Photos taken December 2003
Selkirk Street is typical of Cheltenham’s piecemeal development in the mid-19th century, with lots of different styles and designs of houses all sandwiched together into long terraces. The first houses were probably built around 1839 or 1840 by Edward Cope, and the rest of the street was filled in by the 1890s. As was the norm at that time, some of the groups of houses had their own names, such as Selkirk Terrace, Rye Villas, Torquay Villas and Cottage Villas.
Merrett’s 1834 map of Cheltenham shows a timber yard and a big open field where Selkirk Street now stands. Nearby Portland Square and Albert Place had already been built, but everything to the east was undeveloped farmland. Albert Place was originally meant to be part of Portland Square, an ambitious project started in the 1820s by Winchcombe-born builder Joseph Hughes. However there was a major credit crunch in 1825 and Hughes went bankrupt before he had completed his scheme. Consequently there was a gap between present day numbers 30 and 32 Albert Place where two of Hughes’ building plots remained undeveloped. They were sold off in 1828 to another builder, John Darby. Instead of developing the plots, Darby used them to make a rough access road to his timber yard, where in 1833 he built Kensington Villa along with some workshops and stables. The villa still survives, albeit without its outbuildings. It was this short entrance road into the timber yard that soon afterwards became the west end of Selkirk Street.
The name, however, predates the street. At the top end of the field was a large house called Selkirk Villa, which has long since disappeared. It stood approximately on the site of what is now Selkirk Close, and was licensed as a place of worship for a short while (around 1817) when a dissenting minister lived there. Although the house is long gone, its name has survived in various nearby places. The street now known as Back Albert Place was originally called Selkirk Road. There were also groups of houses in Prestbury Road called Selkirk Parade and Selkirk Place.
These days Selkirk Street is a very nice residential area and the houses are expensive. But parked cars are a bit of a problem. The houses have small front gardens and basements but no off-road parking.