Street sign alphabet: C

20 09 2011

An occasional series celebrating the humble (and occasionally not so humble) street sign. Starting with the letter C. Well why not? There’s a lot of ’em.

Clarence Parade. Dating street name signs is always difficult, but I would guess this slender and understated nameplate belongs to the mid or late 19th century. Seen here on one of the earlier Regency terraces, where it fits in nicely with the wrought-iron verandah.

Cheltenham Chapel, Jenner Walk. Well, at least dating this one isn’t difficult. A more detailed history of the chapel can be found in the article about Jenner Gardens, but this V-cut hand-chiselled plaque remains one of the few of its kind in Cheltenham, and one of the earliest. (In 1809 most of the town hadn’t yet been built, and little existed beyond the High Street.) The lettering is a fairly standard style for this period but the bar on the letter A is strangely high up. The panel is a slightly odd shape … perhaps it originally had some kind of border around it.

Chapel Lane. Completely unrelated to Cheltenham Chapel above, this little gem is behind the Bethesda Chapel in the south part of town. An early Cheltenham nameplate in cast iron with deeply scalloped corners and clarendon-style letters.

Casino Place. This is one of the “classic” Cheltenham styles you see all over the place. The slim elegant plate is similar to the one above, but notice that the typeface is completely different – a self-confident sans-serif. A plastic drainpipe is courteously diverted to allow it pride of place. Named after a house called Casino (no longer extant), Casino Place has its own article.

Claremont House. An example of a painted name on a house in Montpellier Terrace (you may just be able to see in the picture that the stone has been painted with cream paint underneath the letters to give it a solid background). The balcony above is a very nice example of early wrought-ironwork, with which Montpellier Terrace is especially well endowed.

Clarence Square. A typical modern Cheltenham street sign. I’m glad the council has been sensitive enough to maintain the local style of white letters on a black background rather than the boring blue-on-fluorescent-white things which have become ubiquitous in recent years. And at least this one is metal – the recent move towards plastic nameplates has not been so good. But it still looks a bit “municipal” in this historic Pittville square.

Chester Walk. Discreetly nailed to the ashlar face at the back of the library, this is another of the confident sans-serif jobs which always seem to look good, even when in need of a lick of paint. Named after Colonel Berkeley’s gorgeous Chester House, once the centre of Regency social life but now demolished, this unassuming little lane is among Cheltenham’s most ancient streets; read about it here.

Christ Church Road. Now that’s a proper cast iron job. The spacing is a bit funny (look at the huge T in relation to the other letters) but it has character and the highly raised letters stand out from the background. The narrow sans-serif face is much lighter and plainer than the one above. I’m grateful to John who lives in Christ Church Road for pointing out that this older sign shows the correct naming of the street in three separate words, while a couple of newer replacement signs elsewhere in the street have incorrectly condensed it to “Christchurch” Road.

Cheltenham Magistrates Court, St George’s Road. I’ll be honest – I bloody hate this building, with its concrete fins and its depressing monospaced windows and anaemic railings, and all the more so because its nauseous bulk replaced a group of Victorian villas during the demolition frenzy of the late 1960s. But it’s a courthouse – it’s not designed to be loved. The recently replaced signage at the front has brought a kind of no-nonsense dignity to what is otherwise a hideous architectural own-goal.

Church Street. Another ugly one – but Cheltonia’s job is to show Cheltenham as it really is, not as the tourist brochures would have it. This probably dates from the 1960s when the office block it’s attached to was built. I’ll wager that many residents of Cheltenham will not have heard of Church Street let alone be able to give directions to it – and yet it’s one of the oldest and most central streets, and predates the Regency town by centuries. It’s the narrow lane which hugs the perimeter wall of the churchyard and is too discreet and unassuming to really be noticed by anybody. This street sign is lead grey, very small, partially obscured and tucked away inside an alley, apparently noticed only by people who like to throw kebabs and curry sauce at it.

