It comes as no surprise that Cheltenham is in the top twenty of places for tourists to visit in England. Right from the very beginning when a natural spring was found, Cheltenham has drawn flocks of visitors as indeed it did pigeons that drank regularly from the spring leading to the discovery that would make Cheltenham a fashionable wealthy spa town. Amongst the many attractions for visitors is Cheltenham Town Hall. Here we take a look at this iconic building that is the top of every visitors list of “must see” places.Cheltenham Town Hall was built in the early part of the 20th century and unlike most towns, Cheltenham Town Hall is not the seat of the borough council but rather assembly rooms. Assembly rooms were places to meet for both sexes of the higher social groups. As most entertaining was done at home and the only other outlets for entertainment was the theatre, the assembly room was a place to go to see and be seen in a social context of musical recitals, balls, conversation and lectures. It was a place where ladies and gentleman could feel at ease. Gentlemen did have other outlets such as coffee shops and gentleman’s clubs, but the assembly room was a great place to be if you were looking for a wife.
Most important towns in England had an assembly room and Cheltenham Town Hall would have had similar attributes such as a main ballroom, card rooms, supper rooms and tea rooms. There was plenty of entertainment on offer for the elite who were permitted to attend. Admission was sometimes strictly screened for some events. The assembly room faded away as public entertainment venues increased and the stigma attached to women attending such places declined.
Before the Cheltenham Town Hall to be seen today, there was an assembly room building which was demolished to build a bank. Cheltenham Town Hall took the place of this gathering place. The site chosen was Imperial Square and the building was designed by an architect from Gloucester called Frederick William Waller. The construction was undertaken by a local Cheltenham company – Collins and Godfrey. The cost of Cheltenham Town Hall, including interior decoration and all fixtures and fittings, was £45,000 a substantial amount. The formal opening took place on 5 December 1903 by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Michael Hicks Beach MP who had strong Cheltenham family connections.
The impressive main hall has Corinthian columns and a coved ceiling. The room measures 92 by 52 ft and is 53 feet high, with a Doulton ware from which the Central Spa is made is still in use today. Two statues of King George V and King Edward VII in their coronation robes were gifted to Cheltenham Town Hall. The statues were crafted by Cheltenham firm RL Boulton & Sons who donated one statue and the other was gifted by Mr TE Whittaker. The statues sit in alcoves on display. AN organ was also donated in 1928 by Mr and Mrs Edward J. Burrow.