Cheltenham Spa, England: Pittville Pump Room: Cheltenham is a famous spa town within easy reach of the Cotswolds in in the county of Gloucestershire, England, and was a popular Georgian and Regency spa town where one could rest and recuperate. It became famous as a Spa town following the discovery of mineral springs in 1716, and claims to be the most complete Regency town in Britain. The Pittville Pump Room is an elegant Grade 1 listed Regency building and perhaps the most famous example of Regency architecture in Cheltenham, despite the town being filled Regency buildings. The Pittville Pump Room was the last and largest of the spa buildings to be built in Cheltenham.
Location: The Pump Room stands at one end of Pittville Park, about two miles from Cheltenham’s town centre, and is a monument to more than 100 years of fame which Cheltenham enjoyed as a Spa town. The building is set in beautiful parkland and is surrounded on three sides by a grand colonnade of ionic columns opening into the impressive hall with its domed ceiling and original crystal chandeliers. The park has extensive open lawns surrounded by trees and ornate bridges and pathways lead around the lakes where swans and ducks swim.
History: The waters were first discovered in around 1715 on a site now occupied by Cheltenham Ladies’ College. In 1788 George III and Queen Charlotte came to take the waters and it was their visit that set the seal on Cheltenham’s future. After a visit to Cheltenham, a banker named Joseph Pitt commissioned the architect John Forbes to design a pump room that was to act as the centrepiece to his vision of a town to rival Cheltenham – a town he would call Pittville.
The foundation stone was laid on 4 May 1825 and the work completed in 1830. The laying of the foundation was celebrated by the ringing of the bells, firing of cannons, as well as a Masonic Procession which set out from the Masonic Hall in Portland Street. In the evening banquets were held at two of the town’s hotels and grand fireworks display was to be seen at Pittville. The building took five years to complete. Following disagreements between Forbes and the builder, a second architect, John Clement Mead from London, was employed to finish the interior. He designed the elaborate stoves which heated the building. The original official opening on 6th July, 1830 was postponed until 20th July, 1830 because of the death of George IV. A grand public breakfast and ball marked the occasion.
Building the Pump Room: The total cost of the project was over £40,000, and incredible price for that time. Like many bankers of his time, Pitt ran into financial difficulties, the building went out of favour and was sold in 1890 to the Borough of Cheltenham for £5,400, a fraction of the original cost. The building is decorated in Ionic style and the great hail reflects the genius of John Forbes with the spa opening on the north side and the gallery and dome surmounting the hall.
The grand building is 92 feet long by 43 feet, surrounded by a colonnade 13 feet wide the roof of which are supported by fluted Ionic columns 22 feet high. Along the facade stand three figures representing Aesculapius, Hygeia and Hippocrates, originally made by Lucius Gahagan of Bath. In its design, the building combines elements of both Greek and Roman architecture. It was modelled on the temple on Illisus in Athens, the engravings of which appeared in Stuart and Revett’s Antiquities of Athens (1762).
The inspiration for the dome probably came from the Panthenon in Rome. A large ballroom was situated on the ground floor where even today visitors can attend music concerts, dances and other events. With a capacity of 400 and remarkable acoustics, it is Cheltenham’s finest concert venue. The spa with an oval pump room to the rear of the building are still there for the visitors to enjoy, available from a marbled pump and counter. A reading room, library and billiard room occupied the first floor.
Fashion History: “Cheltenham will be the summer village of all that is fashionable and all that is dignified; the residence of the royal ” family being a thing quite new so far from the metropolis . Already we hear of nothing but Cheltenham modes — the Cheltenham cap — the Cheltenham bonnets — the Cheltenham buttons — the Cheltenham buckles , in short all the fashions are completely Cheltenhamized throughout Great Britain.” via 1826 Griffith’s New Historical Description of Cheltenham and Its Vicinity.
Second World War: The Pump Room housed British and American army personnel, when dry rot was allowed to creep through the structure unchecked, and only after the war was the full extent of the damage revealed. Plaster, brickwork, timber: nearly everything had been affected. The dome was only held in position by a shell of plaster; the timber had been eaten away by the fungus.
The Duke of Wellington: Public subscriptions carne to the rescue, which were accompanied by Public Works grants and Historic Building Council contributions. A total of £43,250 was raised and by 1960 the building was partially restored to its former glory and reopened in 1960 by the Duke of Wellington. The old card room had been replaced by a new foyer, cloakrooms and second staircase, and heating and new lighting were in stalled.
Recent History: In 2003, the old Victorian wells were leaking and allowing ground water to dilute the natural mineral water so Pittville Pump Room no longer qualified as a spa and the well was shut down. The spa was then repaired and reopened so visitors can taste the only alkaline spa water in the country. The Pump Room’s old maple-strip floor was replaced with a stunning English oak floor, better flooring found for the ball room, and old pipes replaced. Nowadays the Pittville Pump Room is in use most days of the year for private and public functions and is one of Cheltenham’s most popular wedding venues. The venue is also used frequently by orchestras, choirs and chamber groups because it has stunning acoustics.Cheltenham Spa, England: Pittville Pump Room. #England #Cotswolds #BritishHistory #HistoricTravel https://books2read.com/suziloveROver Click To Tweet