Crescent Bakery, St George’s Place. The bakery itself has long given way to office space and a doctor’s surgery, but its attractive name panel still stands proudly emblazoned on its gable. The design successfully combines the pilasters and volutes of its Neoclassical neighbours (the building backs onto the gardens of Royal Crescent) with the more organic Art Nouveau typography of the building’s own time period.

County Court Road. This cast iron sign matches the one for Christ Church Road shown above – notice it has the same oversized letter T. No prizes for guessing how this street got its name though.

Cambray Place. One of the first streets to be developed when Cheltenham went Regency, the sign for Cambray Place is nevertheless of a kind you don’t see around that much. It’s quite small, and the high-relief letters are in a clarendon type. Similar to, but not the same as, the one in Chapel Lane. The Cambray name is an old one; it reflects the site of Cambray Meadow on which this street was built – part of Cambray Farm, which in turn was named after a local family going back many centuries.

Corpus Street. This is another distinctive style of street nameplate which is widely used in Cheltenham, representing the big, bold and beefy municipal tastes of the Victorian era. Made from heavy cast iron, it’s still got the local style of delicate scalloped corners but the lettering is done in a broad, in-yer-face slabserif. In this instance, “Corpus” is in a less bold weight than “Street”, for whatever reason. Named after Corpus Christi College in Oxford (who formerly owned the land) you can read more about Corpus Street here.

Cyprus Cottages. Groups of cottages in the 19th century were often given their own unique name, independent of the street they were in. Most of these names have fallen out of use but they can still be found. These cottages are in Alstone Lane, their name hand-chiselled and painted. The name probably commemorates Britain getting its colonial mitts on the administration of Cyprus in 1878.

Charles Street. Stylistically more like a car number plate than a street sign, this late 20th century example is quite elegant in its simplicity. No longer made of cast iron in this period, the letters are stamped into a softer metal. For more about this street, which was originally named Albert Street, see here.

College Lawn. Yes it’s our old familiar chirpy sans-serif again. Looking every bit as stylish on a set of railings as it does half way up a wall.

Carlton Street. Whoopsies.

Commercial Street. Another chunky Victorian job in slabserif typestyle, as seen on Corpus Street, but this time the letters are in a consistent weight. Commercial Street may seem an odd name for a street these days, the word having acquired a negative connotation, but during the Victorian era it would have had an aspirational ring to it as a street where trade could thrive.

Crescent Place. At first glance this slender and discreet nameplate looks like our usual sans-serif friend as seen on College Lawn above, but if you look at them both closely, the typeface is different. See how wide the letter L is in comparison with College Lawn. The E is very wide too, and looks quite disproportionate to the C next to it. This plate does, however, match the one on Clarence Parade at the very top of this article.

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Railing finials: urns

11 11 2009

18th century urn

St George’s Place. This is one of Cheltenham’s oldest railing finials, probably made around 1795. It’s tall and ornate, patterned with beading and leaves and topped with a small pineapple (the detail is slightly worn on this example). It belongs to Athelney House, which is one of a terrace of four built in this street in the late 18th century. One of the other houses in the terrace was occupied by Dr Jenner, the smallpox vaccination pioneer. His house was demolished in the 1960s and rebuilt in 1994 with replica railings.

18th century urn

St George’s Place. Another in the same terrace, also dating from around 1795. At first glance it looks similar to the one above, but it’s actually quite a different design.

Royal Crescent urn

Royal Crescent. Another early urn, from about 1810. Its beautiful condition belies its age. The railings in Royal Crescent are know to have been supplied by a Worcester ironmonger called John Bradley. It’s unlikely that he made the urns himself though, as he didn’t set up his own foundry until several years later.

Crescent Place urn

Crescent Place. This patterned urn was made some time before 1820.

Crescent Place urn

Crescent Place. As was this plain one, on the house next door.

Montpellier Terrace plain urn

Montpellier Terrace. Most of the houses in this street were built in the 1820s, although some are slightly earlier. There are several different urn designs to be found along this stretch of road, and this is probably one of the older ones.

