Douro Road

2 01 2009

penfoldpillarbox

Complete with authentic basal dandelion, this Penfold pillar box is one of eight survivors of its type in Cheltenham. They were made between 1866 and 1879 by the Cochrane Grove Company in Dudley and are one of the most distinctive and flamboyant of mail receptacles. You can recognise them by their hexagonal shape and beaded edge, topped with flowing acanthus leaves and an elegant central bud. Not so easy to see in this photo, it also has on the front a coat of arms and Queen Victoria’s cipher (monogram). Cheltenham is thought to have the largest number of still-in-use Penfold pillar boxes outside London. And this one here is in Douro Road.

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This very pretty residential street connects up two of Cheltenham’s landmark streets, Lansdown Crescent and Christ Church Road. It’s smaller scale than its companions but very much in keeping with their self-assured image. Shamelessly prettified mini-villas in semi-detached pairs make up a large part of the street, but there’s quite a bit of variety overall.

The street can probably trace its origins to the 1840s. Merrett’s 1834 map showed the Lansdown estate as it was planned rather than as it was actually built, and includes only a short section of Douro Road’s southern end surrounded by large villas. Most of the villas were never built, and the upper part of Douro Road was developed in a straight line across the estate rather than curving eastwards as initially envisioned.

The road in its present form first appears on maps in 1840 but there was no housing development at that time, it was simply a link road between the two senior streets, known as Sefton Place. By the time it started to be built up, the name Douro Road had been adopted for about half of it, the other half being called Northwick Road.

The name Douro comes from a river negotiated by the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War in 1809. His efforts there earned him the title of Marquess of Douro.

Northwick Road crops up in the Streets and Highways Commission report for April 1876 when the Misses Lingwood and others complained about the condition of the footpaths in the area. The following month another complaint was made by Colonel Lewes, who asked for nameplates to be put at either end of Northwick Road to distinguish the two roads. The committee apparently decided instead that the whole lot should be called Douro Road.

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These houses are part of a group of six built in 1847 by builder George Dover of Tivoli Place, and once had their own separate name, Douro Villas.

Driveway decoration: a 1963 Morris Minor.

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The southerly end of Douro Road runs alongside the pretty triangle of open green in front of Lansdown Parade and Lansdown Crescent. This spacious green is crucial to the character of this magnificent area and it’s difficult to imagine it without it, but originally it was intended to be built on. The plan for the Lansdown estate was for the whole of this central green to be filled up with villas, but it ran into financial difficulties and this area was left unbuilt.

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Photos taken October 2008

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