Pittville Pump Room
The well from which the Pump Room's waters originate was first exploited by Henry Skillicorne around 1740, about 25 years after the waters were first discovered in 1716. After the visit to Cheltenham in 1788 of King George III, the town became increasingly fashionable. In the 1820s the local landowner Joseph Pitt determined to develop the northern part of the town as 'Pittville', of which the Pump Room and its spa were to form an important element as part of a pleasure garden.
The Pump Room was built by the architect John Forbes between 1825 and 1830. It is a Grade I listed building standing at the northern end of Pittville Lawn with landscaped grounds running down to a lake. The building contains the original Pump, made of marble and scagliola, to which the waters are today fed by electric pumping.
The building has a colonnade of Ionic columns; the interior houses a ballroom on its ground floor. Further Ionic columns support a gallery under a dome from which music might be played; on upper floors there were a billiard room, library and reading room. Above the colonnade are three statues, by Lucius Gahagen, erected in 1827, of the goddess Hygieia, Aesculapius and Hippocrates.
The Pump Room and its grounds were managed during the 19th century by a succession of lessees, who offered the typical fare of pleasure gardens including menageries, exhibitions and balloon ascents. However the concession did not prove lucrative. Eventually Pitt himself went bankrupt and in 1890 the Room and the grounds passed into the ownership of the town council.
They are now owned by Cheltenham Borough Council, which has continued to use them for public events. The Pump Room is frequently used as a concert hall, especially during the Cheltenham Music Festival. At one time the upper floor housed a Museum of Fashion.
Following elections in 2007 the incoming Council discussed the possibility of selling the Pump Room but after widespread protests this proposal was later dropped in favour of a limited privatization which would retain the building's public use.
- David Verey, Gloucestershire: the Vale and the Forest of Dean, The Buildings of England edited by Nicholas Pevsner, 2nd ed (1976) ISBN 0-14-071041-8
- Steven Blake, Pittville Pump Room, 2nd edition, (2000) ISBN 1-901153-02-9.
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