Whitecross Square

2 11 2009

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It seems to be a little quirk of Cheltenham streetnames that most of the places called Something Square are not actually Squares at all. This is true of Whitecross Square, which is decidedly unsquare and is in fact merely street-shaped. In most other instances there was an original intention to create a square, thwarted in mid-build by lack of funds or changes of circumstance. In the case of Whitecross Square however, there is no obvious evidence that it was ever intended to be anything other than what it is – a short cul-de-sac. It’s hidden away off the narrow northern end of Naunton Lane.

The 1834 map shows the area of Naunton Lane and Thirlestaine Road in undeveloped form, mostly fields and market gardens with only a few houses. Whitecross Square was apparently not in existence then, although the short row just above the “Pit” may be the start of it. By the time of the 1841 census however, the street was very much in existence and fully occupied, so it must have been built between those two dates. The References section of the map covers up a lot of the surrounding area.

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1834 map. The road “from Leckhampton” is the Old Bath Road. Park House is shown already built on what is now Thirlestaine Road.

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1883 map, with the houses of Whitecross Square marked in red. By this time a lot of the familiar houses and streets were in place. Naunton Park is also marked here, but it isn’t quite the same area as the present day public park, which was opened later, in 1893.

The name Whitecross perpetuates an old field name in the Naunton tithing. There is a reference in a local newspaper to White Cross Field in 1809, but where the name originally came from is not clear.

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Whitecross Square is in an expensive and prestigious part of Cheltenham, but it didn’t start out that way. The 1841 census shows that the street’s early residents were tradespeople and it was very much a working class area. Gardeners, shoemakers, brickmakers and bricklayers, plasterers and masons, carpenters and painters made up the population, presumably making their living from the huge surge in building work going on around Cheltenham at that time. Many of the wives worked as laundresses, which was among the lowest occupations available to women and usually an indicator of relative poverty.

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The vicinity of Whitecross Square is apparently also the source of the Westal Brook, a small stream which once marked the boundary between Cheltenham and Leckhampton but is now mostly culverted.

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