Photos taken September 2009
According to Place Names of Gloucestershire, ‘lypiatt’ is a word which crops up in a few places around the county and means ‘gate in an enclosure fence which only deer can leap’. What does it say about our Gloucestershire forebears that they felt the urge to create a word for such a thing, and such a pretty word at that? In this instance the name has a very old association with this part of town, long pre-dating any development here. The field on which Lypiatt Road was built was called The Lypiatts, and shown on a 1776 enclosure map as Lippetts, still surviving in other house and street names. On the 1834 map, when the Tivoli Place houses were newly constructed, Andover Road was named as Lippiate Street – not to be confused with the present day Lypiatt Street which now leads off it at right-angles.
Lypiatt Road is a very attractive residential street (or it was residential originally, anyway) between the Montpellier roundabout and Suffolk Road. It runs dead straight for a way and then sweeps round in an elegant curve. The two sides of the street were developed separately, and although they were only built 20 years apart they represent two quite different phases in Cheltenham’s history.
And yet, despite the ancient pedigree of the Lypiatt name and the status of this street as one of Cheltenham’s finest, Lypiatt Road was actually officially nameless until as late as 1906. Up until then it was referred to as ‘the road in front of Suffolk Lawn and Lypiatt Terrace’, emphasising the difference between the two sides.
To trace the history of Lypiatt Road you have to go back to Galipot Farm and the Earl of Suffolk.
Galipot Farm was quite an important Cheltenham landmark and stood alone in the fields for over a century before the rest of the town took shape. It was described as “lately erected” in 1694 when it went by the name of Gallypott Hall, and although no image of it is known to survive it was most likely quite a large and fine residence. In the late 18th century it was part of the property of John de la Bere, who owned most of this area at the time. It was a popular spot for social gatherings during the heyday of the original Cheltenham spa, and John Byng in his diary of 1781 refers to a farm called The Gallipot “to which parties are made for tea, syllabub, etc.” The site of Lypiatt Road was part of the Galipot estate, although it was just open fields at that time. In the early 1800s, Galipot Farm and its surrounding fields were bought by the Earl of Suffolk, who promptly demolished the old farmhouse and had a grand bow-fronted house of his own built on its site. Only the farmhouse kitchen was spared and incorporated into the new house. Sadly Suffolk House (as it was called) was lost in the 1930s and replaced by a fairly grim block of flats, but anyway – the building of Suffolk House in around 1808 marked a new phase for this area of Cheltenham.
The 1806 map below shows Galipot Farm in the final year or so of its existence.
1806 map. It’s a little difficult to get your bearings on such a sparse map, so I’ve added a couple of labels to show where today’s familiar streets are. The Galipot farm buildings stand where the Suffolk Square flats are today, and the road along the front of the farm corresponds with Back Montpellier Terrace (not Montpellier Terrace itself). The New Well shown here is the short-lived Sherborne Well which stood roughly on the site of the Gordon Lamp on Montpellier roundabout. Similarly, the wide road passing down past Grove Cottage (long since vanished) is not the Promenade, as you might expect, but present day Montpellier Street.
For a few years, Suffolk House stood on its own in the fields just as Galipot Farm had done. But in 1820 the Earl of Suffolk died and his daughter sold off the surplus lands on either side of the house, which were snapped up by James Fisher, the proprietor of the Clarence Hotel in Clarence Parade (the hotel building still exists, now called John Dower House). Fisher had big ambitions as a property speculator and on one side of his new land he laid out the magnificent terraces and grand houses of Suffolk Square, using the classic Regency layout of a central communal garden with houses facing towards it around all four sides. He also had an eye for fresh talent, and took on a young and unknown local architect, Edward Jenkins. Work began in 1823 and progressed well until the devastating credit crunch at the end of 1825, which stalled building activities somewhat – while the dashing young architect made himself unpopular by eloping with the daughter of a wealthy patron. The first completed houses were ready in 1826, and it was noted in 1828 that Suffolk Square “as yet boasts but two or three finished houses”. However, unlike so many of the other Cheltenham speculators, Fisher survived the financial downturn and managed to complete the Suffolk estate even if it took him a while, also branching out into further (but less ambitious) property schemes in Fairview.
Gazebo in Lypiatt Road (no I wasn’t sloshed when I took the picture, it’s set into a sloping lawn)
There is evidence to suggest that Lypiatt Road – or the unnamed road that evolved into it – was in existence by 1820, perhaps built initially as a turnpike road. It appears on the Post Office map of 1820, apparently undeveloped, though it’s hard to tell for sure because most of it is off the edge of the map. Interestingly the map also labels the line of present day Montpellier Street as Old Lane to Gallipot Farm (sic) suggesting that the farm’s status as a local landmark lived on for some years after its buildings vanished. As was often the case with the more grandiose Regency developments in Cheltenham, the Suffolk estate paid no attention to existing field boundaries or footpaths – its design was carved out across virgin territory. The elegant curve of Lypiatt Road is most likely an affectation of those who built it, and gives no more than a passing nod to the mildly curved field edges of Galipot Farm. The road’s presence on the 1820 map suggests it was probably already there when James Fisher bought the land, and a later reference (in 1870) to Lypiatt Road “formerly known as Painswick Turnpike Road” suggests that it was originally formed as a through-route, with Painswick Road forming the next section.
