Windows on Cheltenham: arches

5 01 2010


Tivoli Lane

Wellington Lane

Cheltenham Chapel

Cheltenham Chapel, St George’s Square

St George’s Road

North Lodge

North Lodge, St Paul’s Road

The Woodlands, Rodney Road

Ashford Road windows

Ashford Road

Portland Chapel, North Place

Queen’s Retreat

Douro Road

Oriel Lodge, Oriel Road

Architectural curiosities: Priory Street

23 10 2009

At a first glance you probably wouldn’t notice anything unusual on this rather lovely 1830s terrace of four houses in Priory Street on the corner of Hewlett Place. Look closely at some of the details though, and it obviously wasn’t finished off in quite the way it was intended. Whether it’s the result of different builders and owners applying their own tastes and style decisions, or whether it’s simply a case of the development running out of money, remains a mystery – it could of course be a bit of both.


These are the first two houses in the terrace. The obvious difference is in the windows. The first house has three bays in the upper storey while its neighbour only has two, and the two tall thin windows on the ground floor are substituted next door for an altogether more ostentatious single one, although they are similar in style. More subtly, the second house has fewer glazing bars in the window over the door, and its front railings, although matching those of the first house, are lacking in the delicate curvaceous scrolls in between the rails. Otherwise the houses are designed to match. They both have panelled giant pilasters (i.e. decorative fake columns which span both storeys) topped with capitals, each decorated with a very pretty anthemion motif. Except – whoopsies – the capital on the left hand side is missing. Maybe it was always absent, but it’s probably more likely that it fell off at some point. Above each of the capitals is another panel with a wreath design … except that the one in the middle is blank – not sure whether or not it was meant to be like that.

If you look at the top of the houses they have a carved ornamental bit on top of the parapet. Not easy to see the detail in the photo above, so here is an enlargement (zoomed in from the same photo).


On the first house we have a panelled tablet and a beautifully delicate scroll carved with acanthus leaves. But …


On the second house – erm … no carving. The basic scroll shape is there, but it’s blank and still waiting to be carved. The cornice underneath is also simplified.

An even more striking example of the unfinished carving on the second house is right there on the ground floor window. You can’t see it too well in the main photo above, but when you zoom in …


The main part of the window is beautifully finished off with carved wreaths and a pair of scroll console brackets … lovingly detailed with acanthus leaves. But the scroll ornament on the top is blank – still in its “ready-to-carve” stage.

This kind of unfinished detail is usually a matter of running out of money, and that’s certainly the impression here when you move on to the other half of the terrace …


Although the design is the same across the whole terrace, there is a very obvious move to economise on these third and fourth houses. The panelled pilasters are gone – replaced with a very plain, narrow and simple pilaster with no capitals and no decorative panels. They also have the same ‘unfinished’ roof ornament seen on house two … blank scroll outlines with no carving. The railings are simpler too, and lack the ornamental finials seen on the first two houses. Not everything is compromised though … they still have the ornate ground floor windows, and a variation in the front door, which is inside an arched recess.

These four houses were most likely built in the late 1830s. Their site is shown on the 1834 map as a mere plot of grass, but interestingly the map shows the rest of Priory Street laid out for the building of another longer terrace which was never completed. Only the central and end pairs of houses were built by 1834, and the rest of the plot remained vacant until well into the 20th century.

Just as an aside, the pilaster capitals with the anthemion design appear to be absolutely identical to the ones that occur on Thatcher’s Tea Room at the bottom of Montpellier Street, way over on the other side of the town centre.


Priory Street, left and Thatcher’s Tea Room, right.

I assume they were both pre-cast, from a commercial pattern. It’s not just the anthemion design that’s the same either … the giant panelled pilasters are also exactly the same.

Balcony gallery

19 10 2009


York Terrace, St George’s Road, a striking and unusual cast iron balcony with interlaced circles and diamonds


And further along the same terrace … a slightly more traditional arangement. This design can be traced to the Falkirk Iron Company.


Lansdown Crescent, classic “heart and honeysuckle” panel, made by the Carron Company in Scotland in the 1820s and very popular all over Regency Cheltenham


Royal Crescent, early ironwork from around 1806-10 with beautiful and unusual brackets. Much of the ironwork in Royal Crescent can be traced to a Worcester ironmonger called John Bradley.


London Road, another classic design of around 1820, latticed borders top and bottom with small lead flowers and tassels fused onto the upright bars – this type of balcony can be seen in many places in Cheltenham


Top of Montpellier Avenue, a balcony goddess on a Doric portico


Montpellier Terrace, small latticework balcony with lead flowers on the joints, probably late 1820s or early 1830s


Queen’s Parade, chunky cast iron mini-balcony with anthemion design, early 1840s

Cheltenham’s Ornamental Ironwork by Amina Chatwin is the definitive work on this subject!

Windows on Cheltenham: with signs

22 01 2009

Part two of an occasional series.









14 01 2009


Normanhurst is a large private house, formerly in use as a residential care home, in Christ Church Road on the corner of Eldorado Road.

I don’t know very much about this beautiful Gothic-inspired house except that it was built in 1882 by a family called Smith.

Between 1933 and 1979 it was the home of a fearsome lady magistrate, Stella Louise Ingram.


What makes this house extraordinary, as you can see, is the elaborate arrangement of oddly shaped gables and the spectacular array of figures and esoteric symbols carved in local Cotswold stone, cluttered and overwhelming but the work of a stone-carving genius. Sunbursts, lion-heads, leaves, flowers, horned shapes, animals and birds adorn every window frame and sticky-outy bit, orderly but asymmetrical, immaculately chiselled from an amazingly fertile imagination.


Around the side of the house which overlooks Eldorado Road is a series of jack-in-the-green faces. The design is more restrained along this side and the gables have simple clean lines, but the craftsmanship is equally impressive.

Normanhurst is completely unlike any of the other houses in Christ Church Road, solidly chunky brick-built villas being the norm here. But round the corner in Queen’s Road you can find a row of six villas which may have been worked on by the same craftsman. The houses themselves are nothing like Normanhurst, but above their doors they have panels of carvings (all different) which show a similar menagerie of animals and birds.

The only other place in Cheltenham I know of with similarly eccentric critter carvings (in a much less ostentatious setting) is the west side of Wellington Square, which again has a range of different animals in odd places but is a few years older, completed in 1859. Whether there’s any connection I don’t know.


Green man faces on gables on the north side.

Windows on Cheltenham: Regency

28 12 2008


St George’s Road


Wellington Square, Pittville


Oxford Parade, London Road


Bayshill Road


Back of building in the Lower High Street, from St Mary’s churchyard


Suffolk Road

Regency backsides

16 11 2008


Scruffy butt end of Montpellier Terrace. Photos taken October 2008

If you’ve ever gone down any of the mews lanes at the back of Cheltenham’s finest terraces you’ll know that Regency architecture has a shameful secret. The beautiful facades you see at the front don’t apply to the backs. In most cases the rear ends of these glamorous houses are little more than a scruffy expanse of brick and drainpipes. Here are some of my favourites.


Lansdown Crescent, front


Lansdown Crescent, back


Wellington Square, front


Wellington Square, back


Columbia Place, Winchcombe Street, front


Columbia Place, Winchcombe Street, back


Lansdown Terrace, Malvern Road, front


Lansdown Terrace, Malvern Road, back