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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.





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.





Windows on Cheltenham: with signs

22 01 2009

Part two of an occasional series.

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Windows on Cheltenham: Regency

28 12 2008

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St George’s Road

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Wellington Square, Pittville

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Oxford Parade, London Road

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Bayshill Road

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

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Suffolk Road





Southwood Lane

20 12 2008

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Photos taken November 2008

Unobtrusive and semi-invisible (in the sense that you can walk past them dozens of times without really noticing they’re there), service lanes are a common feature in Cheltenham’s Regency areas. Most of the grand houses and terraces of that period had these narrow roads running along the back of them where stables, coach-houses, staff cottages and other necessary clutter could be kept conveniently to hand but discreetly out of sight. One such unassuming thoroughfare is Southwood Lane, which runs in a straight line between the top end of Suffolk Square (near the Montpellier roundabout) and the bottom end of Lypiatt Road, originally serving the backsides of the fine villas in both streets.

Surprisingly, the lane seems to have been unnamed for the first 140 years or so of its existence, only acquiring the name Southwood Lane in 1960. It was named after a house in Lypiatt Road called Southwood, which was formerly a boarding house belonging to Cheltenham College and one of several of their properties to bear that name over the years. The house, in turn, was named after the Rev. Thomas Southwood, who was a headmaster in the 19th century.

There isn’t as much to see in Southwood Lane as there is in some of the other service lanes in Cheltenham. But it has this very nice pair of cottages called Coach House Mews which still sport a lot of original features including a wooden hatch in the wall at pavement level and vertical decorative stripes incorporating the window frames. Notice how deep set the windows and doors are, a clue to the age of these cottages, which actually pre-date the lane they stand in.

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The coach house (far right of the picture) and these mews cottages are the only surviving relic of Suffolk House, a supergrand double bow-fronted house built by the Earl of Suffolk around 1808 on the corner plot between Suffolk Square and Southwood Lane and now the site of some grimly utilitarian 1930s flats whose dark bulk and charming fire-escape stairways overshadow the cottages. Suffolk House is one of the town’s lamented lost buildings but was itself built on the site of an 18th century house, Galipot Farm, whose name survives only in the name of a cottage in nearby Andover Road.

The 1834 map shows Southwood Lane running across what had recently been fields and without following the old field boundaries. It had several other mews cottages by then, on both sides. The map also shows that Lypiatt Road was previously called Suffolk Lawn and was only developed on its east side at that time.

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1834 map showing Southwood Lane (unnamed) running behind Suffolk House, complete with cottages and outbuildings. Suffolk Lawn (now called Lypiatt Road) was only developed on one side and overlooked open fields. Suffolk Square was still only partially completed. Two more disused names shown here are Suffolk Place (now part of Suffolk Square) and Montpellier Gate (where the elongated roundabout and Gordon Lamp are now).

Southwood Lane is not shown on the 1820 Post Office map, so it most likely dates not from the building of Suffolk House itself but from the development of the rest of the rest of the Galipot Farm site in the 1820s.

southwoodlane3

The opposite side of the lane, and the back gateways of Regency houses in Lypiatt Road.