Lypiatt Road was developed as part of the Suffolk estate, even though it was on the far side of Suffolk House and not directly connected to the rest of Fisher’s development in Suffolk Square, and its building work was underway at around the same time. It was originally named Park Place – not to be confused with the current nearby street of that name – and shortly afterwards re-badged as Suffolk Lawn. The initial development consisted of five large detached houses along the east side of Lypiatt Road, almost certainly the work of the young architect Edward Jenkins.
Stanmer House (above) is one of the houses collectively known as Suffolk Lawn. Although all different, they are of classic Regency Cheltenham style with clean elegant lines. This one has a chunky portico, with Ionic columns and arched windows edged with stained glass. Some of the houses have a bow window on the side overlooking the garden. The exact date of Suffolk Lawn’s building is not known but a request for street lighting in 1827 suggests that at least some of the houses were built and occupied by then. Most of the other Suffolk Lawn houses have been converted to business premises in recent years, but this one is residential and retains a lot of its original features, including wooden internal shutters across the ground floor windows (a kind of precursor to net curtains) and its original sweeping semi-circular driveway, designed to provide convenient access for carriages.
As was common in the 19th century, the Suffolk Lawn development gave its name to the entire street, and that’s how it appears on the 1834 map below. This name for the street was short-lived, surviving only until the arrival of a more dominant development across the road. But on the map below you can see how the five detached houses with their spacious gardens and semi-circular driveways originally looked out over an expanse of field towards Lansdown Place, which was under development at exactly the same time – begun in 1826 and progressing slowly through the financially shaky years. The south side of Lansdown Road was then unbuilt, and simply lined with trees along the field edge. The newly laid out lines of Tivoli would also have been visible on the other side of the field, marked here under the shortlived name of Lippiate Street.
The map also shows a few other interesting things. The large L-shaped Suffolk House of 1808, on the site of Galipot farmhouse, sits directly behind the Suffolk Lawn development, separated from it by a straight and narrow service lane now known as Southwood Lane (which has its own Cheltonia article). The rest of the Suffolk estate is shown as a work in progress. The magnificent terrace on the north side of Suffolk Square, now one of Cheltenham’s architectural showpieces, is shown marked out but with only the first two houses built, and in fact it took until 1848 to finish it. At the top of the map is the Montpellier Pump Room, now generally called the Rotunda, with Montpellier Terrace and Gardens also taking shape.
The west side of Lypiatt Road remained unbuilt for a number of years, but inevitably the remaining triangle of field shown here – still then called The Lypiatts – was much sought after, being bounded on all sides by the fashionable Suffolk, Tivoli and Lansdown developments. It wasn’t until 1847 that the land was finally parcelled up for building, by a “respectable builder of this town” (according to the Cheltenham Looker-On) called Richard Keightly.
A new building speculation has within the last few days commenced in the field opposite Suffolk Lawn and Lansdown Place, which for so many years has invited the attention of those who were anxious for ‘eligible investments’ in brick and mortar, in vain … erection of a row of 18 first-class houses.
And so came Lypiatt Terrace into being. It is one of the latest of Cheltenham’s major terraces and reflects a change of taste and style from its Regency neighbours across the street. The Victorian era had arrived, and with it an architectural extravagance and showiness which contrast with the classical style of the Suffolk estate. Set back from the road behind a wide strip of communal lawn, the terrace is designed in an Italianate style with rounded arched windows and a long balcony right along its frontage formed from carved stone rings.
The end of terrace at the south end of Lypiatt Terrace (above) and a section of the frontage (below).
It’s not known for certain who designed Lypiatt Terrace. I have seen it credited to Samuel Whitfield Daukes, who was certainly responsible for some other Italianate architecture of the same period, but I can’t find any other reference to this. Another strong possibility is that it was designed by Richard Keightley himself, as he was certainly responsible for the laying out of the individual building plots. As was the norm at that time, the plots for individual houses within the terrace were sold off separately at auction, so that often different builders were responsible for each of them, but under an obligation to adhere very precisely to the same design so that the finished terrace looked perfectly uniform. Building certificates from the time show that the terrace was under construction through until 1849 and that Richard Keightley built four of the houses himself. There are 17 houses in total, not 18 as originally reported in the Cheltenham Looker-On.
1921 map. Houses of Lypiatt Road marked in red.
This map shows the Suffolk Lawn side of the road much as it was in 1834 above, but with the addition of Lypiatt Terrace across the road. The terrace has a capacious lawn and series of driveways at the front, small private gardens at the back, and behind those a small service lane. By this time several large houses had been built on the rest of the field along Lansdown Road (named here as Lansdown Place) including one called The Lypiatts, preserving the name of the field itself.