Cheltenham in Antarctica

A walk highlighting Cheltenham's connection with Antarctica. The walk is taken from David Elder's book "Cheltenham Heritage Walks".

Cheltenham in Antarctica

England GL52 2AY, United Kingdom

Created By: Friends of The Wilson

Tour Information

This walk explores Cheltenham’s connections with Antarctic exploration, principally through one of its most famous sons, Edward Wilson (1872–1912), who perished with Captain Robert Scott (1868–1912) at the South Pole.

Edward Wilson, or Ted, as he was generally known, was a doctor, scientist, naturalist and artist, and a leading member of Scott’s Discovery (1901–4) and Terra Nova (1910–12) expeditions. He undertook important scientific work and was perhaps the last great practitioner of exploration art. He was one of the five men who reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to discover that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had arrived there five weeks earlier.

During the return journey, Edgar Evans (1876–1912) and Lawrence Oates (1880–1912) fell ill and died, and later, around 29 March, Wilson, Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers (1883–1912) and Scott perished in their blizzard-blown tent, only 11 miles from their next food depot.

Friends of the Wilson support Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum by helping to fund major projects, exhibitions, and the purchase and conservation of items for its collections. We also act as ambassadors to promote The Wilson’s continued success and development. Click here to find out more.

Friends of The Wilson are grateful to David Elder for allowing us to reproduce his walk. David is a Gloucestershire-based writer and photographer and you can visit his website here.

The walk starts and ends at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s Art Gallery & Museum in Clarence Street. It is open daily from 9.30 a.m. – 5.15 p.m.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

This is home to the Wilson Family collection. On the second floor a small gallery provides a display of artefacts, documents and photographs associated with the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions. Among these are an Emperor penguin and ot... Read more
This  bronze statue of Wilson was sculpted by Lady Kathleen Scott (1878–1947), widow of Captain Scott, and unveiled by Sir Clements Markham, ‘father’ of the Discovery expedition, on 9 July, 1914. It bears the following inscription:... Read more
The Ladies’ College was the school that several of Wilson’s sisters attended and of which his father was a governor. It also has several associations with polar exploration, including the fact that it houses a field telephone, which was... Read more
The Town Hall is a favourite place for lectures, and one that in the past has echoed to stories of Antarctic exploration, including those from Wilson himself (1906), from Captain Scott (1904) and Ernest Shackleton (1909, following his Nimro... Read more
While walking here it’s interesting to consider that, even when Wilson was in Antarctica, he never forgot his Cheltenham home. Because his Antarctic diaries were written for the family he often made references to the town. It was his way ... Read more
Burlington House (formerly Suffolk Lawn) became the Suffolk Hall Preparatory School for boys during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was here that Wilson’s future wife, Oriana Souper, or Ory for short, became a matron. Wilson... Read more
The four-storey house dates from before 1825. It was conveniently located for Ted’s father, who worked as a physician at Cheltenham General Hospital. Ted was born in the front bedroom on the first floor in 1872, as the carved inscription ... Read more
Westal was the home to the Wilson family from 1874, when Ted was two, until the early 1930s. The house was one of three villas that were pulled down to make way for the 200-foot, thirty-storey Eagle Tower building. Described at the time as... Read more
This was the school that Wilson attended from 1886 for four years. In the College Chapel (not open to the public) there is the commemorative stained-glass ‘Fortitude Window’, one panel of which depicts Wilson as an Antarctic explorer. A... Read more
Queen’s House, known previously as Linden House is now used as a girls’ day house at Cheltenham College. This was also once the home of Ted’s mother, Mary Ann Wilson, née Whishaw (1841–1930).  The Whishaw family moved to Chelten... Read more
In the summer of 1900, after Wilson qualified as a medical doctor, he worked briefly as a locum and then junior house surgeon at Cheltenham General Hospital, where he gave anaesthetics and performed minor surgery. Unfortunately, in the cour... Read more
Formerly 1 Priory Parade, this house, which is marked by a blue plaque, is where the botanical explorer and naval surgeon Dr David Lyall (1817–95), lived after retiring to Cheltenham. A close friend of Ted’s father, Lyall often gave thr... Read more
Lloyds Bank stands on the site of the Assembly Rooms, which, as one of the main centres of fashionable society in Cheltenham in 1898, hosted a lecture by the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) about his Arctic travels. This ... Read more
Emily Bowers, mother of Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers who was one of Scott’s five-man team that reached the South Pole in January 1912, was born in Cheltenham and was christened in this church - the only surviving medieval building in Chelt... Read more
You have now reached the end of the Cheltenham in Antarctica Walk.  We hope you have enjoyed it.  To find out more about the life of Edward Wilson you can visit a website dedicated to him here. Do now visit The Wilson Art Gallery and M... Read more


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