St James’s Place

5 09 2009

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St James is a popular street patron in Cheltenham. He has a Square, a Street, a Place and at one time had a railway station. In fact he had two Places – there was formerly a street or terrace of that name in what is now Ambrose Street. Other related street and house names have existed over the years, such as St James’s Parade (part of the Square), St James’s Passage (off the High Street), and St James’s Terrace (in Suffolk Parade). An advert for a new house for sale in 1809 even makes reference to a St James’s Village, though it’s not entirely clear where this refers to – most likely the development around St James’s Square, which, in true Cheltenham style, was never actually completed as a square. Even more confusingly, many of the streets under St James’s patronage are in completely different parts of town … although the two main ones began development around the same time, in the very early 1800s. St James’s Church was built in Suffolk Square in the late 1820s.

Why St James? Well there was a tradition that Cheltenham’s annual fair was held on St James’s Day. But it’s more likely that the name came from another fashionable Regency development elsewhere … possibly Bath, where a St James’s Square was built in the 1790s.

St James’s Place is one of the lesser known streets of that name, probably named after the church, tucked away as a tiny offshoot from Great Norwood Street running through to Painswick Road and quietly preserving a great deal of 19th century character in the beautiful area between Montpellier and Leckhampton formerly known as South Town. It’s one of the streets in Cheltenham which has changed so little you can quite easily imagine what it must have been like 150 years ago.

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The street itself is small and narrow, its streetscape mostly consisting of a terrace of smallish townhouses (above) built in the 1840s on the south side of the street, on the site of a Regency-period timber yard. This terrace was constructed in an L-shape along two sides of the timber yard, one side of it fronting onto Painswick Road. It’s likely that the name St James’s Place originally belonged to the terrace (both sides of it) rather than the actual street. Only numbers 1-7 are still given their original name and numbers, the others (8-14) being re-numbered as part of Painswick Road.

The north side of St James’s Place is mainly occupied by a high red-brick perimeter wall. The wall is the surviving relic of a very fine house called Casino, and originally marked the boundary of its large garden. Casino House was built around 1824 as a private dwelling but by 1830 had become a boys’ school run by William Childe, and a decade later was a girls’ school run by the Misses Langdon. It was It was unfortunately demolished in the 1930s and replaced by several more modest houses. It gives its name to Casino Place, the tiny service lane which crosses through St James’s Place at right angles. There is still a section of the pavement in St James’s Place at the entrance to Casino Place where the original cobblestones have been preserved (see the article on Casino Place for pictures).

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1834 map. St James’s Place is shown here, unnamed, between ‘Painswick Lawn’ and Great Norwood Street, with the thin line of Casino Place crossing over it. A timber yard occupies the south west section where the main terrace of housing now stands – most likely serving the huge building boom taking place in the area at the time. In St James’s Place itself, a solitary dwelling or pair of dwellings stands on the junction with lower Casino Place but it is otherwise undeveloped. The map indicates that Great Norwood Street was very much a work-in-progress at the time, with its west side laid out as a terrace but only a few houses actually built and its east side mostly still fields. Also shown here is the old ‘Rail Road’ – a horse-drawn tram line – which was used to transport Cotswold stone from the quarries on Leckhampton Hill to a depot at the top end of Gloucester Road. The line it follows here is present day Andover Road.

The exact origin of St James’s Place is difficult to pinpoint, as it seems to have started out as an access road without much in the way of housing. The 1806 map shows the whole South Town area as open fields with no development at all. During the 1820s Painswick Road (then known as Painswick Lawn) and Great Norwood Street were laid out and the line of St James’s Place established between the two … and it was probably around this time that it acquired its first building – Casino Cottage – which is the only dwelling listed there on the 1841 census. By the time of the 1855 Old Town Survey there were 14 houses listed in the street, though of course half of these were round the corner and now part of Painswick Road.

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As far as I can work out, the white house with the bay windows and plants trained up the front is Casino Cottage, the earliest building in the street which predates the other houses pictured here. The entrance to the lower section of Casino Place can be seen running along the side of it. It was originally a pair of cottages, and was probably built in the 1820s around the same time as its opulent neighbour Casino House, whose garden wall it overlooks. The tall buff coloured house on the left presents its butt end here … it fronts onto Great Norwood Street and its site is shown as an empty building plot on the 1834 map above. Only just visible in this photo is a small relic of an old sign painted onto its upper wall.

 

 

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Detail of the old painted brickwork peeping through the rendering. Presumably the word in its entirety is ‘Norwood’.

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Tudor Lodge Road

14 12 2008

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Tudor Lodge is no more. But there is still a road named after it, and the wall in the photo above is the old Tudor Lodge boundary wall, and this neat communal garden is part of Tudor Lodge’s garden. Much of the rest of the garden though has been swallowed up by housing.

