Created By: Cheltenham Local History Society
Originally the Sherborne Walk, the future Promenade, only extended from the High Street as far as the River Chelt. Beyond was a large area of boggy ground, a former brickfield, reached by a wooden plank across the Chelt.
In 1817 landscape gardener Richard Ware drained the stagnant marsh and laid gravelled walks, including the raised Broad Walk at the southern end. In the centre of the ground he planted an exotic botanic garden, around which the houses of Imperial Square were built in the 1820s.
At the north end of the site Ware set up his residence, Botanic Cottage, nursery, greenhouses and a conservatory. The central area of the park has remained a garden since the days of the Imperial Spa, (site of Queen’s Hotel) when subscribers had the exclusive privilege of walking in the Imperial Nursery Gardens. The nursey buildings and hothouses were on the site of the present Town Hall.
Samuel Hodges took over the Imperial Gardens in 1831, managing it for over 40 years. In Autumn 1841 a Photographic Institution opened at Hodge’s Imperial Nursery, making use of the good light provided in one of the glasshouses. This studio was one of the earliest in the country. The Nursery ground itself was ‘liberally thrown open to the public’ and Mr Hodges was noted for his production of the most ‘elegant dahlias’.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Historic Public Gardens of Cheltenham