Project group: Christian Colson, Aashika Gurung, Brittany Moore, Ffion Page, Ben Sheldon, Riley Woodman
Our group aims to investigate and develop a better understanding of what happened to Cheltenham’s Lower High Street during the period of slum clearance in the 1930s. Cheltenham Town Council proposed two Slum Clearance Programmes, one in 1934 and the other in 1935, which affected areas dotted across Cheltenham, with the streets coming off the Lower High Street receiving the majority of the attention. It is worth noting that this was not the first time that there had been attempts at improving the housing situation in this area.
We plan to investigate why these houses needed to be removed, how the council planned to remove and replace the houses, and how people felt about being moved to another area and their homes being destroyed. We plan to find particular houses to focus on and track the changes that were made to them, in order to show the specific impacts that these changes had on the area.
So far, we have found that the main drive behind the Slum Clearance Programmes was concerns about the health of the inhabitants in those properties. Many of the buildings around the Lower High Street were not built to a high standard, which meant that people were more likely to become ill. We believe that changes in national government legislation prompted the concern for people’s health in their housing, and we are currently researching this possibility.
We have also discovered that the houses that were deemed unsatisfactory were not all demolished and rebuilt all at once. The council gradually bought property from landlords or, where possible, pressurised them to make changes to their property to make it more habitable. We also came across various plans for housing for those affected by the Slum Clearance Programmes. It is interesting to note that these new houses were to be rented at a particular price, to ensure that they were not inaccessible to the intended tenants.
There are also some accounts of how some people who rented out property in that area were concerned that they were losing their livelihood. There were also concerns from some people about being moved away from the businesses they owned on the High Street. This resentment towards being pushed out of their homes meant that there was some resistance to the process. Most residents raised formal objections through the Town Council. Other residents refused entry to inspectors who came to investigate their property. However, there were some landlords who were willing to make changes to fit the guidelines, if they were able to, and others were willing to sell their property to the council, so there was not universal resistance to the idea of housing improvement.
 Jill Waller, Heather Atkinson, Sue Rowbotham (Cheltenham Local History Society), A Chronology of Housing for the Poor in Cheltenham, p. 15.
 Steven Blake, Cheltenham: A Pictorial History, 1996.
Project Group: Rebekah Dinwoodie, Dawn Fullwood, Andrew Jungelson, Amelia Whittle
Our group project aims to identify key places of historic interest in the city of Gloucester, and place them on a map with a circular walk. We are producing a leaflet so tourists and locals alike can find new places, and we are including a section for children.
The primary focus of this project is to educate visitors to the City, and make the experience enjoyable. We aim to research and analyse sites of interest, their facilities, and their location on a map. The central focus will be on two categories: places to visit (such as museums), and places to look at the architecture and interesting statues. We will provide key information for each of these, demonstrating accessibility, admission prices and opening times.
We have gathered information on all sites we believe would be interesting to visitors, and have removed some from our list due to expensive admissions, boring sites or lack of information.
We visited Gloucester on the 23 January 2018, and very quickly realised that designating a walk would not be beneficial, due to the length of the proposed walk as well as time taken to explore each site. We have decided instead to place the key sites on a map in a fashion so visitors can walk logically to them all if they wish. Alternatively, visitors can section off the map and spend a day at each part of the City to experience more fully the Historical Sites of Gloucester.
The three most interesting sites we visited are the Mariner’s Chapel (the information found out post-visit made it extremely interesting!), the Tailor of Gloucester, and the City Museum.
The Mariner’s Chapel is located on the docks, and was created by an evangelical Christian who wanted to bring faith to seamen and boatmen. They produced leaflets and Bibles in multiple languages in order to make religion more accessible to everyone. They also held sermons on ships for those who were unable to moor for long, or who were extremely busy.
The Tailor of Gloucester is an extremely interesting Museum based on the work of Beatrix Potter. The Museum is located in the house Beatrix Potter illustrated as being the House of the Tailor, and the interior has been decorated as Potter illustrated it in her book. Downstairs is the kitchen, and upstairs contains artefacts about Beatrix Potter’s works – including the waistcoat the local WI created based upon the novel!
