Historic Public Gardens of Cheltenham

Explore the history of Cheltenham's beautiful central parks - Imperial Gardens and Montpellier Gardens

Historic Public Gardens of Cheltenham

England GL52 2AY, United Kingdom

Created By: Cheltenham Local History Society

Tour Information

This walk explores the historic public gardens of Cheltenham which are a legacy of the town's popularity as a fashionable Georgian spa. A key part of the 19th-century spa experience was to be seen "promenading" and the central gardens were built in close proximity to the newly developed spas to facilitate this.

Today Imperial Square and Montpellier Gardens still play an important role in Cheltenham's cultural life and leisure activities being the locations for many of the town's famous festivals. On sunny days local residents and visitors alike are still drawn to "promenade" around their many flower lined paths.

The walk starts in front of Cheltenham Town Hall in Imperial Square, and takes you around Imperial Gardens before moving on to Montpellier Gardens and finishing outside the Queens Hotel.

Much of the area where Imperial Square now stands was originally an uncultivated marsh. Development was begun on the south side by solicitor Thomas Henney, who opened the Sherborne, or Imperial, Spa in 1817-18, approached by the newly-laid-out Promenade.

Montpellier Gardens were laid out in 1831 as pleasure grounds for the Montpellier Spa and have always been a popular location for public entertainment.

This walk takes you on a gentle stroll around the two parks and adjacent roads whilst providing the historical background to some of the present - and past - features and events. Refreshments are available at the Imperial Garden Bar or the Montpellier Garden Cafe.

The walk takes about an hour to complete but you can shorten it by choosing the "Skip" option to select the next point of interest you'd like to go to. If you'd prefer to select your own route, just select "Free Roam Mode" when you start the tour. Please note that you need to be within 50ft of each Point of Interest for the detailed information to open up.

An audio version is available under Settings where you can also toggle-on "Auto Map Rotation" to assist with navigation.


This walk is provided by Cheltenham Local History Society and was created by Jill Waller and Andrea Creedon. If you would like to find out more about the history of Cheltenham, please go to our website cheltlocalhistory.org.uk

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

The Town Hall was opened in 1903 by Sir Michael Hicks-Beach MP, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer whose family had long associations with Cheltenham. It replaced the Assembly Rooms as the major venue for the town’s cultural life (Note... Read more
The concrete and glass Quadrangle is situated in the northwest corner of Imperial Square. Built as an office block the new national headquarters for Gulf Oil (Great Britain) Limited who moved here from Chiswick in 1973. After 20 years Gulf... Read more
The Gustav Holst Memorial Fountain statue was unveiled on 4 April 2008.  The statue's sculptor, Anthony Stones, also cast the seven plaques incorporated in the octagonal plinth, which depict the planets after Holst's best-known work. Obse... Read more
Behind the Town Hall lies the walled Skillicorne Garden containing a bust of Captain Henry Skillicorne by Percy Braisby. Having married the daughter of the original discoverer of the saline well in 1742, Captain Skillicorne developed the... Read more
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 g... Read more
In November 1878 the Winter Garden and Skating Rink opened, designed by J. T. Darby – Cheltenham’s own Crystal Palace. Flanked by gardens, tennis courts and a bowling green, the Winter Gardens extended from the back of the present Town ... Read more
The Sherborne, or Imperial Spa, (now the site of the Queen’s Hotel) opened in 1817 at the western end of Richard Ware’s newly established Broad Walk which was covered by an extensive arbour. The Broad Walk led eastwards to a small pavi... Read more
In 1826 a small pavilion was built at the east end of the Broad Walk to house an 18th-century Italian marble fountain, reportedly by sculptor Bruni.  It was looted from Genoa by Napoleon’s army in 1800 before being captured while at ... Read more
The Cheltenham Archers were founded in 1857 by Horace Ford, the father of modern archery. Membership of the Archers included Alice Blanche Legh who was the Champion Archer of Great Britain a record-breaking 23 times from 1899-1922 and Que... Read more
About 30 or 40ft to the north of the William IV statue (Sight 11), are a set of four rusted iron hinges in the flower bed. The distance between these front hinges is approximately 7ft 9”; they had clearly been attached to substantial woo... Read more
On the east side of Montpellier Gardens, at the end of the central walk, is a statue of William IV, one of only three in existence: one statue is in Cheltenham's twin town, Göttingen in Germany, (William IV was also King of Hanover). The... Read more
The Victorian Bandstand was constructed in 1864 to a design by the Coalbrookdale Company, Ironbridge and is believed to be the oldest bandstand in the country still in regular use.  The new ‘orchestra’, as bandstands were referred t... Read more
The first successful parachute descent by an Englishman, John Hampton, took place in Montpellier Gardens on 2 October 1838. Cheltenham magistrates would only allow access to the town's gas supply if the balloon was tethered, but Hampton s... Read more
The Garden Gallery is housed in a distinctive Elizabethan-style Proscenium. The original Proscenium was constructed in 1900 by a Mr Yeates for £322. The Proscenium, which had dressing rooms in the towers at either side of the stage, pro... Read more
An 1857 map shows that there was once an ice well under a mound where the present toilets are now situated. This would have been a useful facility in which shopkeepers of Montpellier could keep fish, game and dairy produce cool throughout... Read more
The Jubilee Seat, located on the west side of the gardens, was commissioned by the Cheltenham Arts Council to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee. Costing £12,000, it was designed by the Stroud sculptor David John. The five side... Read more
A plinth, bearing the names of Crimean War casualties, can be seen outside the Queens Hotel. There were two plinths originally, on which were mounted Russian guns captured at the siege of Sebastopol and presented to the town in 1856 by the... Read more
Architects Robert William and Charles Jearrad built the neo-classical Queens Hotel on the site of the Imperial Spa in 1837-8 at a cost of £47,000. It was named in honour of Queen Victoria, whose coronation occurred shortly after the hotel ... Read more


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