The Wilson - Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum re-opens to the public

Published on 2nd October 2013

Art gallery and museum

Saturday 5 October, 10.30am

The time has arrived, after a major new build – costing in the region of £6 million – Cheltenham art gallery and museum will be re-opening to the public on Saturday 5 October 2013.

Cheltenham’s Mayor, Cllr Wendy Flynn, will cut the ribbon at 10.30am and the fun begins with activities and comedy performances throughout the day.

This is the most significant development project that Cheltenham has had for many years and it is hoped it will change the art gallery and museum from a hugely important local attraction to one that can also help to boost Cheltenham’s national and international profile and encourage tourism. The renovation project has also included a re-branding exercise with cabinet approving The Wilson as the new name for the art gallery and museum.

This elegant and stylish building, designed by architects Berman Guedes Stretton, has something for everybody, whether they are local to the area, or coming to Cheltenham for the first time.

Four new floors will house a gallery dedicated to the art gallery and museum’s extensive fine art collection, space to discover more about local heroes, including the great Edward Wilson (one of Scott’s key men on his 1912 expedition to Antarctica), a re-interpreted Arts and Crafts gallery (showing the world-renowned designated collection), and two superb temporary exhibition galleries – for showing national and international touring shows, special highlights from the collections and fun shows for families.

The redevelopment will also become the new home for the town’s tourism services - with the re-location of Cheltenham’s Tourist Information Centre to The Wilson – including the opening of a new ground floor café-bistro, serving delicious eats from breakfasts to light lunches, home-baked cakes and speciality roasted coffee and House of Bath teas.

The Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen will also have a new retail outlet, called the ‘Guild at 51’, selling and showing beautiful and contemporary crafts on the site, and the art gallery and museum will be working with the University of Gloucestershire, in co-hosting national touring shows in the new galleries.

To start the celebrations, The Wilson will be launching an exciting exhibitions and events programme, from a major retrospective (including new pieces) show, Casting Brilliance, by the Gloucestershire-based, and internationally-recognised, glass artist Colin Reid, to hosting the exciting Times Newseum, as part of the The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. The Wilson will also be welcoming back the open west with their annual open competition and exhibition, featuring work from international and national artists, after its debut show at the National Trust’s Newark Park.

Councillor Rowena Hay, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “We’re thrilled to have reached this stage. The Wilson creates a fantastic new centre for Cheltenham, through its extensive galleries and enhanced facilities, including its partnerships with the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, the University of Gloucestershire and the re-location of the town’s tourism services. It will be the perfect destination for local residents and visitors to Gloucestershire and the wider Cotswolds.”

Jane Lillystone, museum, arts & tourism manager, added: “I still can’t believe this day has finally arrived. It has taken years of planning but the results are outstanding. The new building has transformed the art gallery and museum, with improved access and enhanced opportunities for the display of its locally, regionally, nationally and internationally important art and heritage collections. Treasures from our collections will come into the public view for the first time, whilst the new galleries enable Cheltenham to become a major venue for national and international touring exhibitions. Our aim is to become a cultural hub for the town - a place where everyone (of all ages) is welcome.”

An exciting programme of exhibitions for 2014 is also being developed, including the loan of Rodin’s Kiss from Tate, a national touring show from the National Portrait Gallery and a summer family blockbuster exhibition, Dinosaurs Uncovered.

The Wilson will be open from 10.30am until 5.15pm on Saturday 5 October. Opening hours are 9.30am to 5.15pm, seven days a week. Entry is free. For more information visit the website.

For press enquiries contact: Kelly Carter, communications officer, telephone 01242 264154 or email

Photo opportunity – A press preview will be held at The Wilson on Thursday 3 October at 10am. If you would like to attend please call the communications team on 01242 775050.


Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum has undergone a major redevelopment, Building for a New Future, with the design and build of a new extension and the refurbishment of some existing galleries and public spaces.  

The scheme has transformed Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum, allowing for improved access and enhanced opportunities for the display of its locally, regionally, nationally and internationally important art and heritage collections. It also enables The Wilson to become a major venue for national and international touring exhibitions.

The new building provides:
-  A 139 sq. m. dedicated (for the first time) picture gallery for the Art Gallery & Museum’s extensive collections – many of which are currently in store
- A dedicated space for schools and other learning projects
- 297 sq. m. of flexible temporary exhibition galleries over two floors for displays from the collections, touring exhibitions and other collaborative shows
- Public archive and other study facilities open to visitors, researchers and historians, showing displays and providing access to computers, stored collections and archives
-  239 sq. m. of centralised storage and workshop areas – providing the highest standard of environmental control
-  Improved facilities for outreach, informal learning and arts development work – including public areas for exhibitions / displays and a dedicated informal space for young people to use
- The creation of a ‘new gateway’ to Cheltenham’s oldest building, medieval St. Mary’s Church – enhancing the surrounding conservation area, as well as preserving the adjacent listed buildings.

The development also includes the new home for the town’s tourism services and the re-location of Cheltenham Tourist Information Centre – with the aim of creating a ‘first stop for visitors / tourists’ to Cheltenham and the wider Cotswolds / Gloucestershire area.

A learning / crafts hub has also been formed through two key partnerships with the University of Gloucestershire and the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen. The partnership with the University creates opportunities for shared exhibitions and learning resources. Whilst the Guild has re-located from their current shop / gallery (in Painswick) to a new shop on the ground floor retail unit - known as The Guild at 51.

The re-development is supported, with thanks, by the following key partners:

Cheltenham Borough Council
Heritage Lottery Fund
The Summerfield Trust
The Monument Trust
The Foyle Foundation
The Garfield Weston Foundation
The Wolfson Foundation