Cheltenham

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

CHELTENHAM, a market-town and parish in the hundred of CHELTENHAM, county of GLOUCESTER, 8 miles (E.N.E.) from Gloucester, and 95 (W.N.W.) from London, containing, according to the last census, 13,396 resident inhabitants, since which the number has increased to about 22,000. This place takes its name from the small river Chilt, which rises at Dowdswell, in the vicinity, and runs through the town in its course to the Severn. Prior to the Conquest, the manor belonged to Edward the Confessor, and was afterwards held-by the Conqueror; in 1199 it was granted to Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, who exchanged it with King John for other lands: it was next given to the abbey of Feschamp in Normandy, and subsequently to the nunnery of Sion in Middlesex, on the dissolution of which it reverted to the Crown.

Cheltenham derives its importance from the mineral springs, the oldest of which was noticed in 1716: since that time various others have been discovered, possessing different proportions of chalybeate, aperient salts, chiefly sulphate of soda, sulphate of magnesia, and oxyde of iron held in solution by carbonic acid; the last was discovered in 1803, by Dr. Thomas Jameson, according to whose analysis it contains a greater proportion of sulphureous gas than the others, and, in many instances, bears a strong affinity to the Harrogate water: they are efficacious in the cure of jaundice and other diseases of the liver, in dyspepsia, and in complaints arising from the debilitating influence of hot climates. In 1721, the old well, or spa, to the south of the town, was enclosed, and in 1738 Captain Henry Skillicorn erected over it a brick pavilion, supported on four arches, built a pump-room, and laid out walks for the accommodation of visitors.

In 1780, the number of lodging-houses amounted only to thirty; but since the visit of George III., in 1788, Cheltenham has been rapidly rising into note as a fashionable place of resort, and is at present eminent for the elegance of its buildings, the extent and variety of its accommodations, and the rank and number of its visitors, of whom, in the course of the season, there are generally not less than fifteen thousand,

The town is pleasantly situated on an extensive plain, sheltered on the north and east by the Cotswold hills, and consists of numerous fine streets, the principal of which is more than a mile and a half in length, containing many handsome ranges of building, interspersed occasionally with houses of more ancient date and less pretending character: to the south are a crescent and colonnade, and the upper and the lower promenade, lately built; and on each side are dwellings, displaying much beauty and variety of architectural decoration. The masonic hall, in Portland-street, is a handsome edifice in the style of a Roman mausoleum, completed in 1823, and decorated in front and on one side with the insignia of the order of free masonry.

The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas, by an act passed in the 59th of George III., and amended in the 2nd of George IV.: the Gas-light and Coke Company was formed pursuant to an act passed in 1819; and in 1824 an act was obtained for the establishment of water-works, under the direction of a company. About half a mile toward the south is the Montpelier spa: the pump-room, a spacious and handsome rotunda, has a noble colonnade in front, above the centre of which is the figure of a lion couchant; adjoining it is a long room with a viranda, and part of the building is fitted up as a conservatory.

Near this spa a very handsome range of houses has been built, and a new road formed, leading more directly into the town, at the expense of P. Thompson, Esq. Nearer the town, in the same direction, is the Imperial spa, an elegant building in the Grecian style of architecture, opened in 1818; in front of the pump-room is a portico of the Ionic order, copied from a temple on the bank of the river Ilissus at Athens, and over the centre is a colossal statue of the Goddess of Health. The old well, or original spa, has been enlarged by the erection of a new pump-room in 1803. There are also the old chalybeate spa, opened in 1802; the Cambray chalybeate spa, discovered in 1807; and Alstone spa, opened in 1809.

On the north side of Cheltenham is Pittville, where a new town has been planned, on a magnificent scale, by Joseph Pitt, Esq.: the pump-room, of which the first stone was laid on the 4th of May, 1825, is a splendid edifice, in the erection of which more than £20,000 has been expended; the centre of this building, which is crowned with a finely proportioned dome, embellished with richly painted glass, is decorated with a beautiful colonnade of the Ionic order, surmounted by a statue of Hygeîa; and the wings are ornamented with statues of Æsculapius and Hippocrates: in front are extensive gardens, tastefully laid out; and at the foot of the hill on which it stands is a fine sheet of water, terminated at each end by a bridge of fanciful architecture.

There are warm, cold, medicated, and vapour baths, furnished with every appendage requisite for their use, and under the direction of experienced persons; hotels of the first order, affording every accommodation; and several hundred lodging-houses, many of which are splendidly fitted up for the reception of visitors of the highest rank. The various libraries, reading-rooms, and musical repositories, are richly stored and well conducted: concerts and assemblies take place regularly during the season, under the superintendence of a master of the ceremonies, in a splendid suite of rooms completed in 1816. The theatre has been rebuilt upon a more enlarged plan, and is opened regularly by the Cheltenham company: races take place annually in July, on an adjoining eminence.

