hospital, owing to the influenza epidemic, was filled to overflowing from January 1919, and the staff went though a very trying time.  Of the staff, at the close of the hospital on 29 March 1919, there were seventeen remaining who had worked since the opening in December 1914.

In 1919 it became a school for the blind and by 1926 Suffolk Hall had been renamed Southwood after a former headmaster of Cheltenham College, and for a time it was a boarding house for the college.  It retained this name under different ownership until 1960 when it became Burlington House.  It now houses a social club

Top of Page

The Suffolk Kitchen & The Suffolk Anthology

Two shops in Suffolk Parade that trade under the Suffolk name:

The Suffolk Kitchen - In 1851 this property at 8 Suffolk Parade was a greengrocer’s shop, but in 1855 it became a porter stores.  Porter is a type of dark beer developed in London in the 18th century and was very popular at that time.  This property continued to be associated with the sale of beer for many years. In 1870 it was home to Stibbs Steam Brewery retail department and it later became the Suffolk Ale & Porter Stores Inn, later owned by the Cheltenham Original Brewery Co. Ltd.  It was finally closed on the 31st December 1921.  The shop passed into other trades before becoming associated as a food outlet, being notable as a fried fish shop from 1930 to 1990, known as The Mermaid Fish Bar from 1961.  From 1990 to 2004 it was a Greek restaurant and from 2004 to 2012 it was a Middle Eastern restaurant.  In February 2012 these premises became The Suffolk Kitchen bistro and restaurant serving seasonal food from across the British Isles.  

The Suffolk Anthology - This residence, now at 17 Suffolk Parade, a Grade II listed building, had become a shop by 1850, alternating between being a chemist’s and a dental surgery.  In about 1870 the shop and the premises next door were combined to establish a bakery.  In the mid 1930s the bakery down-sized and the premises were divided back into two shops, one that continued at No. 17 as a bakery and confectioner’s shop.  The bakery trade finally ended here in the late 1960s and the property housed mainly antique dealers and photographers until 2015, when the shop changed hands once more to become The Suffolk Anthology, an independent bookshop and coffee shop.

Suffolk Parade has also given its name to a company and its product.  See Suffolk Parade Bracelets on the Misc. page under Suffolk as a Product Brand Name

Top of Page

Montpellier

Montpellier is a district of Cheltenham south of the town centre.  Originally developed in the early 19th century in conjunction with the spas, Montpellier is known as one of the most attractive and fashionable areas of Cheltenham, renowned for its bars, cafés, restaurants and range of specialist shops.  In April 2008 Montpellier was one of the most expensive areas in Cheltenham to buy property, with apartments ranging from £300,000 to over £1,000,000, town houses from around £400,000, and houses over £4,000,000.

A “spa” was developed by Henry Thompson after springs were discovered on land he had bought in 1801 to build a house.  In the 18th and 19th centuries the name of the French spa town of Montpellier was a byword for a pleasant healthy place, and that was why the name was chosen in 1809 by Henry Thompson for his newly established spa.  In 1809 Henry Thompson constructed a wooden pavilion with a colonnade and by 1817 he had to rebuilt it in stone as Montpellier Spa became more and more popular.  The spa buildings of 1817 were by George Allen Underwood.  It was not until Thompson’s son Pearson asked John Buonarotti Papworth, a London architect with a national reputation, to take over the project in 1826 that the pump room building got its distinctive Rotunda.  Papworth was inspired by Rome’s Pantheon, even the dimensions are almost identical, 53ft high and 54ft across.  The building became a bank in 1882, although balls and concerts still continued to take place in the venue which could seat an audience of 400.  It is now a branch of Lloyds TSB bank.


The new Montpellier Spa had tree-lined ‘walks and rides’ with attractive villas and terraces surrounding spacious ornamental gardens, now known as Montpellier Gardens.  During the 1830s and 1840s, specialist shops were built along Montpellier Walk and Montpellier Arcade.  This is now one of the best preserved early 19th century shopping arcades in the country.  Most picturesque is Montpellier Walk, leading to Montpellier Spa, noted for the 32 caryatids, sculpted female figures supporting the shop fronts in place of a column or a pillar.