Montpellier Terrace urn

Montpellier Terrace. This is an unusual urn design for Cheltenham, accompanied here by some nice fleur de lys rail heads.

Marshall urn, Lansdown Parade

Lansdown Parade. This, on the other hand, is a design you will find in many places in Cheltenham. It’s a Marshall urn, cast locally by the firm R.E. & C. Marshall and appearing on many sets of railings from the 1810s onwards – this one was probably made as late as 1838. These urns are easy to spot because they are ‘badged’ – they feature the name ‘Marshall’ around one side and ‘Cheltenham’ on the other.

Marshall urn, Oxford Parade

Oxford Parade. Here’s another Marshall urn, showing the ‘Cheltenham’ badge on the other side. This one was made in about 1817.

Wheeler urn, Bath Road

Bath Road. Another ‘badged’ urn, this time bearing the name of W. Wheeler and dating from some time in the 1820s. There are quite a lot of Wheeler urns in Cheltenham from around this period, and ironwork expert Amina Chatwin has identified three different designs, although they are superfically quite similar. But next to nothing is known about W. Wheeler, or how his urns came to be so widely used in Cheltenham.

As always, “Cheltenham’s Ornamental Ironwork” by Amina Chatwin has been an invaluable source for this post.





Lypiatt Road

6 10 2009

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

1834map_lypiatt

1834 map.

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.

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The end of terrace at the south end of Lypiatt Terrace (above) and a section of the frontage (below).

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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.

1921map_lypiatt

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.





Westal Green

13 09 2009

westalgreen1

Photos taken November 2008 unless otherwise noted

The name Westal Green chiefly survives these days as the name of a roundabout in the middle of the A40 – barely hanging on to any claim to greenness, its most conspicuous landmarks being a petrol station and a neoclassical electricity substation. But it has a long history – as a medieval tithing, an important six-way road junction, and one-time carpet-beating scourge of Cheltenham.

You could be forgiven for not giving Westal Green a second glance – especially if you’re trying to negotiate its traffic junction. It sits in the middle of the busy Lansdown Road (the main route from Cheltenham to Gloucester) at its junction with Andover Road, Hatherley Road, Lansdown Parade and Queen’s Road. In the past it has been a public open space and to some extent it still is … although there’s not much incentive to dash across the traffic clogged A40 to visit it.

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Not exactly a shining specimen of Cheltonian beauty, the Texaco garage is what greets the eye when approaching Westal Green from the town side. Note however the elegant mature tree by the right hand entrance to the garage … a relic of a somewhat prettier past. The green was at one time noted for its spectacularly beautiful mature trees … several 19th century writers mention the ancient sycamores, elms and aspens which grew there, “that seem to tell of the ‘forest days’ of a bygone generation, exhibiting a great deal of wild-wood beauty and character in the development of their spreading branches” (Davies, 1843). There used to be a very large and beautiful cluster of trees on the site of the garage, but sadly these are long gone, although parts of Lansdown Road are still pleasantly tree-lined. The block of flats to the left of the picture is Regents Court, built on the site of Nubie House and Elm Lodge.

Believe it or not though, even the petrol station has historic significance. It was built in 1928, and as such was one of the earliest – possibly even the first – petrol stations in Cheltenham. The original building was a curious pagoda-like structure designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, the eccentric architect famous for his creation of the fantasy village Portmeirion on the North Wales coast. Although much altered, extended and re-branded, the garage still retains the original Williams-Ellis roof.

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“What’s that?” is the question I’m most frequently asked by guests when passing this strange and rather squat building in the middle of the roundabout. The simple (if not very obvious) answer is that it’s an electricity substation. It was built in 1929, designed in a valiant attempt to blend in with the Regency surroundings of Lansdown and Tivoli. It looks quite pretty on this side with its balustrade and Doric columns, but the rather blind and scary-looking windows, especially round the other side, offset some of its charm. However, as electricity substations go it’s a pretty impressive effort.

