Cheltenham is situated about 10 miles east of Gloucester close to where the
River Chelt, a tributary of the River Severn, breaks through the western
edge of the Cotswolds. The Saxon name probably means 'the village near
a cliff', or 'well-watered valley (hamm) of (the hill called) Cilta or Celta'. Both of these explanations point to the Cotswold scarp as the main reference for the creation of the name. Cheltenham has the population of over 110,000 and therefore it is the largest town in Gloucestershire.
It has been a fashionable health and holiday spa town resort
since the discovery of mineral springs there in 1716. With the visit of
King George III in 1788 the town became a fashionable resort resulting
in the splendid Regency architecture. The prestige of royal patronage made
Cheltenham one of the places to see and be seen by the prosperous members
of Georgian society, and Cheltenham was forever transformed.
Cheltenham has gained a reputation as
the most complete Regency town in England. The Pump rooms still
offer visitors the opportunity to "take the waters". Cheltenham’s architecture elegantly shows its Regency heritage in its
stately buildings with intricate ironwork. Wide
tree-lined avenues, beautiful parks as well as many cultural and social
events make Cheltenham a very popular place for visitors. The town entertained
many famous visitors including the Duke of Wellington and Queen
Victoria whilst she was still a princess. Other visitors included Jane
Austen, Charles Dickens and C. S. Lewis.
Cheltenham is also known as the garden town of England. The town's
parks, gardens and tree lined avenues have been nationally recognised as
some of the best in the country. Cheltenham has won more awards in the
annual Britain in Bloom competition than any other town and is the current
holder of the Silver Gilt award in the Small City category. For the sixth consecutive year Cheltenham has been given the Gold Award in The Heart of England in Bloom competition.
Cheltenham is home to the Cheltenham Racecourse, which set against the backdrop of the scarp at Cleeve Hill hosts the Gold Cup, one of the highlights of the British sporting season. Cheltenham horse racing season starts with The Open in November, a 3-day event featuring Paddy Power Gold Cup and culminates with The Festival which takes place in March and features the world famous Gold Cup.