The town of Cheltenham lies in the heart of the South West of England and is often considered to be one of the most complete Regency towns in England. Situated on the edge of the picturesque Cotswolds, it’s famous for its spa, its Regency architecture and its festivals.
The river Chelt runs through and under the town and was first recorded in 803CE. Not much is known about the town until 1226 when it was awarded a market charter and became a popular market town. In 1716 a mineral spring was discovered by Captain Henry Skillicorne, who moved there in 1738 to build an enclosure around said spring.
The enclosure featured pumps, a well-house, and even an upstairs area for entertaining guests. With the help of some wealthy friends, Skillicorne was able to design the tree-lined promenades and gardens around the spa that are so famous today. Skillicorne was a merchant and had travelled extensively. When he settled, many of his wealthy friends came to the area to visit the spa and its healing waters that they had heard so much about.
Since the establishment of this spa, Cheltenham has become a hotspot for tourism and leisure, and this has continued on to this day. Nowadays, Cheltenham plays host to a whole load of festivals including literature, science, music. The Cheltenham Jazz Festival is one of the UK’s biggest jazz events. It is also home to the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts is a collection of 300 or so competitors and is the oldest of the festivals held here – having been established in 1926.
Perhaps most famous, is the Cheltenham Festival. This four-day festival takes place in March every year at Cheltenham Racecourse. It’s a meeting in the National Hunt calendar and the prize money for winning the race is second only to the Grand National. It originated in 1860 and has been held in many different towns before deciding to remain at Cheltenham Racecourse in 1911.
Many of the buildings in Cheltenham are listed due to their architectural significance. One such property that holds cultural significance for the town is a house in Charlton Kings, a suburb of Cheltenham, that once belonged to Alice Liddell’s grandparents. Alice spent much time here and in the 1860’s housed Lewis Carroll for four days. This is the house, and the Alice that inspired the second volume of his stories – “Through the Looking Glass” and “What Alice Found There”. The mirror, said to be the inspiration, can still be found in the home – though it isn’t owned by any relatives of the Liddell’s anymore.
Much of Cheltenham’s economy is based around tourism, but they also have food processing, aerospace, and electronics. The GCHQ – Government Communications Headquarters are located in Cheltenham in a building nicknamed ‘The Doughnut’ – due to its unusual shape. Cheltenham is also considered a regional shopping destination, home to many department stores including Cavendish House. Cavendish House was established in 1823 and is now part of the House of Fraser group.
The town is considered a highly safe area and, in 2013, was considered one of the safest towns for university students. Possibly because of this, Cheltenham has a great nightlife, with pubs, clubs, bars, and even Michelin star restaurants. It is twinned with several other towns in France, the US, Russia, Germany, and China. Olympian and ski-jumper ‘Eddie the Eagle’ was born in Cheltenham – giving even more history and culture to a town that’s already jam-packed.