Prior to the building of the substation, this spot was occupied by a WW1 tank, of all things. It was presented to the people of Cheltenham in 1919 as a little thank you present for their generosity in investing over two million pounds in war bonds. It sat on its own little concrete plinth in the middle of Westal Green for a mere eight years before being moved to Montpellier Gardens, where it remained – in an increasing state of vandalisation – until it fell victim to the town’s WW2 efforts and was sent to be scrapped and recycled into new munitions in 1940. Steven Blake’s ‘Cheltenham: A Pictorial History’ has a lovely picture of it during its brief Westal Green tenure.

Also on the green around this period was a carved stone drinking fountain donated in 1891 by three elderly maiden sisters, Mary, Anne and Ellen Whish. They lived at 14 Lansdown Parade with their housemaid and cook, and were well known for their charity work for the poor around the Lansdown and Tivoli area. It was topped by a rounded canopy decorated with stone buds, and was given as a gift by these philanthropic ladies to commemorate their 50 years in Cheltenham. When the substation was built in 1929 the fountain was moved to Sandford Park, where it still stands today, just off Keynsham Road.

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One of the finer landmarks of the Westal Green roundabout is also one of the most overlooked. This pillar box at the side of Lansdown Road is one of eight surviving (and still in use) Penfold pillar boxes in Cheltenham. Arguably the most glamorous public mail receptacle ever to grace the streets of Britain, the Penfold design stands out for its hexagonal shape and decorative beaded cap topped with a cast iron acanthus bud. Queen Victoria’s monogram on the front of the casing gives some idea of the age of the box – they were made for only a few years from 1866 to 1879. Originally it would have had an enamalled flap over the slot, but on this one it has not survived … no doubt these flaps took a lot of punishment over the years from people trying to forcibly cram their mail through the inconveniently petit slot.

The spelling of Westal is variable even today … it is sometimes spelled Westall. It’s a very old name, derived from Westhal, meaning ‘western nook of land’. It first shows up under that name as far back as 1201, when it was a tithing name given to a long stretch of land to the south of Hatherley Road. There is also Westal Brook, a stream which once marked the boundary between Cheltenham and Leckhampton, and which still flows beneath much of Tivoli and Leckhampton today despite a few diversions and a lot of culverting.

One resident of  Westal tithing managed to get himself arrested and burnt at the stake in 1556 as a heretic, after travelling to Salisbury and disrupting a church service there. The Cheltenham court rolls record that John Cobberley “who held one messuage and fourteen acres of land [in Westall] was lately attainted and burnt for diverse heresies and false opinions in Salisbury”. (Hart, p.58)

A survey of “Gallipot and Westhall Farm” in 1765 shows the existence of a large farmhouse called Westall on the north side of the green, and presents a detailed record of all the field names in the area. Galipot Farm was an adjacent farm on the site of what is now Suffolk Square. Both farms were then the property of John de la Bere, a well established local landowner.

The junction at Westal Green was probably an important one from earliest times. Although the area wasn’t developed with housing until the 1820s, it was the point where the Naunton and Sandford roads came together and met up with the old road to Hatherley, on what was by then the main route into Gloucester. During the reign of Henry VIII all the inhabitants of Westal were obliged “to help break stones and repair the highway at Westhall and to stone the bridge and make it fit for the King’s lieges to cross without damage to body and goods” (Hart, p.43). Failure to do so resulted in a fine of 5 shillings for all those who owned a plough and 3 shillings for those who didn’t.

From around 1810 Westal Green hosted a rail line for horse-drawn trams, for which purpose the line of present day Queen’s Road was forged across the fields initially as a railroad. Westal Green was the point where the tram line crossed the main Gloucester road. The 1806 map below shows the area just before the railroad was built – when Queen’s Road didn’t exist.

