Photos taken in December 2003
Trinity Lane is one of those places most Cheltenham residents probably never notice the existence of, despite being pretty much in the centre of town. It’s hidden away down a small pathway down the side of Holy Trinity church in Portland Street. This 2003 view (above) is taken from Trinity Lane itself and shows the gateway through the churchyard, with the Portland Street car park beyond. In the distance you can see the yellow and grey bulk of the Whitbread brewery office block, for a long time a despised Cheltenham landmark, now demolished and inexplicably replaced by an even uglier building.
OK, so this is what Trinity Lane looks like …
It’s a narrow and T-shaped service lane giving access to the backs of houses in upper Portland Street and upper Winchcombe Street. The south end opens onto Warwick Place. The north end (from which this photo was taken) is overlooked by the back gardens of houses in Clarence Road. At this end the lane stops and splits into two small alleyways, one joining up with Portland Street and the other leading along the side of the beautiful mini-terrace of Columbia Place.
Back in the 1890s the lane was known as Trinity Church Lane, and at some point before that it seems to have been called St Leger’s Lane. There’s no sign of it in “old” Cheltenham … the 1806 map just shows open fields here. But it was in existence by 1820 as shown here, unnamed, on Cossens’ Post Office map:
It shows that before the Pittville development started the lane originally went right through in a straight line from Warwick Place to Clarence Road, and already had a couple of mews buildings in it. Holy Trinity church is clearly shown on the Portland Street side, though it was actually only just being built at the time the map was made. The School of Industry in Winchcombe Street later became an orphan asylum for girls.
Trinity Lane appears again on Merrett’s map of 1834, by which time it had been closed off at the north end by the building of a terrace of houses in Clarence Road (then known as Pittville Terrace). It was one of these houses (no.4 Pittville Terrace) that became the birthplace of Gustav Holst in 1874.
1834 map. At this time there were still very few buildings in upper Portland Street other than the church. Trinity Lane had to be re-routed at its north end as it was no longer able to join up with Pittville Terrace, and this is the form it still has today. Other interesting landmarks shown here include the Anchor Brewery on the corner of Warwick Place (a tiny part of which still survives), the Female Orphan Asylum in Winchcombe Street (long gone) and the Pittville Gates.
So what is there to see in Trinity Lane? Not that much in terms of landmarks, but it’s one of those places where time seems to stand still and you can imagine yourself transported back a couple of hundred years.
The most emphatic landmark of course is the rear of Trinity church. This lovely window is one of the highlights.
Holy Trinity church was built “in the fields” between 1820 and 1823 and was the first of the new churches of Cheltenham’s Regency era, built as a chapel of ease to the parish church. No others had been built in the town since medieval times. Its architect was G.A. Underwood, who also oversaw the Masonic Hall at about the same time. The cash for its construction was raised from the sale of shares which entitled shareholders to the privilege of a pew. Everyone else had to pay to attend services.
The formidable “Pope of Cheltenham” Francis Close began his association with the town when he arrived as Holy Trinity’s curate in 1824. Among the burials here is the Hon. Katherine Monson, a property speculator who built several notable things in the town before the 1820s credit crunch and lived just up the road on what is now the site of North Place car park. More than just a wealthy developer, this extraordinary lady took a personal and practical role on all her building sites despite being a daughter of the aristocracy.
Her tombstone is at the southern end of the churchyard, but you have to be sharp eyed to spot it because the inscription is quite worn. The grave slabs at Trinity are all set flat into the ground, so you have to walk over them. She shares her final resting place with William Halford, her former clerk of works who took her in as a lodger after her bankruptcy.
A fine pair of Cheltenham bollards. These iron pillars stand guard at the junction between Trinity Lane and Portland Street. Similar ones can be found in the other alley on the Winchcombe Street side and several other of the town’s interesting back alleys. Many of them were made locally by celebrated Cheltenham ironmonger Richard Eede Marshall, whose company was involved in the crafting of much of the town’s fancy Regency metalwork.