Created By: Cheltenham Local History Society
This building sits at the corner of Suffolk Road, which was once an ancient farm track across the Sandford and Westall open fields. Two centuries ago, then called Commercial Road, it marked the southern limit of Cheltenham.
Formerly known as Sandford Lawn, the property was constructed in the 1820s and became the family home of Major General John Swiney of the Madras Army and his wife Rosa. John was born at Fort William, Kolkata (Calcutta), in 1832, and came from a line of Indian Army officers. His father and uncle were founding subscribers to Cheltenham College, opposite, of which he was an early pupil.
Rosa was the co-founder of the Cheltenham branch of the National Women's Suffrage Society and served as its President in 1907, supported by her husband. She often corresponded about the suffrage movement in the local press, wrote articles about the emancipation of women in various countries and hosted conferences and garden fetes at their home.
Shortly after Rosa’s death, in 1923 this became the home of the Irving Academy of Dancing and Dramatic Art, founded and managed by Madame Ethel Irving. She installed an ex-army hut in the grounds, which became the "Little Theatre". It could seat 200 and hosted many shows by the pupils of the Academy.
In 1937 Ethel Irving converted Sandford Lawn into a hotel, appointing her son Charles as the manager in 1943. He was a dynamic businessman and local politician, serving as the mayor in 1957 and 1971, and was the MP for Cheltenham from 1974-1992. Whilst Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister Charles Irving sent her fresh flowers every day at 10 Downing Street. He was knighted in 1990 and, following his death and cremation in 1995, arranged for his ashes to be scattered over Cheltenham from a light aircraft.
Walk along the north pavement of Suffolk Road until you are facing The Guild Hairdressing.
This point of interest is part of the tour: A Walk on the South Side - from Cheltenham to The Suffolks