The City Museum, or the Museum of Gloucester, was an incredible experience for our group when we visited! Not only were Richard III books on sale for £1 per hardback, but we were also allowed free admission into the ground floor of the Museum. With dinosaurs, local history dating back to the Romans, and Gloucestershire wildlife, it was varied and enjoyable.
Murder is an aspect of history that many people would prefer to ignore; it is dark history and a less popular story to be researched when making reference to a specific local area. This study focuses on three murders that all took place in the Lower High Street area in Cheltenham. Looking at this dark subject can reveal changes to societal attitudes and society as a whole. This study focuses on three case studies of murders and what they reveal about the changing demographics of Cheltenham, the increasing sensationalism of crime reporting, changing attitudes to the death penalty and how this is relevant in a heritage context.
The study draws much of its evidence from three murders in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The first is the murder of Katherine A’Court by her servant, Joseph Armstrong, in 1776. The second is the murder of Emily Gardner, who had her throat slit by her lover in 1871. Finally, Job Hartland murdered his wife and child in their family home in 1894.
The detection of these murders does not mean that the area around the Lower High Street was full of crime. In fact, the historical research carried out for this study found evidence of very few murders in this area. In the same way, the area has not become a centre of crime in recent times either. For example, in the first six months of 2017 in Cheltenham only 22 per cent of crimes were recorded as having been violent. In March 2017 there were 102 violent or sexual offenses in Cheltenham, which is a small number in comparison to the area surrounding the UCL campus in London, where there were 420.
Case 1: In 1776 William and Katherine A’Court came to Cheltenham to visit the baths. They were a respectable family: Captain William A’Court had a seat in Heytesbury in Wiltshire and they owned land there, including the Heytesbury Mill (see Figure 1). They were just two of a number of people who visited the town to drink the waters, including King George III who visited in 1788. Cheltenham’s popularity soared in the eighteenth century with the population doubling from 1500 residents in 1700 to over 3000 in 1800. It quickly became a fashionable place to be and as fashion so often came with wealth, so the people living here in the 1700s were often well respected gentry.
From the 1830s, however, the popularity of living in a spa town was decreasing and as the wealthy left, they were replaced by what may be considered as less respectable characters. This fact provides one possible explanation for the changing demographics of the murders revealed by this study.
Case 2: In 1871 Emily Gardner was murdered in the street by her lover, Frederick Jones, who had become jealous of the time she spent with other men. Emily, a dressmaker, lived with her parents above the Early Dawn Pub on the Lower High Street and Frederick was a baker who lived on nearby Swindon Place.
Case 3: Job Hartland, a greengrocer, murdered his wife and child in an alcohol-fuelled attack in 1894.
Murder and Social Change
The difference in the social status of the people involved in the murders reflects a changing demographic, but does this seeming lowering in the social status of Cheltenham’s inhabitants provide a sufficient explanation for these incidents of violent crime? The simplest answer is no. Cheltenham was considered to be a respectable town in the 1700s but this did not stop Joseph Armstrong from killing his employer in an act of desperation. In fact, in the twenty-three years between Emily Gardner’s murder in 1871 and the murder of Hartland’s family in 1894, there appear to have been no other murders. This suggests that there were other changes taking place in society which influenced the decline in the number of murders. Cheltenham’s changing demographics did not lead to an increase in violent crime. This could be due, in part, to the establishment of the official police force after the introduction of Robert Peel’s Constabulary Act of 1839. (see Figure 2)
Another prominent theme drawn from the research for these case studies was the increasing desire for sensationalised accounts of murder in the nineteenth century. This is reflected in a contemporary account of the murder of Katherine A’Court, written by an investigative officer on the case. (see Figure 3) The report presents much of the information seen in other contemporary accounts, such as newspaper articles from the period. Katherine had asked her husband to fire their servant, Joseph Armstrong, for misconduct and he had poisoned her with Arsenic to get revenge. The A’Courts had not initially suspected Armstrong of attempting to murder his employer and had simply sent him away for his poor treatment of Katherine. This enabled him to flee as far as Frog Mill before being caught. It was not until a few days after her death that the apothecary reported that Armstrong had purchased Arsenic on both the day before Katherine was taken ill and again during the week before she died.
