Published on 8th September 2016

Cheltenham Minster

This year we have introduced a theme to Heritage Open Days.

It is 300 years since spa waters were ‘discovered’ in Cheltenham, when residents reputedly noted flocks of birds (pigeons maybe) gathering around a well. It took some years before the well was commercially developed and progress was slow until 1788 when George 111 came to Cheltenham for six weeks, with his wife and three daughters. From that date there was an explosion of activity and twenty six different wells have been documented by historians. Today there is only one surviving, in Pittville Pump Room.

Although Cheltenham is best known for its Regency terraces and houses, the buildings open at some time over these four days cover one thousand years – St Mary Magdalene Church in Uckington with its Norman arches; the medieval Cheltenham Minster; the classically inspired Pittville Pump Room from 1830; the mid to late 19th century Victorian Gothic Revival churches of John Middleton and others; Princess Hall in Cheltenham Ladies’ College from the late 9th century influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The walks and talks reflect life and people in Cheltenham over the years – 19th century Christian reformers; Cheltenham’s most famous son, Antarctic explorer Edward Wilson; and health care at Cheltenham General Hospital. And, Cheltenham life during and just after the First World War, with a walk and exhibition at Parmoor House, 13 Lypiatt Terrace.
All the buildings are open for free; places need to be booked on the walks (and most of these are taken already).

To find out about all twenty-six wells, ask for a free self-guided walk at the Tourist Information Centre, in The Wilson Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, Clarence Street, GL50 3JT.
There are eight other self-guided walks covering central Cheltenham, written by members of Cheltenham Local History Society. Two more self-guided walks, on Pittville, were written by Friends of Pittville. These are only available from 8 September and only free during Heritage Open Days. All guides are published by Cheltenham Local History Society and sponsored by Art Works Design Consultants.

Find full details of Heritage Open Days properties, walks and talks in Cheltenham including the brochure on Visit Cheltenham’s website and on the Heritage Open Days website.
Simon Murray, senior director of Strategy, Curatorship and External Affairs for the National Trust, says: “The popularity of Heritage Open Days grows and grows. It is an expression of the love we all have for our heritage and particularly the history of places local to us. The National Trust’s strategy Playing our Part recognises this and we are very enthusiastic about the role Heritage Open Days can play in helping us deliver the strategy. For this reason we are delighted for the support from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and we are committed to supporting Heritage Open Days into the future.”

Cllr Steve Jordan, leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, continues: “Heritage Open Days in Cheltenham is organised by Cheltenham Civic Society with valuable assistance from Cheltenham Local History Society, Art Works Design Consultants and the Tourist Information Centre. It is funded by Cheltenham Borough Council through its Community Pride Fund.”

For media enquiries and images about Heritage Open Days, contact: Fiona Clarke, Cheltenham Civic Society, telephone 01242 227720, email

For enquires about Cheltenham Borough Council’s Community Pride Fund, contact Laura Carter, communications officer, telephone 01242 264154, email

History Heritage Open Days was established in 1994 as England’s contribution to the European Heritage Days and has since grown into the country’s largest heritage festival.
Heritage Open Days is England's biggest festival of history and culture involving over 40,000 volunteers. Every year over four days in September, thousands of events across the country invite you in to explore local treasures of every age, style and function. It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – and it’s all FREE.

Nationally Heritage Open Days is coordinated centrally by the National Trust with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Locally, it is thousands of organisations and individuals from all walks of life who make the festival happen.