1806map_westallgreen

1806 map. The orientation is different from a normal map – south west approximately at the top. It shows one solitary building, probably Westall House. There was no other residential development in the area at all in those days, just open fields, but the junction itself is clearly named. Part of the junction is tantalisingly off the edge of the map, but the wide section at the top is most likely the point at which Hatherley Road branches off.

In 1825 Pearson Thompson began laying out the Lansdown estate, and Westal Green’s status as a rural outpost came to an end. The fields behind Westall House were divided up into building plots for Lansdown Parade, and the line of Lansdown Crescent was carved out, with another terrace of houses – Lansdown Place – taking shape along the main road. Thompson is one of the key figures in the development of Regency Cheltenham but among his contemporaries he was regarded as a bit of a prat. He lived at that time at Hatherley Court, whose large estate then reached all the way up to Lansdown Road and adjoined Westal Green. He took it upon himself to occupy Westal Green as a semi-permanent dumping ground for the stocks of timber, stone, coal and bricks he needed for his building venture – much to the annoyance of everyone else. He even went so far as to instal a private railway siding to make it easier to shunt materials on and off it. Complaints were made about the difficulties of public access across the green and the spoiling of its surface. The Town Commissioners upheld the complaints, and ordered Thompson to dismantle his private railway line within ten days and repair the damage caused.

Thompson’s commandeering of the green wasn’t the only cause of Westal vexations in the Regency period though. In 1831 he sued the other inhabitants of Westal for failing to repair the surface of Hatherley Road, as in those days roads were generally not in public ownership and were the responsibility of adjacent property owners. The residents argued that the upkeep was not their responsibility because the road had never  been repaired “within the memory of man” – but this didn’t cut much ice with the judge at Gloucester Assizes and Thompson won his case.

In December 1837 the Cheltenham Looker-On reported a complaint that Westal Green had been “of late years used almost exclusively for the purpose of beating carpets on, to the serious annoyance of the neighbourhood and the frequent alarm of horses”. The issue was resolved by Lord Sherborne, who owned the green at the time and gave permission for it to be enclosed and planted up with evergreens, to become “an ornament for all the surrounding district”.

The large Westall House which had for many years been the focal point of Westal Green did not survive the development of the area. Its last occupant seems to have been the architect Robert Jearrad, who took over the development of the Lansdown estate from Pearson Thompson when Thompson ran into financial difficulties. The 1841 census shows Jearrad living at Westall House with his wife and four children but they seem to have abandoned it to dereliction shortly afterwards because H. Davies, writing in 1843 in his ‘A View of Cheltenham in its Past and Present State’, mentions “a low delapidated building called Westhall, one of the oldest houses in this part of Cheltenham, – and from its present uninhabited state – evidently intended to be removed altogether”. He was obviously right, because its site and grounds are now occupied by a couple of detached villas of circa 1850 (below).

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This early Victorian villa, now a children’s day nursery, is one of two built on the site of Westall House and its gardens. It still has a lovely original porch canopy. (Photographed September 2009)

Below are the 1834 and 1921 maps of the area, side by side as they’re interesting to compare.

By 1834 Westal Green takes the form of a triangle of green between the roads, formed by a new short road cutting off the nose of the spur of land – most likely established by force of local habit than by design – with the grand Westall House still standing proudly in its capacious grounds to the north west, in what must up until that time have been quite a rural setting. By now though, development of the Lansdown area was well underway, with Lansdown Crescent and its environs laid out ready for building. Note though, the lighter blue buildings on this map were projected developments only – and much of what is shown here was never built, or was built differently. Only the dark blue buildings were actually in existence when the map was drawn. Tivoli Place in present day Andover Road was newly completed, marked here with its earlier name of Lippiate Street, though the rest of Tivoli was not yet laid out. Lansdown Road is marked here with its earlier name of New Gloucester Road, with the terrace of Lansdown Place half built.  Present day Queen’s Road is shown here but without any housing (and with what appears to be a pond beside the junction). The black line running down Queen’s Road and along the south side of Westal Green and down through Lippiate Street is the old horse-drawn tram line which was used in the first half of the 19th century to transport stone and gravel down from the quarries on Leckhampton Hill. Down in the bottom left corner is the line of Hatherley Road – a very old road – with the long driveway down to Hatherley Court branching off it. On the far left is a large chunk of farmland parcelled into plots and named on the map as Westall Garden, with a gardener’s cottage. This area is described as a nursery garden way back in the 1765 farm survey.