 

                Montpellier Spa, around 1845


Montpellier is home to famous Cheltenham Ladies’ College (see photo, right).  It is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18, founded in 1853 as an institution for the daughters of gentlemen.  Under its second Principal, Dorothea Beale, who took over in 1858, the College became a powerful influence in the development of women’s education.  By 1864 external examiners marked the school examinations, with the first Examiner in Mathematics being the Rev. Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll.  The College moved to its present site in 1873.  The College continued to expand and the Princess Hall was opened in 1897 on the site of the original mineral spring found in Cheltenham in 1716.  The College has been at the forefront of girls’ education for over 150 years and has a worldwide reputation for academic excellence.  With fees ranging between £11,870 to £13,370 per term (for the 2017-18 year), many a pupil will be the daughter of a famous celebrity as well as those from lesser known, but equally well-endowed parents.

Top of Page

Cheltenham

Cheltenham, also known as Cheltenham Spa, is a spa town and borough in Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds, with a population in excess of 115,000.  It is the home of the flagship race of British steeplechase horse racing, the Gold Cup, the main event of the Cheltenham Festival held every March.

An Anglo-Saxon settlement, Cheltenham (the settlement under the hill) was the site of a monastery as early as 803.  The town was awarded a weekly market and annual fair in 1226.  Cheltenham remained a typical English provincial farming community, with a population of around 1,500 in the 17th century.  In 1716 the town’s sudden rise from obscurity began when, according to tradition, a flock of pigeons discovered a spring on the site of what is now the Ladies College.  The locals, noticing that the pigeons seemed to thrive, tried the waters for themselves and found that they eased many of the disorders that afflicted them.  Local entrepreneurs soon realised that there was money to be made from this, and started to develop the town in order to attract the wealthy and famous.  In the years 1738 to 1742 the owner of the spring built Assembly Rooms where people played cards and danced at balls, and he also created an avenue of trees leading to the well.

The visit of George III with the queen and royal princesses in 1788 to “take the waters” gave Cheltenham the stamp of approval.  Today the waters continue to be taken recreationally at the Pittville Pump Room, built for this purpose and completed in 1830; it is the centrepiece of Pittville, a planned extension of Cheltenham to the north, developed by Joseph Pitt.  Cheltenham’s success as a spa town is reflected in the railway station, which is still called “Cheltenham Spa”.

Horse racing began in Cheltenham in 1815, and became a major national attraction after the establishment of the Festival in 1902.  Cheltenham Festival is a significant National Hunt racing meeting, and has prize money second only to the Grand National.  The National Hunt Chase was first held in 1860, and it took place at a number of different racecourses over the years, including Cheltenham on occasions, but in 1911 it took place on the Cheltenham Racecourse at Prestbury Park and has remained there to this day.  It is an event where many of the best British and Irish trained horses race against each other, and is particularly favoured by the Irish as the Festival takes place annually in March when it usually coincides with St. Patrick’s Day, a national holiday in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.

The first British jet aircraft prototype, the Gloster E.28/39, was manufactured in Cheltenham.  Manufacturing started near Gloucester, but was later moved to Cheltenham which was considered a location safer from bombing since there was no notable industry in the town.  After the Second World War the Government Communications Headquarters (G.C.H.Q), which has become one of the West’s most important secret surveillance centres, was established in Cheltenham.   

Whilst the volume of tourists visiting the spa has declined, the town is now a thriving commercial centre as well as being a popular destination for tourists.  The town also hosts several festivals of culture such as the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, and Cheltenham Music Festival.

Famous people from Cheltenham include:

Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones (1942 –1969), better known as Brian Jones, founding member of the Rolling Stones pop group & regarded as a fashion icon due to his flamboyant style of dress and manner which did much to influence the fashion scene of swinging 1960s London. He is buried in Cheltenham Cemetery.


The renowned composer, Gustav Holst (originally named Gustavus Theodor von Holst), who was born of Lithuanian parents in 1874 in Cheltenham, & whose birthplace is now a museum. He is most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets. The photo on the right is of the Gustav Holst Memorial Fountain in Imperial Gardens, sculpted by Anthony Stones & unveiled in April 2008.

Edward Wilson, who was born at Montpellier Terrace, Cheltenham in 1872. He was a member of  Captain Robert Scott's Expedition of 1911 who reached the South Pole, but died with Scott in March 1912.

Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie the Eagle, who was born in Cheltenham in 1963. In 1988 he became Britain’s first and only ski jumper in the Olympics; finishing 58th in the 70-metre jump (the last, 59th, competitor was disqualified), and coming last in the 90–metre jump.  With his big glasses, which fogged up when he was jumping, and quick wit, he became a media sensation, and arguably the best loved athlete of that Olympics. 

Why not sign the Guestbook?

Top of Page