The town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire County at the foot of Cleeve Hill, highest of the Cotswold Hills, is a scenic seat of culture and a famous spa resort. Cheltenham is well known for its gorgeous Regency period town houses and their ornate wrought iron balconies. Its Promenade is considered one of the most beautiful and iconic in all of England with its lovely gardens, fashionable restaurants and storefronts. Cheltenham is the birthplace of classical composer Gustav Holst; the town plays host to the International Festival of Literature and Music each year now. It also hosts other popular events like the Gold Cup National Hunt Festival and horse races in Prestbury Park.
The first natural mineral spring in Cheltenham was discovered three centuries ago, leading a local guidebook at the time to proclaim that those visiting the town would be on “a journey of health and pleasure.” Cheltenham’s true fame began in 1788 when King George III decided to undertake such a journey. He stayed five weeks in the town after which it became quite the trendy place – and has remained so to this day!
Cheltenham is considered the best preserved Regency town in England. Its classical terraces and elegantly landscaped lawns attract as many tourists now as they did in the 18th century. The beautiful architecture evokes a classical style and many movies have been filmed in Cheltenham as a result, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Vanity Fair and Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone.
Some of the most famous estates in the town are Pittville, Montpellier and Lansdown. The most prominent remaining site is the Pittville Pump Room, based on the design of a Greek temple. The Pump Room encountered difficulties when financing ran out and war tore through the spa town. Fungus and rot were allowed to eat away at the building until 1960, when a restoration effort returned the building to usability. It is now a popular venue for weddings; you can still bathe in the spring waters in the Pittville Pump Room as well!
Not all the buildings in Cheltenham are in the Regency style; some neo-gothic and Arts and Crafts movement buildings also exist in the town, built in the subsequent centuries. The All Saints church in particular is considered one of the finest examples of craftsmanship in later years.
Many famous people have been associated at one time or another with Cheltenham. Lewis Carroll spent time here visiting Alice Liddell, upon whom he based his Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass books. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was born in Cheltenham, and William Morris of the Arts and Crafts movement spent a good deal of time here. Many other famous artists, actors, musicians and poets were born in the towns surrounding Cheltenham and have walked its streets.
Cheltenham continues to function as a spa resort town; there are many spas you can stay at in Cheltenham as well as bed and breakfast manors and other inns and first class luxury hotels. This is a great place to get away from it all and immerse yourself in classic Regency culture!
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