It was common in Cheltenham’s heyday for terraces of houses to have their own individual names, independent of the name of the street they were in. Here we have Columbia Place (originally spelt Colombia), a beautiful terrace in Winchcombe Street, not far from the original Pittville Park gates. It’s set back from the main pavement with a sweeping crescent-shaped gravel driveway and a small segment of communal garden. It has its own pavement of flagstones alongside the drive and this has survived remarkably unspoiled.
Photographed December 2003
The two end houses are taller than the others and handsomely pedimented, while the four in the middle have a mansard roof and stone balconies supported on pillars. They have also retained some spectacular cast iron-work (you can’t see it very well in the picture, but there are decorative iron panels in the gaps between the castellations along the top) which according to Cheltenham’s iron-work expert Amina Chatwin, are “daring and unusual … like nothing that has gone before” and “the first panels in the town to make cast iron successful in its own right”. The terrace became very dilapidated in the latter part of the 20th century and looked very sorry for itself but fortunately in the last few years it’s been lovingly restored. Not everybody has always considered it beautiful though. William Cobbett in his thorough verbal trashing of Cheltenham in Rural Rides (1830) called it “a new row of most gaudy and fantastical dwelling places”.
Detail of cast iron ornamentation on the lower verandah
The terrace was commissioned by a cavalry equipment supplier called Thomas Thompson, whose business interests were in South America, including a lucrative salt refining business in Colombia, and he chose the name. He came to Cheltenham to take the waters and decided to build here, employing William Jay to design the terrace. Work began in 1824 and all of the six houses were complete by 1826. They were originally numbered 1-6 Colombia Place but are now 112-122 Winchcombe Street.