Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK

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Cheltenham is a small town of just under 100,000 inhabitants in Gloucestershire, south-west England, situated where the River Chelt, a tributary of the River Severn, breaks through the western edge of the Cotswolds. Near to Cheltenham is the similarly-sized cathedral city of Gloucester.

A Little History

Cheltenham is first mentioned in documents from 1223, although it's known that there was a church there as early as 803AD. Cheltenham became a fashionable town after three mineral springs were discovered there in 1716, and a pump room was built in 1738. King George III visited in 1788, greatly increasing its popularity. The spa is still open to the public, and the spa water still tastes like seawater.

What's There

Cheltenham is noted for its famous racecourse, where the Cheltenham Gold Cup* is held, which attracts many famous people, including the Queen Mother.

The racecourse has been used for the first stages of the RAC World Rally. At the start of each day of the competition the drivers leave the racecourse to drive at hair-raising speed around central England and Wales, returning each night. For that particular weekend the town is alive with the sound of roaring engines.

It's also home to Cheltenham Ladies College, founded in 1853, the bastion of all things British which inflicts well-rounded young girls on the world.

Since World War One, the town has hosted annual festivals of music and literature which draw crowds from around the country.

On a wider scale, Cheltenham is the home of the International Badminton Federation, the world governing body of the sport, founded in 1934.

Around Town

  • Cheltenham is regarded as a quiet middle class town with many interesting and quaint areas. Shopping in the beautiful town centre is good, and there are many hotels and B&Bs, notably The Queens and The Rising Sun.

  • Raymond Blanc's restaurant, Petite Blanch, is in Cheltenham.

  • Public transport is variable. There is a rail link between Gloucester and Birmingham, from whence you can travel to most of the rest of the country.

  • There's a Park and Ride service that allows you to park your car out of town and take the bus into the city centre. This is by far the best way to avoid hours of trawling the streets for a parking place.

  • There is also one very small airfield called Staverton which only caters for small flights, but which gives the opportunity to take a trial flying lesson.

  • The beautiful countryside and scenic walks of the Cotswold Way and the Malverns are also within easy reach of the city.

Name Dropping

The following people were born in Cheltenham:

  • Frederick Archer, a British jockey who was national champion for 13 consecutive years.

  • Andrew Cecil Bradley, a literary critic and Shakespearean scholar of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

  • Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Travers Harris, the air officer who initiated and directed the saturation bombing on Germany in World War Two.

  • Gustav Holst, the late 19th and early 20th Century composer.

  • Brian Jones, one fifth of the Rolling Stones.

  • John Nevil Maskelyne who influenced the development of the art of creating illusions by sleight of hand.

  • Sir Frederick Handley Page, the aircraft designer who built the Handley Page 0/400, the world's first twin bomber and a plane amongst the largest used in World War One.

  • Ernest and William Renshaw the twins who dominated the Wimbledon tennis competition in the 1880s, often credited with transforming tennis into a spectator sport.

  • Sir Ralph Richardson, actor.

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