Photos taken November 2008
Unobtrusive and semi-invisible (in the sense that you can walk past them dozens of times without really noticing they’re there), service lanes are a common feature in Cheltenham’s Regency areas. Most of the grand houses and terraces of that period had these narrow roads running along the back of them where stables, coach-houses, staff cottages and other necessary clutter could be kept conveniently to hand but discreetly out of sight. One such unassuming thoroughfare is Southwood Lane, which runs in a straight line between the top end of Suffolk Square (near the Montpellier roundabout) and the bottom end of Lypiatt Road, originally serving the backsides of the fine villas in both streets.
Surprisingly, the lane seems to have been unnamed for the first 140 years or so of its existence, only acquiring the name Southwood Lane in 1960. It was named after a house in Lypiatt Road called Southwood, which was formerly a boarding house belonging to Cheltenham College and one of several of their properties to bear that name over the years. The house, in turn, was named after the Rev. Thomas Southwood, who was a headmaster in the 19th century.
There isn’t as much to see in Southwood Lane as there is in some of the other service lanes in Cheltenham. But it has this very nice pair of cottages called Coach House Mews which still sport a lot of original features including a wooden hatch in the wall at pavement level and vertical decorative stripes incorporating the window frames. Notice how deep set the windows and doors are, a clue to the age of these cottages, which actually pre-date the lane they stand in.
The coach house (far right of the picture) and these mews cottages are the only surviving relic of Suffolk House, a supergrand double bow-fronted house built by the Earl of Suffolk around 1808 on the corner plot between Suffolk Square and Southwood Lane and now the site of some grimly utilitarian 1930s flats whose dark bulk and charming fire-escape stairways overshadow the cottages. Suffolk House is one of the town’s lamented lost buildings but was itself built on the site of an 18th century house, Galipot Farm, whose name survives only in the name of a cottage in nearby Andover Road.
The 1834 map shows Southwood Lane running across what had recently been fields and without following the old field boundaries. It had several other mews cottages by then, on both sides. The map also shows that Lypiatt Road was previously called Suffolk Lawn and was only developed on its east side at that time.
1834 map showing Southwood Lane (unnamed) running behind Suffolk House, complete with cottages and outbuildings. Suffolk Lawn (now called Lypiatt Road) was only developed on one side and overlooked open fields. Suffolk Square was still only partially completed. Two more disused names shown here are Suffolk Place (now part of Suffolk Square) and Montpellier Gate (where the elongated roundabout and Gordon Lamp are now).
Southwood Lane is not shown on the 1820 Post Office map, so it most likely dates not from the building of Suffolk House itself but from the development of the rest of the rest of the Galipot Farm site in the 1820s.
The opposite side of the lane, and the back gateways of Regency houses in Lypiatt Road.