Cheltenham History 2
Decades of Progress 1788 - 1820
The visit of King George III coincided with the first phase in the building development of the ‘Regency Town’. In 1826 a guidebook noted that “from 1788 to 1793, the purchase of lands began to influence the spirit of speculation, and here and there, a neat box, a handsome dwelling house and at length a something in the unfinished semblance of a street sprang up as if by the gradual operation of magic”. Cheltenham clearly shared in the natural building boom of the years, although the actual number of houses erected was still very small. If contemporary estimates are to be believed, the stock of houses had increased from 321 to 400 between 1712 and 1781 (an average of little more than 1 a year) and by 1801 the number stood at 710 (an average of 15 per year between 1781 and 1801) with a recorded population of 3076.
Despite the Napoleonic wars and the post war depression, Cheltenham continued to prosper. By 1800, over 2000 visitors came to the spa each year and many wealthy individuals and families settled in the town. They in turn attracted working people from the surrounding area, who found employment in domestic and other services, in retails and in the building industry. The town’s economic life continued to diversify and by 1820, stone quarrying, brick-making, the manufacture of ornamental ironwork, coach building, cabinet making and the production of medicinal salts were all figured in the town’s economy. In 1811 a horse-drawn tramway to the docks at Gloucester was opened and by 1825 the main roads to the town had been turnpiked.
During these decades much of the High Street was rebuilt or refronted in brick or stucco, and a number of imposing new blocks of houses were constructed for the accommodation of residents and visitors, including the Royal Crescent begun in 1805-6 on one side of the path leading from the town to the Well Walk, and a succession of Terraces along the upper High Street. Several new spa wells were established from 1801 onwards – notably Montpellier and Imperial Spa – and villas and terraces were gradually built along their tree-lined ‘walks and rides’.
The Cheltenham Salts Manufactory, 1826
The Assembly rooms 1813 by Thomas Hulley
Royal Crescent 1813 by Thomas Hulley
Cheltenham Map, 1820s
Cheltenham Map, 1810
Cheltenham High Street 1804, John Nattes
Antarctic and Wilson Family Collection
The museum holds a unique collection of watercolours and drawings made by Edward Adrian Wilson, the explorer who...
The archaeology collection held by The Wilson contains a rich quantity of material relating to the prehistoric and...
Arts and Crafts Movement
The Wilson holds an internationally important Designated collection of the British Arts and Crafts Movement, inspired...