Hope Street

15 11 2008


1834 map showing Stanhope Street in development, emerging out of the orchards and allotment gardens

Hope Street, or Stanhope Street to give it its original name, began life in the early 1820s with the enclosure and sale of numerous little parcels of formerly cultivated land north of Tewkesbury Road for the building of small houses. The map shows it still being built in the early 1830s and evolving alongside Waterloo Place (now Waterloo Street) and the cul-de-stump of Sun Street. These rows of straight parallel terraces springing up in this part of town, known informally as Dockem, were never intended for the town’s elite citizens, but rather to provide cheap lodgings for the low-skilled workers who serviced the wealthier residents. Servants, labourers and laundry women were crammed into these streets and in Stanhope Street itself could be found weavers, watch makers, gardeners, lamp lighters and bonnet makers.

The street may possibly have been named after Lady Hester Stanhope, a society celebrity of her day who visited Cheltenham in the early 1800s, but if so it wasn’t much of a tribute. Poverty hung over the street like a murky fog from the moment the first residents moved in, and stayed there until its destruction exactly a century later when its condition had become so atrocious it spurred the formation of a Slum Areas Clearance Committee, empowered to act under the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890.

By 1925 the council was buying up the houses for compulsory demolition and within a few years the entire street had been razed and rebuilt with new terraces, more spacious and decently built. In 1928 the street was renamed Hope Street as a symbolic statement of its regeneration.


Today Hope Street remains one of Cheltenham’s less affluent areas but the terraces of 1920s houses have stood the test of time pretty well and it’s one of the nicer streets in Dockem. It’s now a quiet cul-de-sac, blocked off at the Tewkesbury Road end.


I can’t show you any pictures of the original Stanhope Street houses because there are none left. I’m not even sure what it looked like in relation to other streets in the area. But thanks to the 1841 census I can introduce you to some of its former residents. There was Edward Fryer the grocer, Mary Attwood the ironer, Ann Sparrow the plain sewer and Joseph Thomas the hawker. John Everiss the lamp lighter, Joseph Antill the umbrella maker, and a handful of Irish musicians such as Thomas O’Brion. Prospects for lowly workers were not good in Cheltenham in 1841 and many labourers were seriously struggling to find work. As pokey and dingy as the houses must have been, most of these people were living in tenancies within tenancies, multiple households crowded together in rooms sub-let by tenants who couldn’t afford to pay the rent by themselves. The street was barely fifteen years old but the overcrowding was already extreme.

Take the house occupied by hairdresser John Dukes. He shared it with 15 other people including Henry Sidney the confectioner, James Procter the book binder, John Fry the wool cutter, Edward Pedler the rat catcher, John Maeth the sailor, John Ieanbesta the musician (from “foreign parts”) and a servant called Elizabeth Pinegar. There were five separate households within this one house. That was not unusual either. A few doors away lived 23-year-old Stephen Shiel whose occupation was “climbing boy”, whatever that means. The house he lived in was occupied by 19 people comprising nine different households.

In the midst of all this was Charles Ashton, a bill sticker by trade, whose family had a house all to themselves! 


The original rear garden walls of the old houses are all that survive of Stanhope Street. Set against a vista of dumped settees is a pair of Victorian white cottages surviving in next door Waterloo Street.

The 1841 census is a fascinating glimpse of the demographic of this area. A high proportion of people living in the street (and in Dockem generally) were Irish.

In a masterstroke of practicality, a dual purpose pub and coal merchant traded on the western corner of Stanhope Street and Tewkesbury Road, under the name of the Elephant and Castle. It’s marked on the 1834 map above if you look closely, but the name isn’t very legible. It’s long gone now and no trace of its buildings and yard survive. There was another pub called the Barley Mow on the opposite side of the street, also fronting onto Tewkesbury Road. Both pubs were swept away for the widening of Tewkesbury Road. The regenerated Hope Street had instead a pub down at the opposite end, built in the 1960s or early 70s and facing onto Swindon Road. Changing name with optimistic regularity, from the Railway Inn to the Sportsman, its last incarnation was the Best Mate Inn, named after a well loved racehorse. At the end of 2008 it was for sale and very derelict.