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Tudor Lodge, from an old photo

To make any sense of how Tudor Lodge Road came to be, you have to look at the history of The Park as a whole.

Many spectacular building projects in Regency Cheltenham changed course (and character) in mid-building, as their owners ran out of money and had to sell up to other developers who imposed their own tastes and vision. The Park was no exception. A beautiful Regency estate focused around a teardrop-shaped curve, the project was initiated in 1831 when the land (open fields in Leckhampton) was bought by a solicitor called Thomas Billings. His ambitious vision is laid out in the map below, made in 1834. The tip of the teardrop was a pleasure ground, and he set up a comprehensive Zoological, Botanical and Horticultural Garden in the rest of it. Sites were drawn out for numerous luxury houses including a crescent of detached villas within the Park itself.

Tudor Lodge Road, which didn’t have a name at that time, is the circular road in the middle of this map extract, along with the straight bits either side of it. I’m not sure what that round spot in the middle is supposed to be … it may have been a small round building or some kind of monument. When Mr Merrett made his map in 1834 he mapped out all the proposed development. The darker blue houses are the ones that had already been built, and the lighter ones were still in development.

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1834 map, showing the Park development as it was planned, NOT as it was actually built.

Despite valiant efforts to make it work, the Zoological Garden was not the success that was hoped, and Billings found himself with no choice but to abandon his part-built estate. It was bought by the architect Samuel Whitfield Daukes, who immediately scrumpled up much of Billings’ original plan.

Daukes himself lived in The Park, in Whitfield House, which appears on the 1834 map as the sole “really built” house on the south-west side of the circular road. On taking over the whole project in 1839, he demolished Whitfield House and took over the four building plots adjacent to it, then built a new and much bigger Tudor-Gothic mansion on the site. Called Tudor Lodge. He built it as his own home and it was a spectacular landmark, considered one of his finest works.

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1880 map, showing how the Park area actually developed, and the position of ‘Tudor Lo’.

At the tip of The Park teardrop Daukes designed and built Cornerways, an extraordinarily characterful Italianate villa, tall and narrow, cross-shaped and perched right on the junction. The rest of the park area became Fullwood Park, a public pleasure ground with sports facilities and an admission fee.

The big change Daukes made to Tudor Lodge Road, which still didn’t have a name, is that it became semi-circular rather than circular. A lane was run through to Grafton Road, and named Tudor Lodge Drive. And a large fine house was built in the central circle.

There weren’t many other houses built in the road, but it runs down the back and side of some very handsome villas, like in the top photo which shows the backs of houses in neighbouring Painswick Road, and the one below which also fronts onto Painswick Road but has a lovely walled garden in Tudor Lodge Road. All these houses, while not technically in the road itself, make it a very pleasant place to walk down.

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Funnily enough, Tudor Lodge Road continued anonymous until 1891. The only name it seems to have had before that is “road to circus”, which wasn’t much use when it turned out not to be a circus.

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In one of those lamentable decisions we can only look back on with incomprehension, Tudor Lodge was demolished in 1966 and replaced with modern development. A row of houses was built fronting onto The Park and another in Tudor Lodge Road on what was formerly the garden. So now the road name and the perimeter wall are all that’s left.

The area still has a Victorian charm to it though.





Cheltenham autumn

22 11 2008

I always reckon Cheltenham looks its best in autumn. Here are seven reasons why.

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Queen’s Road

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Lansdown Parade

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Tivoli Road

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fallen sign, Queen’s Road

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Grafton Road

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Chapel Lane

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Christ Church, Malvern Road

Photos taken in October and November 2008





Casino Place

19 11 2008

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Photos taken November 2008

How does an unobtrusive service lane round the back end of Montpellier get a name like Casino Place? And for that matter, how many people walk past it every day without noticing it’s there?

Casino Place appears, unnamed, on the 1834 map. It goes from Suffolk Road through to the bottom end of Andover Road in that part of Cheltenham formerly known as South Town. It runs parallel to Great Norwood Street on one side and Painswick Road on the other. Another small road, St James’ Place, slices through at right angles to join up these two streets and cuts Casino Place in two.

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Detail from Merrett’s map of 1834.

As you can see, the area was still largely unbuilt. The terraces in Great Norwood Street were just starting to go up, while Painswick Road/Lawn was still a route through the fields and graced with a timber yard. St James’ Place was unnamed and only had one dwelling in it, Casino Cottage. The black line you can see running down the road on the left (that’s Andover Road, by the way) is the old railtrack from the quarries on Leckhampton Hill. The little thin terrace to the left of that is Providence Cottages, some of which still survive today.

Let’s start at the top end. The northern entrance to Casino Place has no pretensions of glamour despite its proximity to many exceptionally beautiful streets. In fact the lane is down the side of a humble pair of Victorian cottages on Suffolk Road which are currently (end of 2008) home to a derelict launderette.

