Category: History

Pittville History Works Completes Major Project

October 2020 has seen the completion of the ambitious project undertaken by Pittville History Works, the research arm of Friends of Pittville, to collect details about the inhabitants of Pittville in the past.

The main sources were the ten-year national censuses from 1841 onwards, electoral rolls and Cheltenham’s various street directories. At first it was planned to cover the period from around 1830 – the beginning of the Pittville estate – up to 1901. Subsequently this was extended to 1945. All of the data has been  loaded on to the Pittville History Works database, , which can be consulted online by researchers in Cheltenham and around the world.

This work has now been completed and the names and details of 18,804 people have been added to the database. In many cases there is only a name and an address; but for some people there is a full life history. The work has been done by   five or six group members at any one time transcribing data from the censuses and directories.

This data will form the basis for further research into life in Pittville, which has seen a number of changes over its history. It was designed as a private estate for the well-to-do, and many early residents came from British India and elsewhere overseas, attracted by promises of a healthy environment, a good education for their children, and congenial company. The data also shows that many leisured Scots and Irish people bought or leased Pittville’s new housing stock in the first half of the 19th century. As the nineteenth century progressed, the profile of Pittville reflected wider changes in society. Gradually, household size reduced, and the largest Pittville houses often found a new function, as schools or even in one instance as a nunnery. By the time of the First World War many of the houses were beginning to be broken up into multi-occupancy, and a new brand of resident poured into Pittville: teachers, office clerks, and shop-assistants.

Each of the 18,804 Pittville residents has their own tale to tell and one of the next PHW projects will be to tell more of their life stories.

Pump room and lake

Now 14,000 histories

John Simpson and Steve Blake, with a few of the 80 strong audience

There was a fantastic turnout for John Simpson’s presentation for Cheltenham Local History Society at St Luke’s Hall on 5 March.  John talked about the award-winning website, Pittville History Works, explaining how the searchable database was built up to over 14,000 items. It covers every person and building in the original Estate from 1842 to 1939, with stories of individuals ranging from those in the women’s suffrage movement to the First World War to the slave trade. Historian Steve Blake also gave a quick update on his planned, more detailed, research into the builders of Pittville’s houses.

Pittville pulls out the stops for Heritage Open Days

Des Marshall leading a walk around Clarence and Wellington Squares during Heritage Open Days

Des Marshall leading a walk around Clarence and Wellington Squares during Heritage Open Days

Friends of Pittville and Pittville History Works Group made a major contribution to this year’s Heritage Open Days in Cheltenham. Des Marshall and Steve Blake both led walks around Clarence Square and Wellington Square, focusing on the buildings and their inhabitants, while Gloria and Peter Jones welcomed visitors to take the waters at the Pump Room on Tour of Britain day (9 September). On 10 September a steady stream of visitors visited three of Pittville’s hidden places: the vaulted Victorian wine cellars below Costantinou’s in Winchcombe Street, the mysterious chamber below Pittville Gates, and the kitchen and housekeeper’s room at 48 Clarence Square with its original stone flagged floor, bread oven, pantry and cooking range.

Cheltenham Arts Council award for Pittville History Works

Sandy Marshall, Gloria Jones, John Simpson and Judy Langhorn with their award

Sandy Marshall, Gloria Jones, John Simpson and Judy Langhorn with their award

Pittville History Works received an award from Cheltenham Arts Council at a ceremony at the Playhouse on 23 March. These awards recognise the achievements of volunteers who have made a major contribution to the cultural life of the town, and the award to the History Works team was in recognition of the project’s  innovation and the impact that it has had since it was set up just three years ago. The award was presented to John Simpson, the project leader, by the Mayor of Cheltenham, Cllr Chris Ryder.

Sunday Times article

Pittville History Works makes the national news

Sunday Times articleOur Pittville History Works project made the national news today with an article in the Sunday Times about communities who are creating online archives to unlock the history of their streets. The article features 6 Evesham Road, where a blue plaque commemorating Dr Grace Billings, Cheltenham’s first woman GP, was unveiled last year.

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