In an 1863 publication on the history of Cheltenham, John Goding claimed that Armstrong had been caught stealing jewels and that he was prosecuted for theft as well as murder. Contemporary accounts, however, do not include such claims, stating that Armstrong was only suspected of ‘neglect’ or ‘misconduct’. The later sensationalised accounts of the murder also claim that Armstrong was caught because he was suspected of attempted murder by William A’Court, but as previously mentioned Armstrong was not suspected of this until several days after he had been dismissed. Goding’s history also claims that Armstrong took his master’s ‘favourite spaniel’ with him when he ran, and that it was the dog which gave him away when he was pursued. These details are echoed in a 1922 report following the conviction of another Joseph Armstrong for murder.
These changes in the details of the case indicate an increasing interest in stories of murder. People were keen to hear the gory and strange facts of a case, and this is reflected in the insertion of such details into the reports of later writers: Goding certainly had more interest in appealing to the excitement of his readers than in providing an accurate account of the murder.
The Punishments – Death Penalty
This section presents some of the evidence that demonstrates the changing social attitudes to the use of the death sentence and how these attitudes were reflected in the responses to three murders that took place in Cheltenham’s Lower High Street area between 1776 and 1894.
Case 1: After poisoning his mistress with arsenic in 1776 at their holiday home in Henrietta Street, Joseph Armstrong was sentenced to death following his trial at the Spring Assizes in 1777. One contemporary account suggests that having been detained at Cheltenham, Armstrong attempted to make good his escape, but was prevented from doing so ‘by the vigilance of the Constables’.
Armstrong, having then been convicted at the Assizes in the spring of 1777, took his own life rather than face the gallows in public. Armstrong’s body was then hung from a gibbet at the end of the Dunally Street at the junction with St Paul’s Road, a major coach road at the time. Was this hanging of the gibbet to serve as a deterrent to the local populous? Or was this something done with the approval of the local community, who saw the actions of Armstrong as abhorrent and that, having avoided the hangman, he had relinquished his entitlement to a Christian burial?
Case 2: The Early Dawn Public House was located at the corner of the High Street and Park Street and was home to the Gardner family. In 1871, Frederick Jones murdered Emily Gardner near Wellington Street, which, according to a report in the Cheltenham Chronicle on Saturday 8 September 1894, later became known locally as Murder Lane. Jones was detained very quickly by local police and was soon tried and sentenced to death.
Despite the brutality of the murder, Frederick Jones’s conviction to the death penalty was the subject of a petition seeking a reprieve. (see Figure 4) No evidence has come to light suggesting that the jury at his trial recommended him to mercy. Nonetheless, Jones was supported by a petition sent to the Home Secretary, Henry Bruce, but the petition was rejected. What can be noted on this petition are the signatures that reflect the support given by local people to Frederick Jones’s reprieve. In January 1872, Jones became the first person to be hanged behind the walls of Gloucester Prison, away from public view.
Changing Attitudes from the Eighteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries
In less than 100 years, society had seen a shift from a public gibbeting of a convicted murderer to the private execution of another murderer behind prison walls.
Up to the end of the eighteenth century, executions were very much a spectator sport for all classes of society, the wealthy as well as the poor. In many counties, executions were held on market days to enable the largest number of people to see them and even groups of schoolchildren would be made to attend as a moral lesson. The efforts to reduce the number of capital crimes, and thus executions, that had been evident from the end of the eighteenth century and during the first 40 years of the nineteenth century had met with considerable success, yet between 1828 and 1833, the number of executions still averaged over one a week in England and Wales; between 1850 and 1868 there were 215 public executions.
