Ask yourself this. Do you know where in central Cheltenham Britain’s first jet aircraft engine was assembled? Or where the Rolling Stones starred in one of their first concerts with Cheltenham-born Brian Jones on guitar? Or where the first successful parachute descent was made by an Englishman way back in 1838?

That’s just some of what you can learn about Cheltenham’s people and places in a new trail that has been launched by Cheltenham BID and The Cheltenham Trust. The trail will help to bring some of Cheltenham’s hidden histories to light and share some little-known facts about some of Cheltenham’s best-known buildings.

The trail has been designed to not only guide visitors and locals to historic hotspots, but also to tell the  stories of the people, places and communities of the town that have been overlooked, forgotten and in some cases even written out of history. Each of the 12 points on the trail will have a “Did you know?” message, with maps available from The Wilson, Cheltenham BID and many participating venues.

Places on the trail:

  1. The Mayflower - Home to Cheltenham’s first ever Chinese restaurant. Find out more…
  2. Hepworth Bronzes - On the façade above Wagamama’s, this art piece was designed by sculptor Barbara Hepworth at the height of her career in the 1960s. Find out more…
  3. St Mary’s Churchyard - While St May’s Minster is famous already as the oldest building in Cheltenham, hidden on the path are two brass markers which are believed to have been used to measure fabric or rope on market days. Find out more....
  4. Cheltenham’s Centre Stone – often overlooked above F.Hinds Jeweller, the corner stone marks the official centre of Cheltenham where travelling are measured from. Find out more...
  5. The Brewery Quarter – perhaps best-known now for destination food, shopping and entertainment, this is in fact the site of Cheltenham’s first proper brewery which was founded in 1970. Find out more...
  6. The former Odeon Building – in 1964 and 1965, the Gaumont Cinema (later Odeon Cinema) hosted a Rolling Stones concert with Cheltenham’s Brian Jones on guitar. Find out more…
  7. Marks & Spencer Building – On this site in 1842, George Jacob Holyoake became the last man to be arrested for blasphemy in England. Holyoake was a social reformer and radical thinker. Find out more…
  8. Regent Arcade – formerly the site of Gloster Aircraft, Britain’s first successful jet aircraft ‘Pioneer’ was assembled here in 1941. Find out more...
  9. Pizza Express Building – Sarah Burney a little-known English novelist stayed here in the boarding house. Sarah wrote a mystery novel which includes a dramatic description of a kidnapping outside a Cheltenham theatre. Find out more…
  10. The Bandstand in Montpellier Gardens – the bandstand marks the official location of the first ever successful parachute descent by an Englishman. The jump was made by john Hampton from a hot air balloon at 6,000 feet and the descent lasted 12 minutes 40 seconds. Find out more…
  11. Spa Pharmacy - This shop was once the home of J N Maskelyne, inventor of the world’s first coin-operated toilet which coined (excuse the pun) the phrase ‘to spend a penny’. Find out more…
  12. The Observatory at Cheltenham Ladies’ College – Built to support astronomy lessons at the school in 1897, the landmark revolving dome is constructed of steel covered with papier mache and canvas painted sea green. During the Second World War the dome was used as an observation post. Find out more…

You can spot all the places and find out some of the history via the new Hidden Cheltenham website which is packed with information on the background to the places on the trail. As well as modern and historic images, local experts give the lowdown on everything you could possibly want to know.

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