Charlton Kings

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An aerial view of Charlton Kings from the south
Dowdeswell, Charlton Kings
Charlton Kings
Charlton Kings is located in Gloucestershire
Charlton Kings
Charlton Kings
Charlton Kings shown within Gloucestershire
Population 10,396 (2011)[1]
OS grid reference SO9715221074
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district GL53
Dialling code 01242
Police Gloucestershire
Fire Gloucestershire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
List of places
GloucestershireCoordinates: 51°53′16″N 2°02′29″W / 51.8877°N 2.0413°W / 51.8877; -2.0413
A view from the lower slopes of Charlton Kings Common

Charlton Kings is an affluent suburb of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, England. The area constitutes a civil parish with a population of just over 10,000 residents. Famed for being the location of the mirror which inspired the author, Lewis Carroll, to write the story Through the Looking-Glass, the mirror remains displayed in a Charlton Kings residence.

Located in the Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the surroundings of Charlton Kings are protected by natural conservation directives. Lineover Wood SSSI lies on the Cotswold District side of the eastern boundary.[2] Charlton Kings Common and Leckhampton Hill are also designated as SSSIs by Natural England.[3]

Main article: Lineover Wood

The River Chelt enters the suburb of Charlton Kings from an easterly direction. The Cotswold Way National Trail is on its eastern boundary and runs alongside Dowdeswell Reservoir and Woodland.

Main article: Dowdeswell Reservoir


The name Charlton Kings comes from Anglo-Saxon times, the word "Charlton" evolved from the term ceorls' tun, a ceorl or churl being the Saxon term for an independent peasant landowner and tun meaning a fenced enclosure with a dwelling. This particular ceorl's tun was established as part of the royal manor and Hundred of Cheltenham, hence the term "Kings" in the name.[4]

Early settlement[edit]

Evidence of settlement in Charlton Kings as early as the middle Iron Age was found underneath a Roman villa discovered in 1980. There are many other Roman settlements close by such as Chedworth, Whittington and notably a field called Wycomb (formerly Wickham),[5] and the area of Charlton Kings is well suited to settlement due to the well drained sand and gravel composition of the soil making early settlement much more likely. Much of early Charlton Kings was used for agriculture, tended to by small homesteads. This is evidenced by place names surviving until today. These small homesteads gave way to larger manor houses, for example, Charlton House[6] which is now the headquarters of the engineering company Spirax Sarco and the Cheltenham Park Hotel which was previously called Lilleybrook House. There is evidence in local place names of the crops previously grown in Charlton Kings, such as Hempcroft (hemp), Flaxley (flax) and Crab End (crab apples). Other crops known to be grown in the area were cherries and grapes.


Charlton Kings is served by Stagecoach West, the local division of the Stagecoach Group. Stagecoach West provide a regular bus service around Charlton Kings and into Cheltenham. Main roads to London and Oxford (A40), Bath (A46) and Cirencester (A417) all run through Charlton Kings providing good connections, buses from Stagecoach and National Express also serve these destinations with stops in Charlton Kings.

Plans for a railway line through Charlton Kings were first drafted in 1872. The Charlton Kings section of the Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway line had a troublesome construction mainly due to the clay in the soil, progress was slow, and the line was opened in 1881 with a small station in Charlton Kings. From 1891 the line was also part of the Midland and South Western Junction Railway (M&SWJR) between Cheltenham and Swindon, a north-south route that went on through Swindon to Andover and the south coast ports. Between 1899 and 1914, the Charlton Kings line had frequent services to Cheltenham, Banbury and Swindon as well as major expresses to destinations such as Manchester, Birmingham and Southampton using the line. Rail traffic along the M&SWJR line greatly increased due to the transportation of men and munitions southwards during World War I and World War II. After the war, the line was used much less. The M&SWJR closed on 9 September 1961 and the Cheltenham to Banbury line closed on 15 October 1962, when the station at Charlton Kings finally shut.

Electric trams operated by the Cheltenham and District Light Railway were also used in Charlton Kings between 1903 and 1930 when they were replaced by buses.



Charlton Kings has four churches:

Glenfall Church (formerly Glenfall Fellowship) now meets outside the parish.

St Mary's church

St Mary's Church[edit]

St Mary's church,[8] dedicated to Mary in 1190 by William de Vere, Bishop of Hereford, is the oldest church in Charlton Kings. It was built to ease the nearby Cheltenham parish church due to increasing congregation size.

It houses numerous historical artifacts, including an old alms chest used for collecting money to donate to the Third Crusade which may date back to 1190. The church also contains a stained glass window which was donated by Japanese naval officers to the church in 1907 in memory of Robert Podmore. St Mary's church houses one of the oldest royal arms in the country, it was acquired in 1660 to celebrate the restoration of Charles II and restored in 1988 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of George III's visit to Charlton Kings. Robert Burns's granddaughters, Sarah and Annie Burns and his great-granddaughter Margaret Constance Burns Hutchinson were all buried at St Mary's church between 1909 and 1925.[9]

Holy Apostles Church[edit]

Holy Apostles Church is located in a triangular junction between the roads to London and Cirencester. This location for the church was contested early in its development as local people thought that if another church was to be built, it would be better to have it in a location where it could serve more isolated parishioners. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1866.

Sports and recreation[edit]

Local community organisations include:

  • 1st Charlton Kings Boy's Brigade
  • 1st Charlton Kings Guide Company
  • 7th Cheltenham (Charlton Kings) Scout Group
  • 125th (Cheltenham) Squadron Air Training Corp[10]
  • Charlton Kings Choral Society[11]
  • Charlton Kings Local History Society
  • Charlton Kings Community Players[12]
  • Falcons AFC[13]


Charlton Kings is in the Charlton Kings ward of Cheltenham Borough Council, the Charlton Kings division of Gloucestershire County Council and the parliamentary constituency of Cheltenham, the MP of which is Alex Chalk, a Conservative.

Famous people with a connection to Charlton Kings[edit]

  • Sydney Dobell, a poet moved to Charlton Kings in 1840 and regarded Charlton Kings as "home above any other place".
  • Cecil Day-Lewis, Poet Laureate lived in Charlton Kings between 1931 and 1938, and taught at Cheltenham College.
  • Adam Lindsay Gordon was baptised at St Mary's Church, Charlton Kings, in 1833.
  • Jaz Coleman, composer and lead singer of Killing Joke, was born and raised in Charlton Kings.
  • Piers Coleman, physicist, was born and raised in Charlton Kings.
  • Gilbert Biberian, a renowned classical guitarist and composer, currently resides in Charlton Kings.
  • Corrinne Wicks is an actress from Cheltenham.[citation needed]
  • Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll were regular visitors to a house in Cudnall Street, Charlton Kings. This house was owned by Alice Liddell's grandparents, and the mirror is reported to be in existence which inspired Lewis Carroll to write the story Alice through the Looking Glass.[14]



Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, vol. 54, 1932, pp.145-165, The Manor of Charlton Kings, later Ashley, by F. B. Welch

External links[edit]

Media related to Charlton Kings at Wikimedia Commons