Created By: Cheltenham Local History Society
This site witnessed a remarkable continuity of trade and an important social and technological transition. The modern office block standing here conceals a history associated with road transport for more than 140 years.
In 1830 this property was known as Suffolk Mews, consisting of stables and coach houses surrounding an open yard. The first recorded proprietor of Suffolk Mews was Mr Richard Addis, who in 1837 was a 'flyman' living in nearby Montpellier Villas. In other words he drove a 'fly', a light covered vehicle that could be drawn by a single horse, often on hire. He rented out stabling and secure vehicle lock-ups, private facilities possessed by few houses.
The next owner, Richard Glover, operated the ‘Rival’ London coach but soon disposed of that business, probably anticipating the direct train service to London, which started in 1847. The Golden Age of stage coaches in Britain was between 1800 and 1830, when improved roads and suspension allowed average speeds of 8 miles per hour.
By 1906 the business was owned by William Thomas Smith, who ran horse-drawn ‘brake’ trips to Birdlip on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons - early closing days for Cheltenham shops. In 1907 he advertised two loads of horse manure for sale weekly!
Mr Smith was at Suffolk Mews for the next 13 years, during momentous change. The business was now called Montpellier & Suffolk Mews and used telephone number 121.
This was the dawn of the motor car era and throughout the period 1910-1918 horses and motor vehicles shared Suffolk Mews. By 1915 the newspapers were referring to the Suffolk Mews Garage and the company was running taxis. In 1938 the Gloucestershire Echo claimed this had been the first motor taxi service in Cheltenham.
Suffolk Mews was bought and renamed the Montpellier Motor & Garage Co. in about 1920. Modern repair shops were installed and the company had taxis, open-top cars, light lorries and a charabanc, with space for 30 cars. In 1922 they were agents for the Hampton Engineering Company, based in Stroud, selling a 1795 cc four-cylinder engine car for £480. By 1926 the garage belonged to Herbert Sumner, who had driven horse carriages as a young man. The business traded for almost 60 years, later selling petrol as the Montpellier Service Station. It closed in about 1980, ending the association with road transport.
Either return to Suffolk Square and the starting point of the walk or enjoy a short diversion to explore Park Place.
This point of interest is part of the tour: A Walk on the South Side - from Cheltenham to The Suffolks