Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham, UK – Best Places to Visit
Cheltenham is a famous spa town within easy reach of the Cotswolds, enjoying more than 100 years of fame. The Pittville Pump Room on the outskirts of Cheltenham is an elegant Grade 1 listed Regency building standing in Pittville Park and is perhaps the most famous example of Regency architecture in Cheltenham, despite the town being filled Regency buildings.
1835 Pittville Pump Room in Pittville Park, outside Cheltenham, UK
The waters were first discovered in around 1715 on a site now occupied by Cheltenham Ladies’ College.
In 1788 George III and Queen Charlotte came to take the waters and after their visit the town of Cheltenham grew and prospered and new wells were dug near Bayshill House where the King stayed.
The Pump Room stands at one end of Pittville Park,
about two miles from Cheltenham’s town centre, and is a monument to more than 100 years of fame which Cheltenham enjoyed as a Spa town. The building is set in beautiful parkland and is surrounded on three sides by a grand colonnade of ionic columns opening into the impressive hall with its domed ceiling and original crystal chandeliers.
The park has extensive open lawns surrounded by trees and ornate bridges and pathways lead around the lakes where swans and ducks swim.
The foundation stone was laid on 4 May 1825 and the work completed in 1830. The laying of the foundation was celebrated by the ringing of the bells, firing of cannons, as well as a Masonic Procession which set out from the Masonic Hall in Portland Street. In the evening banquets were held at two of the town’s hotels and grand fireworks display was to be seen at Pittville.
The building took five years to complete. Following disagreements between Forbes and the builder, a second architect, John Clement Mead from London, was employed to finish the interior. He designed the elaborate stoves which heated the building.
The grand building is 92 feet long by 43 feet, surrounded by a colonnade 13 feet wide the roof of which are supported by fluted Ionic columns 22 feet high. Along the facade stand three figures representing Aesculapius, Hygeia and Hippocrates, originally made by Lucius Gahagan of Bath. In its design, the building combines elements of both Greek and Roman architecture. It was modelled on the temple on Illisus in Athens, the engravings of which appeared in Stuart and Revett’s Antiquities of Athens (1762). The inspiration for the dome probably came from the Panthenon in Rome.
1834 Pump Room interior
A large ballroom was situated on the ground floor where even today visitors can attend music concerts, dances and other events. With a capacity of 400 and remarkable acoustics, it is Cheltenham’s finest concert venue. The spa with an oval pump room to the rear of the building are still there for the visitors to enjoy, available from a marbled pump and counter.
A reading room, library and billiard room occupied the first floor, which more recently was given over to a museum of costume and fashion, until financial constraints forced the museum to close.
The original official opening on 6th July, 1830 was postponed until 20th July, 1830 because of the death of George IV. A grand public breakfast and ball marked the occasion.
Building the Pump Room
The total cost of the project was over £40,000, and incredible price for that time. Like many bankers of his time, Pitt ran into financial difficulties, the building went out of favour and was sold in 1890 to the Borough of Cheltenham for £5,400, a fraction of the original cost.
Decoration is based on the Ionic order and the great hail reflects the genius of John Forbes with the spa opening on the north side and the gallery and dome surmounting the hall.
Second World War
The Pump Room housed British and American army personnel, when dry rot was allowed to creep through the structure unchecked, and only after the war was the full extent of the damage revealed. Plaster, brickwork, timber: nearly everything had been affected. The dome was only held in position by a shell of plaster; the timber had been eaten away by the fungus.
The Duke of Wellington
Public subscriptions carne to the rescue, which were accompanied by Public Works grants and Historic Building Council contributions. A total of £43,250 was raised and by 1960 the building was partially restored to its former glory and re-opened in 1960 by the Duke of Wellington. The old card room had been replaced by a new foyer, cloakrooms and second staircase, and heating and new lighting were in stalled.
In 2003, the old Victorian wells were leaking and allowing ground water to dilute the natural mineral water so Pittville Pump Room no longer qualified as a spa and the well was shut down. The spa was then repaired and reopened so visitors can taste the only alkaline spa water in the country.
Pittvills Pump Room’s old maple-strip floor was replaced with a stunning English oak floor, better flooring found for the ball room, and old pipes replaced.
Pittville Pump Room is in use most days of the year for private and public functions and is one of Cheltenham’s most popular wedding venues. It is also a favoured venue among orchestras, choirs and chamber groups for its stunning acoustics.
The effects of Cheltenham Water of Tis necessary to quicken your motions after the second glass by S.W.Forbes.