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1834 map

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The same area in 1921

There are lots of interesting goodies shown on the 1921 Ordnance Survey map, which is beautifully detailed. The Whish sisters’ drinking fountain is marked at the western end, close to the plinth which housed the WW1 tank. It even shows the location of the Penfold pillar box pictured above – depicted here with the letters ‘L B’ (letter box). With the whole area now built up, Westal Green starts to look like a traffic island rather than a green, and is in two parts. Notice the difference between the proposed development of the Lansdown area on the 1834 map and the actual development shown here. Lansdown Place, originally intended to run all the way to Westal Green and meet up with the corner of Lansdown Crescent, ran out of steam and finished with a truncated end-of-terrace. The vacant plot left over from its non-completion was taken up by a detached villa and the Lansdown Hotel, built in 1843. A narrow footpath runs alongside the hotel to the back of the Crescent. The map also shows that Lansdown Parade was not built in the way originally envisaged – the proposed pairs of semi-detached villas in large gardens shown on the 1834 map were instead built as a terrace of much narrower houses, set back from the road with a carriage driveway and communal garden but having much smaller individual gardens.

There is a ‘stone’ marked on the 1921 map to the north east of the green, though it isn’t clear what type of stone, and it doesn’t appear to be there any more. However in its approximate vicinity I did find this:

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I assume it’s a benchmark for surveying (used in the days before GPS) although it isn’t one of the standard Ordnance Survey types. It has a benchmark symbol (the vertical arrow) and a panel above it which may originally have had an information plate attached to it, presumably giving a measurement in ‘ft’ and ‘in’ as shown. The ER with a crown probably indicates it’s Edwardian.

The 1921 map shows Tivoli expanded into a whole grid of streets, with St Stephen’s Road forging its path over what had been a field boundary in the previous map. A large house – Hatherley Lawn – had been built in what was formerly Westall Garden, although a couple of chunks of the garden continued to flourish for many years until gradually swallowed up by development. It looks as though the original L-shaped gardener’s cottage may have been retained as part of the property, but it’s hard to tell as it isn’t in quite the same place on the two maps.

Also by now Queen’s Road had become a residential street built up with fine villas, its old tram lines long since removed. The magnificent Osborne House now occupied the former nursery garden land between Queen’s Road and Lansdown Road, as it still does today. Westall House, portayed so boldly on the 1834 map, is long gone.

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Osborne House, viewed from Westal Green. The wing on the right hand side has been added in more recent times. (Photographed September 2009)

The 1921 map also shows some of the other large houses built around Westal Green during the 19th century. The financial collapse of Pearson Thompson’s property ventures led to the sale of his home at Hatherley Court in 1841, and some of its substantial grounds were sold off separately as high-class building plots.

Nubie House was built some time around 1850. It belonged initially to Mr H. Burgh, an art collector whose death in 1869 gave rise to a lively auction. The house then became home to the Meyricke family whose wealth had come from railway shares, and the five domestic servants listed in the 1881 census gives some idea of the standard of living they enjoyed. Also sharing the frontage onto Westal Green (shown but not named on this map) was Elm Lodge, built around the same time and occupied for its first fifty years by the Reverend Henry Griffiths and his wife Jane. Sadly these fine houses have been replaced by Regents Court. Just round the corner in Hatherley Road is Polefield, bigger than both the other houses put together and occupied in the 1881 census by Robert and Sarah Dick-Cunyngham, who employed eight live-in servants. Robert’s occupation is given as “Baronet Magistrate Land Owner”. It briefly became a hotel in the 1920s. Next door and very slightly more modest was a house originally called Syndale House, which was renamed Beauthornes by its new owner when it was sold in 1858. All these fine houses were built on land which was originally part of the Hatherley Court grounds until Pearson Thompson was forced to sell up.

