Pittville is a northern area of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, founded in the early 19th century by Joseph Pitt. It now contains Pittville Park, with its two lakes, skatepark, tennis courts, 9 hole pitch and putt golf course, and Pump Room, Pittville School (the former Pate's Grammar School for Girls) and some of the finest examples of Regency & Victorian housing in the town. Gustav Holst's father, Adolph von Holst was organist at All Saints' Church, Pittville.
Joseph Pitt, the developer of Pittville, wanted to create a 100-acre (0.40 km2) estate, with its own Pump Room, walks, rides, and gardens and up to 600 houses. Pitt envisaged Pittville as a new spa town, one which would rival Cheltenham. Development began in 1824-5. Pitt employed the architect John Forbes, who designed the basic layout of the estate, and most importantly the Pittville Pump Room, which opened on 20 July 1830. Other architects employed by Pitt include Robert Stokes.
One notable house in Pittville's history is 'Ellerslie' at 108 Albert Road. In the beginning of 20th century it was home to Rowena Cade, who after the First World War went to Cornwall and built the Minack Theatre near Land's End, largely with her own hands. The house is now a nursing home.
Pittville Park was created in the second decade of the 19th century by Joseph Pitt as an area of 'walks and rides' for visitors of the Pittville Pump Room, together with many fine and imposing houses as part of the Pittville Estate development, for the rich and famous who came to live in Cheltenham. Pittville Park provides 33ha of parkland, including an ornamental lake with elegant bridges dating from 1827 and a boating lake, formerly known as Capper's Fish Pond. It was named after Robert Capper, owner of Marle Hill House, the grounds of which now constitute the western part of the Pittville Park. The lakes were created by damming a stream known as Wyman's Brook.
Like most of Cheltenham's historic parks and gardens, Pittville Park was originally enclosed by railings, and private to the residents and subscribers to the spa. The park was formally opened to the public on 25 April 1894, a few years after Cheltenham Borough Council had bought the Pittville Estate.
A refreshment kiosk, or small outdoor café on Central Cross Drive, dating from 1903, used to have unusual terracotta dragons on its roof. It is open throughout the year, with shorter hours in winter and is situated in the Long Garden, a stretch of parkland to the south of Pittville Park facing Pittville Lawn. Very near the café, on the corner of Pittville Lawn and Central Cross Drive, originally stood a small spa called Essex Lodge, erected in the 1820s.
On the west side of Evesham Road is the Boating (or Lower) Lake, with an early Boathouse (not open in winter) which serves icecreams and cold drinks. Row boats and pedal boats can be hired. A metal pedestrian bridge, joining the north and south banks of the Lower Lake, was opened in February 2012. This replaced earlier wooden bridges which had been damaged beyond repair. The bridge is decorated with metal sculptures based on drawings made by local schoolchildren and artist.
Other leisure pursuits include angling, tennis, skateboarding ramps, 9 hole pitch and putt golf course and a modern leisure centre on Tommy Taylor's Lane with a swimming pool and other recreational facilities.
Another attraction in the park are the aviaries which house a variety of birds and rabbits. Pittville Park is given a grade 2 listing under the English Heritage register of historic parks and gardens.
Gustav Holst Museum
The Holst Birthplace Museum was founded by Gustav's daughter, Imogen Holst, in 1974 during centenary ceremonies for Holst's birth. The museum houses a number of mementoes, including the piano on which Holst composed The Planets, as well as pictures, books, some letters and manuscripts. The Holst Birthplace Museum is one of only three composer museums in England.
The museum consists of four rooms, which were furnished from the collections of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. The sitting room shows how a Regency sitting room would have looked in the 1830s. The bedroom is probably the room where Gustav Holst was born and it was furnished in the style of the 1870s. The music room contains many items associated with Holst and his music, notably the oil portrait of the composer from the 1920s and his piano on which much of 'The Planets' and his most famous works were composed. The kitchen and scullery show visitors how Victorian households looked.
The Grade 2 listed gates standing at the southeast corner of Pittville were conceived by Pitt as an imposing entrance to the new estate. Designed by Robert Stokes, they were constructed in late 1833. The six pillars of Forest greenstone originally supported a central cast-iron screen, flanked by two carriage gates, and pedestrian gates on each side. Of this ironwork, only the central screen survives intact. The wrought-iron arch or overthrow spanning the central section was added in 1897, prompted by a combination of factors: Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, a visit to Cheltenham by the Prince of Wales, and the arrival of electric street lighting in the town – the arch carried a large central arc-light fixture. The arch's words 'Pittville Park' reflect civic pride in the creation in the early 1890s of today's public park from the previously private estate. Although listed, the Gates have lost much of their original ironwork and the remaining structure is in need of attention. A local amenity group, Friends of Pittville, is raising funds for their restoration, such that the gates again deserve their 1833 description, a 'grand entrance'. Phase One of the restoration, starting with the careful dismantling of the existing structure, began on 19 November 2012.
Not strictly in Pittville, but on Pittville Street which leads from the town centre's High Street to Portland Street and Evesham Road, Cheltenham's Masonic Hall is one of the first purpose-built temples outside London. The architect of this monumental building is George Allen Underwood, a mason himself, who also built the original stone building of Montpellier Spa. He was a pupil of Sir John Soane, architect of the Bank of England. The Hall was built in 1820-3 and retains many of its original features.
- "Gustavus Theodore Holst" (biography), Classical Net, 2006, webpage: CNet-GHolst.
- Hodsdon, James (2011). Pittville Gates, Cheltenham's 'Grand Entrance'. Cheltenham: Friends of Pittville.