Pittville

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Pittville Park showing the Pump Room and bandstand

Pittville is a northern area of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, founded in the early 19th century by Joseph Pitt. The population of Pittville Ward at the 2011 Census was 5,327.[1] It now contains Pittville Park, with its two lakes, skatepark, three cafes, tennis courts, menagerie, children's play area, 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.[2]

History[edit]

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 the 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. 'Ellerslie' is now being converted from a nursing home into apartments.

Education[edit]

Pittville School, on Albert Road, Pittville, is a secondary school of approximately 600 students.[3]

The University of Gloucestershire formerly had a campus at Pittville. An application to redevelop the site for student accommodation - as the 'Pittville Student Village' - was approved by the Cheltenham Borough Council Planning Committee in July 2015. It is aimed to open by September 2017.[4]

Leisure[edit]

Pittville Park[edit]

Pittville Park was created in the second decade of the 19th century[5] 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.

Central Cross Drive café

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 enclosures which house a variety of birds, chipmunks and rabbits. The bird collection includes: cockatiels, green parrots, canaries, peacocks and chickens.

The play area in the park underwent a major redevelopment during the first part of 2016, reopening on 27 May. The new attractions include a zip wire.[6]

Pittville Park is given a grade 2 listing under the English Heritage register of historic parks and gardens.

There is a carpark by the pumprooms that is free to use.

Gustav Holst Museum[edit]

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.[i]

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.

Pittville Gates[edit]

Pittville Gates in January 2011

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 of Dean 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 survived intact to 2011. The 1833 ironwork incorporates a number of natural motifs, including stylised lotus and papyrus flowers and buds. 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 had lost much of their original ironwork and the remaining structure was in serious need of attention. A local amenity group, Friends of Pittville, raised funds for their restoration, such that the gates again deserve their 1833 description, a 'grand entrance'. [7]

The gates and pillars removed in late November 2012 and the site made ready for restoration work.

Restoration work began on 19 November 2012, with the central panel and overthrow being taken away for refurbishment and the six stone gate piers removed. Completely new gate piers were made and, like the originals, using Forest of Dean stone from the same quarry. The central panel was restored and new ‘slams and hinges’ installed to receive new pedestrian and carriage gates. The original gates were removed in the 1920s.

The adjacent railings along Prestbury Road were reinstated. It is not known when these were removed but, as the land belonged to 1 Pittville Lawn until the mid 1960s, it is possible they were removed around that time. The grassed areas, in front of 1 Pittville Lawn and along the concrete block wall opposite, were planted with Photinia, Cistus, Lavender and twelve ‘Samaritan’ roses on 17 October 2013. The roses along with a plaque commemorate Samaritans Cheltenham & District’s 50th anniversary in the town. The plants and associated costs were funded by a generous donation from the Samaritans.

Pittville Gates in November 2014 after restoration.

Street signs for Pittville Lawn and Prestbury Road have been installed. The former is a refurbished old sign and the latter a new one made in the old style. Four new lamps were mounted in March 2014. These are replicas of the originals, two of which are at the entrance to the Municipal Offices in the Promenade. The new lamps use LED bulbs and are very bright. Two pedestrian gates and four carriage gates were made and hung over several months in the summer and autumn, with completion in early November 2014. The carriage gates are closed, but can be opened if need be. A new lantern was made to fit into the oval space under the Cheltenham coat of arms. This is also lit by an LED bulb. This makes the area glow at night and, we hope, is safer for pedestrians. Raising the money (just under £300,000) for the restoration has been a major undertaking and the Friends of Pittville charity is very grateful to the many individual donors, and to the charitable trusts, and the borough and county councils, which have made grants toward the restoration. The restored gates were formally re-opened by the Mayor of Cheltenham, Cllr Simon Wheeler, on 7 April 2015, who arrived in a vintage horse-drawn open carriage. He unveiled a granite tablet recording the start of the restoration project in 2012, the year of HM the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.[8]

Masonic Hall[edit]

To the south of Pittville, 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 was George Allen Underwood,[9] 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 [9] and retains many of its original features.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The others are Handel and Elgar.
  1. ^ "Cheltenham Ward 2011". Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "Gustavus Theodore Holst" (biography), Classical Net, 2006, webpage: CNet-GHolst.
  3. ^ "Pittville School website". Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  4. ^ "University of Gloucestershire website - Pittville Student Village". Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  5. ^ Cheltenham.gov.uk - About Pittville Park
  6. ^ Cheltenham Borough Council - Pittville Play Area
  7. ^ Hodsdon, James (2011). Pittville Gates, Cheltenham's 'Grand Entrance'. Cheltenham: Friends of Pittville. 
  8. ^ Event covered by local news outlets, eg http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Pittville-Gates/story-26296979-detail/story.html
  9. ^ a b Jones, Anthea "Cheltenham - A New History" p236

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°54′30″N 2°4′0″W / 51.90833°N 2.06667°W / 51.90833; -2.06667