The Lansdown Hotel and Boarding House on the north side of the green was opened in 1843, initially let to a Mr Morrison, “the well known conductor of Mount Pleasant Hotel, Malvern, who has relinquished his interest in that establishment”. George Rowe gives it a mention (and a picture) in his ‘Illustrated Cheltenham Guide’ of 1850: “its suburban situation, in the immediate fashionable neighbourhood, together with its contiguity to the Railway Station, are additional inducements to make it become a general favourite.” A generation later the 1881 census shows it as an all-female establishment, run by Mary Darby and her three unmarried daughters. Apart from the boot boy employed at the inn, the resident staff were all women.

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Two views of the former Lansdown Hotel on Westal Green. The lower picture is the back of the building, viewed from Lansdown Parade. It is still a pub and hotel today.


Brian Torode’s ‘The Story of Tivoli’ was particularly useful in the making of this article.





Lansdown Terrace Lane

21 08 2009

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Lansdown Terrace Lane is one of Cheltenham’s most precious treasures, and yet I’d bet thousands of people living in the town don’t even know it’s there. (Shown above – without its name – on the 1921 map.)

The lane owes its name to Lansdown Terrace, the grand row of 1830s houses which occupies one side of Malvern Road, and in its current form was created as a service lane for access to the backs of the houses. It runs the entire length of the back of the terrace, and contains many coach houses and mews cottages built to house the staff who looked after the residents’ horses and carriages. There is a decorative arch at either end, one small pedestrian-sized one and the other large enough for carriages. At the northern end, the lane turns at rightangles alongside a villa called Stoneleigh and connects up with Parabola Road.

But the lane goes back a lot further than the development of the terrace. It incorporates a section of an old road formerly known as Lads Lane. There are references to Lads Lane as far back as 1776, when it was a footpath which marked the boundary between Alstone and Sandford tithings. From 1781 onwards the path was an access route to Bays Hill House, then known as Fauconberg Lodge, which was used as royal lodgings during George III’s visit in 1788. This important house is long gone and its site is now occupied by Sidney Lodge in Overton Road.

Lads Lane appears on the 1806 map, but had by then been ‘shut up’.

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1806 map. As usual it is very hard to get your bearings here, as the whole of the Lansdown and Bayshill area was just fields back then – and the map’s peculiar south-west orientation doesn’t help. The map shows the grand royal lodging house “Bay’s Hill Lodge, late Lord Falconberg” (sic) which is long ago demolished but stood on the crest of Bayshill in present day Overton Road. The “Royal Spa” was a private spa built for King George’s visit, also long gone, although the road shown here is approximately on the site of present day Bayshill Road. The “New Well” in the lower left corner was short-lived and its site is now occupied by Montpellier roundabout and the Gordon lamp. Lansdown Crescent now occupies the field immediately above the New Well. “Lads Lane shut up” (what a charming thing to see on a map) was simply a footpath across the field from Montpellier to Bayshill, but it’s the line of this path which became Lansdown Terrace Lane, with Malvern Road forging a line across the field just above it. At bottom right is a loop of the River Chelt.

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The pictures are presented here in order, starting from the north end. The lane begins through this lovely pedestrian archway in Lansdown Terrace’s elegant frontage. Beautiful as it is, it’s entirely decorative and is just a short span of stone-faced brick to disguise an otherwise mundane alleyway between two houses. Lansdown Terrace was designed by the Jearrad brothers, who were very prominent Cheltenham architects in the Regency era. It was originally meant to comprise two sections of terrace with this alleyway in between them. In the event, only one house was ever built in the second section – and it does look rather strange on its own.

