The joy of drainpipes

29 09 2009

A selection of rainwater funnelling arrangements from among Cheltenham’s finest.


Alma House, Rodney Road. This genteel Regency receptacle of 1835 vintage is on the side of the building, overlooking Imperial Lane. It’s decorated with three elegant blobs and an innovative bit-of-pipe-sticking-out-the-wall.


Another fine specimen of early 19th century drainage ironware. This one is at the back of shop premises in the High Street, and viewed from Vernon Place (with a big zoom lens).


Meanwhile, down at ground level … this is one of Cheltenham’s finest Regency terraces, Columbia Place in Winchcombe Street. The beautiful frontage is of course drainpipe-free, but go down a little lane at the side and the ugly truth is revealed. From a simple hole in the wall, a cracked iron funnel takes the water through several sections of mismatched leaky iron pipe bolted to the wall and into a drain several yards down the lane. Ingenious.


Lansdown Terrace Lane and another “bendy” with a Victorian top. I particularly like the way it looks like it’s disgorging its load into a tub of geraniums.


No prizes for guessing the date of these elegant and decorative specimens on St Philip and St James’s church in Grafton Road.


Normanhurst, Gothic house on the corner of Eldorado Road. A wonderful carved imp sits at the gable juncture between two jack-in-the-greens and a bit of wobbly hand-beaten lead pipe. Built in 1882, this may be Cheltenham’s most eccentric and beautiful drainpipe.


Well, if you’re not using that 1840s arch-topped window you may as well find a practical use for it. House in Queen’s Retreat.


Here in Wellington Lane we have the “oh sod it, let’s channel the water all the way round the front of the building and then dump the whole lot on the garage roof” solution.


And here among the old mews buildings of Tivoli Walk is a splendid example of the totally non-functional drainpipe.


14 01 2009


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


Green man faces on gables on the north side.

Eldorado Road

30 11 2008


Photos taken November 2008

This is an L-shaped residential street taking in a chunk of land between Queen’s Road and Christ Church Road, round the back of Cypher’s Exotic Nursery. The first houses in Eldorado Road were built in 1894 and development continued up to about 1905. It remains today what it was then, a luxurious leafy street of large comfortable villas. Some are of Edwardian red brick, some are rendered, but all are beautiful and sturdily built. The adjoining Eldorado Crescent, a loop on the northern end of the road, was built at approximately the same time on what had previously been the fields of Christ Church Farm (now playing fields).


Blue skies and Regency villas were meant for each other. Another fine house at the Christ Church Road end.


A house called Coniston was the home of Dr and Mrs Layng whose son George was killed on the Somme in 1916.

The humblest building in Eldorado Road is a single-storey outbuilding which was formerly a vet’s surgery under the glorious name of Peter Chew Associates. Following Mr Chew’s retirement it was renamed Honeybourne, after the disused railway it backs onto. As its reputation and need for facilities grew it moved to much larger premises in nearby Overton Park Road.

There’s also a row of sturdy red brick villas backing onto the old Honeybourne railway line. Below is the porch of one of them, still with its original stained glass door and wooden eaves.


At the Christ Church Road end is a house which looks significantly different from the others. Built of Cotswold stone and smattered with pointed gables, Normanhurst is a Victorian Gothic treasure dating from 1882. It actually fronts onto Christ Church Road but its side and garden runs along Eldorado Road. This building’s frontage is packed with carved curiosities but on this side the design is more restrained and the main features are a series of jack-in-the-green faces carved into the gables. They are all different; this one has the leaves sprouting out of his mouth (and eyebrows) in typical green man style but the others have leafy moustaches.