The trade, exclusively of the ordinary business necessary for the supply of the inhabitants and the numerous visitors, consists principally in malt and in various kinds of medicinal salts, for the preparation of which latter there is an extensive manufactory on the road to Bath. Coal is brought from Staffordshire, Shropshire, and the Forest of Dean, by the river Severn to Gloucester, whence it is conveyed by a rail-road to the wharfs at the western extremity of the town. The market is on Thursday and Saturday: the fairs are on the second Thursday in April, August 5th, the second Thursday in September, and the third Thursday in December, for cattle and cheese; there are also statute fairs on the first and second Thursday after Michaelmas day.

The market-house, a handsome and commodious building, was erected in 1823, at the expense of Lord Sherborne; it is approached by an arcade from the High-street. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold a petty session for the division at the public office, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; a high bailiff and constables are appointed at the court leet of the lord of the manor; and the local affairs are under the control of commissioners appointed by an act passed in the 2nd of George IV. By an ancient manorial custom, confirmed by act of parliament, land descends as by common law, but the eldest female inherits solely. The new gaol, near St. George's square, is a convenient edifice, erected in 1814.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Gloucester, and in the patronage of the Society for the purchase of Livings. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient cruciform structure, in the early, decorated, and later styles of English architecture, with a square tower rising from the intersection and surmounted by a lofty octagonal spire; on the east side of the north transept is a grand circular window, fifteen feet in diameter, divided into thirty-three compartments, and filled with tracery of the decorated and later styles intermixed; the east window of the chancel and others are also fine compositions: an antique altar-piece, presented by the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester, has been lately erected; there is also a piscina in the chancel: the churchyard, which is extensive, is planted with double rows of lirne-trees; and there is an ancient stone cross of one single shaft, with an ascent of several steps.

The church of the Holy Trinity, in Portland-street, a handsome structure in the later style of English architecture, was erected by subscription, having been finished by Lord Sherborne, and was consecrated in 1823: St. John's, in Berkeley-place, was built at the expense of the present incumbent: another church, has lately been erected in Suffolk-square; the living of each of these is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of trustees elected by the subscribers, for a term of forty years, at the expiration of which the right of presentation becomes vested in the Perpetual Curate of Cheltenham.

A new free church is also just completed, at an expense of £6500, half of which has been defrayed by a grant from the parliamentary commissioners, the remainder having been raised by subscription among the inhabitants. A new burial-ground has also been purchased by the parishioners, but it has not yet been enclosed. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, those in the connexion of the late, Countess of Huntingdon, Independents, Wesleyan and other Methodists, and Roman Catholics.

The free grammar school was founded and endowed, in 1574, by Richard Pates, Esq.; the endowment, augmented by Queen Elizabeth, produces, in addition to a rent-free residence, a salary of £30 per annum to the master, who is appointed by the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. There are eight scholarships in Pembroke College, Oxford, founded in 1682 by George Townsend, Esq., for boys from Gloucester, Cheltenham, Chipping-Campden, and North Leach, with preference in presentation to his donatives of Uxbridge and Colnbrook: the same benefactor also founded and endowed a school here, for the instruction, of poor boys in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and similar schools in the parishes of Winchcombe, Chipping-Campden, North Leach, and Nether Guyting, or Blockley, for apprenticing whom he appropriated part of the income, which amounts to £207 per annum; the apprentice-fee, originally £5, is, according to circumstances, augmented to £15 or £20.

The Rev. William Stansby, in 1704, gave land producing £25 per annum, subject to a rent-charge of £8, the residue being applied to the same purpose. A portion of an endowment by Lady Capel, amounting to £37. 10. per annum, is paid to a schoolmaster for the instruction of poor children. The National school, a school for girls under the patronage of the Bishop of Gloucester, and an infant school, the building for which was erected in 1830, are supported by subscription. Almshouses for six aged persons were founded and endowed by Richard Pates, Esq., in 1574. The dispensary and casualty ward, established in 1813, and lately enlarged, is supported by subscription; and there are many other charitable institutions, among which may be noticed the female orphan asylum, the Cobourg society for the relief of indigent married women in child-birth, and the Dorcas society: there is also a bank for savings.

ALSTONE, a hamlet in the parish of CHELTENHAM, and hundred of CHELTENHAM, county of GLOUCESTER, half of a mile (N.W. by W.) from Cheltenham, with which town the population is returned. Here is a chalybeate saline spa, for an account of which see CHELTENHAM.

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