Although there was apparently little mood in the country for the outright abolition of capital punishment, it seemed that watching public executions had become unfashionable, at least with the upper middle classes. The Criminal Law Consolidation Act of 1861 reduced the number of capital crimes to four: murder, high treason, piracy and arson in a Royal Dockyard. In reality, this act was more of a tidying up exercise as nobody had been hanged for a crime other than for murder since 1837. The 1864 Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, however, concluded that there was no case for the abolition of the death penalty, but it did recommend putting a stop to public executions. In 1868, England and Scotland carried out their last public executions, and in Wales the last public execution took place in 1866. On 29 May 1868, the Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act came into force ending public hanging, and requiring all future executions to be carried out within prisons. Between 1792 and 1864, 102 prisoners were hanged in public in Gloucester jail: 94 men and eight women. The last public execution at Gloucester was carried out on the 27 August 1864.
Changing Attitudes in the Late Nineteenth Century
Case 3: In 1894, Job Hartland committed the heinous crime of murdering his wife and baby son at 303 High Street, on the corner with St Georges Street. Despite the brutality of his crimes, Hartland was the subject of a petition signed by influential businessmen and clergy from Gloucester. Furthermore, he had the support not only of the jury at his trial, but also of the Judge (see Figures 5 and 6).
No evidence has been found to suggest that Frederick Jones had been the beneficiary of similar attitudes 23 years earlier, in 1871. Was the reason for Jones’s failure to obtain a reprieve more about his lack of influence rather than the stronger social acceptance for capital punishment? Even so, despite the petition in his support, Job Hartland’s reprieve was met with some surprise amongst the Cheltenham community, as evidenced in local newspaper reports. (see Figure 7) This may be a sign that attitudes had not changed quite as dramatically locally in Cheltenham as across the Golden Valley in Gloucester.
Reporting the Murders
Despite the rising number of murders recorded nationally, the incidence of murder in the Cheltenham Lower High Street area attracted public comment simply because it was not common. The numbers of people attending the funerals of Mrs Hartland and her son became so high that the Police had to deny access to anyone other than family rather than turn the event into a public spectacle. On 8 September 1894, an article in the Gloucester Citizen made reference to the ‘Several Thousands’ who had assembled on the High Street. (see Figure 8)
Detailed accounts of the crimes of murder became increasingly common and can be linked more generally to an ever increasing interest in the macabre. The Gloucestershire Chronicle on 29 September 1894 reported behaviour which would suggest that the interest in the macabre was as evident then as it is today. (see Figure 9)
Lower High Street Heritage
The present day popularity of ghost tours, haunted house TV shows, films and books about killers suggests that there is a possible space in Cheltenham heritage to explore this narrative. The three case studies of local murders examined here present an opportunity to see and feel history up close:
The house in Henrietta Street where Mrs A’Court was poisoned;
Dunally Street junction with St Pauls Road;
St Marys Church, where Katherine A’Court is buried (a plaque commemorates her memory);
The Shamrock Pub (previously the Shakespeare Pub) where the inquest was held for Emily Gardner;
The Early Dawn Public House, no longer a pub but the building still stands at the junction of Park Street and the High Street;
Wellesley Street (Murder Lane), where the murder of Emily Gardner took place;
Gloucester Shire Hall and County gaol (soon to be closed), where Armstrong, Jones and Hartland were convicted and spent time. Jones himself is buried within the walls of Gloucester Prison;
303 High Street, the scene of the murders of Rebecca Hartland and George Hartland;
New Cemetery, where the victims are buried.
Cheltenham’s Lower High Street area was the scene of the three murders detailed here in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These types of murder were mirrored around the country and the Lower High Street was in no way unique. Although the demography of Cheltenham changed considerably during these centuries, there was no significant increase in the local incidence of murder. There was, however, an increase in the public appetite for sensationalism in the nineteenth century, leading to a more detailed and widespread reporting of crime. Changes in the law resulted in executions taking place in private and this reflected a social change in attitudes towards capital punishment. As the nineteenth century neared its end, the attitude to capital punishment was reflected further in the granting of conditional pardons.
Our group project aims to identify and analyse the architectural significance of buildings, as well as the green space, in the Cheltenham Lower High Street. The Cheltenham High Street was first recorded on a Post Office Map of Cheltenham in 1820 and since this date has developed from a market town to a thriving commercial area.
