CHELTENHAM was a small, isolated market town until the discovery of its mineral waters and the subsequent visit by George III. It already had a long and interesting history, well told in this comprehensive new book, but from that time onwards it has been a town of many contrasts. Its 'retired colonel' image has been persistent, but ignores the town's thriving and growing business and commercial activities over the past two centuries and the vibrant contribution to its life of a younger population. Long known as a centre of education, with famous schools, it did not gain university status until 2001. Renowned for its parks and tree-lined streets, Cheltenham has had its share of social problems and poor housing. Its contrasts are echoed in its buildings, for which it is celebrated, where Regency stucco and ornamental iron work mask the plain, underlying brickwork. The authors of this new book, both well known Cheltenham historians, have taken a fresh look at the history of the town from earliest times to the present day. They have drawn on a wide variety of original sources, from manorial records, early maps and property deeds to personal recollections and the internet.
Previous histories of the town have tended to focus on the growth of the spas and the more distinguished residents and visitors, but in this work attention is paid to all levels of society and to the importance of craftsmanship, innovation and industry in the making of modern Cheltenham. A profusion of carefully selected and fully captioned illustrations adds to the appeal of the very readable narrative and to the wealth of information provided for all who would like to know more of the past of this unusual town. The authors hope that every reader will find something new that will inspire further inquiry.