16 responses

26 06 2010
Kevin Organ

Fantastic to find some info on Stanhope street, my family moved there in 1861’ish on census,,, i shall enjoy looking at the rest of the website

Many Thanks


21 02 2011

Do you have any info on the streets further along toward Kingsditch? Why for instance, is Queen St only even numbers? Was this another bomb site?

22 05 2011

I love this website! I live in Bullingham Court, at the back of what used to be Amos Wilson builders, and opposite where the Salvation Army used to be on Swindon Road. There’s a block of old people’s flats which were opened in 1976, and I live in one of the houses down the bottom which were built in 1993. I was just wondering if you had any information of what used to be there before 1976?

24 07 2011
Joyce Cummings

Amos Wilson used to be Market Gardeners as well as builders (well known in that area for funeral’s as well). By far the biggest Market Garden was Vizard’s, which ran from Marsh Lane to Elmfield (their orchard was at the back of the houses in Marsh Lane).
Hardwicke Hall is built on what was the Workhouse Gardens (where they grew their Vegetables).

25 07 2011
Harry Dean

Love this part of the site as my ancestors all lived in this area. Any chance you might get around to Whitehart Street – I seem to have had a family member in just about every house in that street.

25 07 2011

Hello Harry. Thanks for your contributions. Yes, Whitehart Street is on my list of interesting streets – to be covered when I have time to research it properly. Of course the street used to be longer before the Honeybourne line was built, which cut through a lot of the original housing.

25 07 2011

Thanks Joyce, that’s all very useful to know.

24 08 2011
Margaret Botten

Concerning Stanhope street, my dear mum Dorothy May Mulliss was born in that street in 1906 and she was still living there when she got married in 1926, but at a different number in the road.

6 10 2011
Brian Koncher

I was born in Worcester Street, Cheltenham. The area of St Peters was known as “Dockem” or “Dockum”, As yet I have not found out why it was called “Dockem”. My great grandfather worked at the coke works and I was told the coal originally came by barges until the railway appeared. So was there a canal running into small docks. Can anybody shed any light .

6 10 2011

Hello Brian. Yes, I’m still trying to find out where the name Dockem comes from too! It doesn’t appear on any maps and seems to be a completely unofficial name, and yet everyone who has lived in or near this part of Cheltenham calls it that. You are right about the canal – I believe it ran through Coombe Hill, a few miles west of Cheltenham, and the coal had to be brought the rest of the way by road. Until the railway was opened in 1840 this was the only way to bring heavy freight into Cheltenham, including building materials for the Regency houses – and the roads would have been diabolical at that time. Although the canal didn’t come as far as Dockem it would have been the closest delivery point, so it was a dock of sorts. There were half a dozen coal yards clustered around the top of Gloucester Road in the early 19th century, on the site which later became the gas works, now occupied by Tesco’s (the gas works was originally located further down Tewkesbury Road). And an enormous coal and stone yard on the opposite side of Gloucester Road, in what is now Market Street.

25 10 2011

very interesting site there must be at least one old photo of stanhope street somewhere ??

25 10 2011

I’m sure there are old photos around … but as they are often subject to copyright/permissions, I’m generally only able to post my own photos on this site.

22 07 2012
Norma J Grundy

“Climbing Boy” was usually applied to a chimney sweep’s junior assistant. If the eponymous gentleman was still using the name at 23, either he was very titchy or hadn’t worked since adolesence!

6 07 2013
Pat Moreland - Ontario, Canada

1881 my great grand father George Alfred Cooper lived at 2 Crabb Tree. They had 12 children and only 3 lived to be adults. It must have been a very hard life.
Loved to find any relatives or information about that street.

2 11 2014
Pat Piercy

I was born in Hope Street in 1952, we lived in one of the tiny gas lit cottages halfway along the street – these were later knocked down to build Addis Road.The cottages were virtually slum housing for some of the poorest people in ” the lower end”. Two tiny rooms downstairs and two tiny bedrooms,a long garden which we kept chickens on to supplement our diet.

19 10 2020

My great, great grandparents lived at 79 Stanhope Street in 1867 according to their marriage certificate. Alfred and Elizabeth Cummings, Alfred was aged 21 and a labourer. They signed the certificate with an X. This is the same Cummings family that Joyce Cummings, my mother, who commented previously on this page married into in 1952.

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