The primary focus of this project are buildings from the 1800s to the present day. We aim to research and analyse the original purpose of the buildings, the purposes they have held over the years, and the changes that have taken place. The central focus will be on three buildings: Normandy House, the Old Workhouse, and the Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens. We will provide case studies for each of these, demonstrating changes on the Lower High Street over the years, and the way in which the buildings have been adapted to represent the changing times.
In terms of boundaries, the area of the Lower High Street that we are placing our primary focus on is from St. Georges Street to Swindon Street. This section is home to multiple different types of buildings with many different functions, from pubs to printing shops as well as numerous ethnic grocery stores.
One of the buildings we are placing our focus on is Normandy House, situated on the corner of St. Georges Street and Ambrose Street. On the map, this building is represented as a purple building, circled in red. Normandy House is a Georgian Era building, which according to an 1834 map, was originally used as a villa. Following on from this it is recorded as a General Hospital and Dispensary in 1839. It was transformed into this role with the help of Robert Jearrad, a well-known architect of the time, who was involved in the creation of many other buildings in and around Cheltenham. The role of Normandy House changed in 1849 when a new hospital building was opened on Sanford Road, on a much larger site. After this, Normandy House was left unused until the outbreak of the Crimean War, when it was once again opened to help treat injured soldiers. It functioned in this role from 1853-56, until it was once again closed and left unused. The layout of the building was eventually deemed suitable for dormitories, and it was remodelled to provide accommodation for student teachers studying at the training college. Today, although the building remains mostly unchanged, it is now the main offices for Beam Construction (since 2009). Normandy House maintains a primary position within Cheltenham town, set slightly back from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.
The aim of our research is to gain a greater understanding of how the various religious communities surrounding the Lower High Street have evolved as a result of multiculturalism in Cheltenham. We decided to investigate the impact of multiculturalism on the Lower High Street after noticing that there is a Catholic Church, a Synagogue, a Mosque and a Hindu Community Centre all in close proximity to each other. This led us to wonder about the history of these buildings and communities, and we decided that we wanted to research when they were established and the main reasons why they are located in the area surrounding the Lower High Street. Following this, we decided that we also wanted to investigate whether multiculturalism and the migration of ethnic groups have had any significant impact on religion in the area (for example, on the membership levels of these religious communities). We are interested to investigate how membership has changed over time, and how far people travel to get to these places of worship.
The Lower High Street is home to St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, the Masjid al-Madina Mosque, the Hindu Community Centre and the Cheltenham Synagogue. Through discussion with the religious leaders and representatives of these institutions, and those members of the Lower High Street micro-community who associate themselves with a particular faith, we hope to grasp how the dynamics of religious belief has changed in this area of Cheltenham in correlation with the movement of different ethnic communities over time.
So far, we have formed the foundation of the project. We have explored the Lower High Street itself and noticed the diversity in places of worship. We have conducted preliminary research into the history of each location to gain a better knowledge of these places before taking our project further. Currently, we are in the early stages of contacting representatives of each location to organise meetings for the purpose of interviewing those with a lead role within the places of worship.
With regard to the interviews, producing a consent form has been a priority for us as we want to ensure those we interview are fully aware of the aims and purpose of our project, and that they have full confidence that we will deal with the information they share appropriately. When entering a place of worship to conduct the interview, we will have to be aware of proper etiquette for that faith, for example if necessary removing footwear and dressing appropriately, only visiting at certain times, and not interrupting prayers or services.
We aim to present the project in three ways: firstly, as a visual presentation through displaying historical photographs of the area. In addition, we hope to gain the consent of the interviewees to display their photographs as a well as images of the inside of the buildings. Secondly, we plan to present recorded and edited sound clips of the interviews that demonstrate the religious leaders discussing their opinions of religion in the community. Thirdly, a pamphlet explaining each faith and its place in the Lower High Street community will be produced. Through the combination of these three methods of presenting we hope to provide a well-rounded view of the religious communities and their historical place on Cheltenham’s Lower High Street.