‘Cheltenham Lower High Street: Past, Present and Future’

‘Cheltenham Lower High Street: Past, Present and Future’ is a research project initiated and led by staff members at the University of Gloucestershire in collaboration with the Cheltenham West End Partnership and the Cheltenham Civic Society. This project places Cheltenham’s Lower High Street in its historical context and examines its past, present and future.

Context
Cheltenham’s Lower High Street (LHS) region is one of the oldest areas of the town, with its history dating much further back than the Regency period, when most of the now historically and culturally significant parts of the town centre were constructed; the LHS area also has a distinctly non-Regency appearance, unlike many of the wealthier streets on its borders. The LHS has recently been the focus of a number of regeneration and renewal projects and has proved itself to be stubbornly resistant to Council-sponsored attempts to impose a form a Suffolks-style ‘gentrification’ in the neighbourhood: why is this the case? Likewise, we know very little about local resident and trader responses to the on-going ‘studentification’ of the area surrounding the University of Gloucestershire’s Francis Close Hall campus as student numbers have grown over the past two decades in relation to the expansion of enrolments in Higher Education.

cheltenham-lower-high-street-c1955_c75108
Cheltenham’s Lower High Street, c. 1955 (Francis Frith Collection)

Aims
The primary aim of the project was to produce an exhibition on the history of the area and a short documentary film at Cheltenham’s Civic Day on Saturday 17 June 2017. To do this, project researchers identified and collated from diverse collections and publications the range of primary source materials already available for the study of the LHS, as well as locating and sourcing new materials not used by previous researchers. Researchers focused primarily on oral history interviews with former and existing residents to bring the memories and experiences from life in the area to the fore.

cheltenham-lower-high-street-c1955_c75109

Cheltenham’s Lower High Street, c. 1955 (Francis Frith Collection)

The aim of the project is to challenge two main characteristics of the Lower High Street’s history. The first is the area’s almost complete exclusion from more established histories of Cheltenham which have tended to prioritize and celebrate the town’s rich Regency heritage over it’s working class history. The second is to challenge the negative stigmatization of the area by highlighting the area’s importance in Cheltenham’s development, primarily by acknowledging and understanding the experiences of people who lived and grew up there. The project team is still conducting interviews and building a publicly available archive of oral testimonies. It is hoped that a more sensitive understanding of the past can positively influence  redevelopment plans.

For more details about project researchers and their areas of expertise, see the ‘Researchers’ page.

Funding
This project was made possible by two generous grants:

  1. Funds from the University of Gloucestershire’s Learning Innovation for Tomorrow (LIFT) scheme, which is geared to bringing transformative, futures-oriented learning into the curriculum, co-curriculum and education support. This money has been used to support the Level 5 group project work.
  2. Funds from the University of Gloucestershire’s Being Human Research Priority Area, which was established to address areas of research that are concerned with human experience and a sense of heritage and direction. This money has been used to run a parallel series of staff and postgraduate projects.