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View along the back of Lansdown Terrace towards the hills. Although the houses front onto Malvern Road, that’s actually the ridge of the Cotswolds you can see in the distance, not the Malverns. As is the norm with Regency architecture, the backs of the houses are nowhere near as attractive as the frontages (see my article Regency Backsides for more pictures) – kind of brown and scrubby with a muddle of asymmetrical windows and drainpipes. The whole of the west side of Lansdown Terrace Lane is occupied by these less than beautiful rear elevations, but on the east side are some gloriously quirky cottages and small townhouses which have retained a lot of their original character and ambience.

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Probably the most significant building in the lane is this coach house, from whose upper floor George Dowty started his engineering business in 1931 … it even has a little blue plaque.

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George Dowty was an employee of the Gloster Aircraft Company in the 1920s, and lived in a flat in Lansdown Terrace. He was a gifted engineer and his job was to improve the design of aircraft landing gear. When an order came in for his innovative new design of landing wheel, and the Gloster Aircraft Co was unable to supply the order, Dowty promptly resigned and set up his own business to build the wheels himself. He rented the upper floor of this cottage in the lane behind his flat and kitted it out with the necessary equipment. Within a very short time his business took off and had to move on to bigger premises, eventually becoming an international firm and a major local employer – but this cottage is where it all started.

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Back garden entrance to Evelyn Court. This name was given in 1918 to the section of Lansdown Terrace incorporating numbers 2 to 19. These houses were bought up by the Officers’ Families Association and converted into flats by P R Morley Horder, as charitable residences for the widows of officers killed in the First World War. The name ‘Evelyn’ was often given to housing provided for war widows. If it seems a bit extravagant to use a row of prestigious Regency houses as charitable homes, it’s partly a reflection of the change in fortunes Cheltenham went through in the early 20th century. Many of its grand houses were empty and abandoned around this period, and could be bought up for next to nothing. There’s also an element of the class system in play though. In WW1 officers were almost always from the privileged social classes, while the lower classes made up the ‘other ranks’, so the families of fallen officers were supplied with the kind of genteel housing they were accustomed to. Without wanting to downplay the value of the charitable work done to help officers’ widows, there was far more conspicuous suffering and hardship among the widows of ordinary soldiers in Cheltenham’s many clusters of slums.

In the intervening years, most if not all of the other houses in the terrace have been converted to flats. Long gone are the days when people could afford to buy and run a Regency townhouse in its entirety. It has, however, been lifted in its fortunes somewhat in the last century, and is once again the kind of prestigious and desirable area it was originally built to be. 

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Ever fancied having a Gothic window in your basement? Somebody did. A view through a back gate.

Despite being built as living quarters for staff, the whole street is a delight. I love this mews cottage with its eccentric porch and wonky drainpipes.

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Without doubt the most visually striking feature of Lansdown Terrace Lane is its archway at the southern end. This is a tall one, plenty big enough to allow coaches and carriages through. As with the rest of the architechture, the back is less glamorous and reveals its construction of plain brick, while the front …

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… is faced with beautiful Cotswold stone ashlar. This view shows the mews houses of Lansdown Terrace Lane through its lower entrance. The arch is part of the main Lansdown Terrace deign, and although it’s tucked away behind the houses it’s still visible from Malvern Road, so it is designed to present the same standard of opulence as the terrace itself.

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This is the end-of-terrace, where the mews lane meets up with Malvern Road. The elevation shown here is the side of the end house, and was the first house in the row to be built, adorned with a side porch. Porches on side elevations were a particular trademark of architect J B Papworth, and this one may indicate his involvement. Papworth was responsible for much of the initial design work in Lansdown, until the original developer ran out of money and the project was sold off to the Jearrad brothers. The Jearrads dumped Papworth but kept hold of his plans against his wishes, and may well have incorporated some of his ideas into their own design.





Normanhurst

14 01 2009

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Green man faces on gables on the north side.





Douro Road

2 01 2009

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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