Architecture on and around the Lower High Street

Post Office Map of Cheltenham, 1920

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.[1]

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.[2]

2In 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

Normandy House

[1] Post Office Map of Cheltenham, 1820.

[2] Cheltenham Borough Council, Cheltenham Local Development Framework: Lower High Street Character Area Appraisal and Management Plan, July 2008



[5] Sally Self et al, Journal 27, ‘Cheltenham Local History Society’, 2011, p. 9-11.

Multiculturalism and Religion in the Lower High Street area

The following post was written by Jodie, Alex, Becky, Leonie and Harris, History students at the University of Gloucestershire.

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.