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Back in 1824, when this area was still mostly undeveloped, two fine villas were built in the top part of Painswick Road (or Painswick Lawn as it was called then) on its eastern side. (See map above.) One was Painswick Lawn House on the corner plot butting onto Suffolk Road, and the second, much larger one, was named Casino House. When newly built it was advertised as a “very elegant villa with 14 rooms” and was set in a capacious garden with a red brick boundary wall. The service lane running along the back was named Casino Place. One image (below) survives of Casino, showing it to be a slabby imposing edifice with minimal ornamentation, though its interior seems to have been opulent – it had a geometrical staircase built of Bath stone and the entrance hall had marble inset floors. Its original owner was William Whitehead, but it didn’t remain a private home; by 1830 it was in use as a boys’ school run by William Childe. At the time of the 1841 census it was the home of Sarah Langdon, a woman in her early 60s of independent means, who was running it as a school for young ladies. Susanna and Ann Langdon (presumably her daughters) were schoolmistresses and there were sixteen resident pupils, all girls, aged mostly 14 and 15, plus three female servants. Painswick Lawn House next door was also a ladies’ school at this time but it’s unclear in the census whether the two were connected. The Misses Langdon clearly made an impression on the area because a whole street was named after them in the 1890s, Langdon Road just the other side of the Norwood Arms roundabout. Susanna and another schoolmistress sister, Margaret, were still living in Cheltenham in 1881 in a high class lodging house beside the Belle Vue Hotel in the High Street. They never married.

By the time of the 1881 census, Casino had been renamed Haldon House. It was still a school, now run by Charles Pratt Haward, whose occupation is given as “Prof of Singing (Musician)”. His wife Lucy was a schoolmistress and the house was also occupied by a gaggle of governesses, three servants and eight boarding pupils, all young boys.

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Casino, from an 1826 engraving (Griffith’s New Historical Description of Cheltenham) when it was newly built. What is most striking here is that the surrounding area is completely undeveloped. The unmade road in the foreground is presumably Painswick Road, with Great Norwood Street approximately corresponding to the line of trees behind the house, and a perfect uninterrupted vista towards Leckhampton Hill. The scene is utterly unrecognisable today.

Sadly Casino isn’t there any more; it was demolished in the 1930s and its gardens built on, but the original perimeter wall still survives (with one remaining stone pier at the front entrance), and so does one of its outbuildings in Casino Place, now known as Holden’s Cottage.

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This is all that survives of Casino House, the garden wall and a solitary mews cottage.

In the 1841 census it’s not clear how many cottages there were in Casino Place because the name wasn’t in use at that point. It lists a dwelling at the “back of Casino House” occupied by a plasterer called Samuel Hulbert and his three daughters, which may be the cottage shown above.

Below is another view from further down where Casino Place opens onto St James’ Place, a tiny delight of a street which retains its original cottages in all their Regency splendour. The ivy-clad perimeter wall of Casino House runs along the side of St James’ Place and the original cobblestones also survive in the driveway opening. The top part of Casino Place is only partially tarmacked and remains one of the few places in suburban Cheltenham where you can still get your feet muddy after it’s been raining.

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In St James’ Place can be found Casino Cottages, which are older than the rest of the street.

Which brings us to the lower section of Casino Place.

I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I suspect the lower section was originally called Painswick Place. The 1841 census refers to it by that name and lists two dwellings there, which matches what appears on the 1834 map.

You can see on the 1834 map that one side of the lane was occupied by a timber yard, probably servicing the various building projects in the area. The two cottages were on the other side, directly opposite. In the 1841 census one cottage was uninhabited and the other was home to a sawyer, Thomas Hart, who was presumably employed in the yard.

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By 1855 there were 10 cottages in the row and by 1881 it had risen to 18. The census for that year shows a selection of low-paid workers living in them, no doubt in a great deal more poverty than would be seen on the fashionable streets either side, or even just round the corner in St James’ Place. They included Mary Heylott, a laundress (somebody had to wash the linen of the wealthy, and this job was generally done by older widowed women like Mary), John Baldwyn the gardener and a domestic servant called Elizabeth Greatorex. There were also carters and fly drivers, dressmakers, a few farm labourers and an unemployed nurse. Numbers 7 and 8 were uninhabited.

Numbers 1-10 were included in a slum clearance programme in 1936 and demolished. However, parts of some of the ground floor frontages still remain if you look closely and have been adapted into garages and outbuildings.

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The lower section of Casino Place. The area to the left, in front of the red wall, is where the timber yard originally was. The garages here have been made out of the shells of old cottages, and you can still see the old narrow pavement running down both sides.

A few features still survive as a reminder that these were once people’s homes. Like this old window. The block of stone to the right of the drainpipe has an inscription on it, no longer legible, and the remains of a number 1.

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With thanks to Gillian Kelly for friendship and additional research.