A new heritage hub for Cheltenham

Your help is needed to create a heritage hub for Cheltenham

Parmoor, at 26 Cambray Place in Cheltenham town centre, was purchased by Cheltenham Civic Society in 2022 using the proceeds from the sale of our former building – Parmoor House in Montpellier. The latter building was gifted to the Society in 1964 by Lord Parmoor.

The Civic Society’s aim is to convert and restore Parmoor to create a new heritage hub and meeting place for the town, whilst also securing the Society’s long-term income through leasing residential accommodation to be created on the lower ground and first floors.

The restoration will provide:

  • a near 100-seat venue together with refreshment area and accessible toilets for use by the Society for its activities and by voluntary, heritage and other organisations;
  • an office and archive space for the Society;
  • a meeting room for smaller groups;
  • two flats on the first floor and two on the lower ground floor.

We started work in February 2024 using the residual funds from the sale of our former building. But we need your help to fulfil the ambitions to make Parmoor a restoration exemplar and create a heritage hub for the town.

We need funds to pay for such things as:

  • the replacement of the ashlar stone frontage of Parmoor and new stone entrance pillars;
  • the creation of an attractively landscaped forecourt enclosed by railings and featuring a curved ramp to give full accessibility to the front door;
  • the provision of all essential furniture and equipment from chairs and tables to kitchen appliances and audio-visual facilities.

A gift of just £25 for four or five months could help to buy one of the 100 or so chairs needed for our meeting rooms. £1,000 could pay for about half of the iron railings around Parmoor’s forecourt, and £5,000 could provide the basic audio-visual equipment needed for our meetings and presentations.

Whatever you feel that you can afford to donate will help to make Parmoor the focal point needed to secure our heritage for our children’s children to enjoy. Please click on the adjacent “Donate Now” button to send us your donation via “Just Giving”.

Once you go to the Just Giving page, there are options to choose to pay a monthly amount and, if you are a UK taxpayer, tick the Gift Aid box that will enable us to reclaim tax to increase the value of your gift by 25% at no extra cost to you.

Thank you for your support.

The proposed restoration

Cheltenham Borough Council granted planning permission in early February 2024 and we started work shortly afterwards using the remaining funds from the sale of our former building.

  • The upper ground floor will be converted to create the new heritage hub – including a flexible 99-seat space that can be used for a wide range of meetings, exhibitions, events and other activities.
  • This floor will also provide a smaller meeting room, an office for the Civic Society, a refreshment facilities area, and unisex toilet cubicles including an accessible one.
  • The first floor – accessed via the side staircase – will provide two 1-bedroom flats.
  • The lower ground floor – accessed from the lane to the rear – will provide one 2-bed flat and one 1-bed flat.

To see the floorplans in detail, download our Parmoor plans presentation.

The heritage hub vision

Cheltenham’s heritage is continually under threat. Yet the town currently lacks a central hub for the protection of its heritage. The Society’s previous building was not in the town centre and had no large meeting rooms or accessible access.

Our vision for the new heritage hub is to make Parmoor the natural gathering place for the town’s many voluntary groups such as the local history and heritage groups and all the “Friends” organisations that care for specific areas like Pittville, Montpellier Gardens, and Minster Gardens. Parmoor’s accessible town centre meeting spaces will be an attractive and affordable place for such community, voluntary groups and students to meet and hold exhibitions and events.

Those groups would also benefit from the communal connectivity that the heritage hub will generate. And we believe that Parmoor will rapidly become Cheltenham’s centre of excellence for education and debate on local heritage and history – to the long-term benefit of the whole town.

As the designated leader of the town’s new heritage strategy and with many decades of heritage involvement, the Civic Society’s refurbishment of Parmoor will make it ideally placed to create this heritage hub. With access to our extensive in-house archives and being run by a charity dedicated to heritage conservation, Parmoor would provide the ideal base and support network that many local interest groups need for their ongoing heritage, history and community activities.

In this way, Lord Parmoor’s original gift to the Civic Society would be really made to blossom by spreading its benefits much wider and generating a long-lasting resource for the wider community.

‘Before’ and ‘after’ photography

To record the project for the Society’s history and archives, we have asked a local professional interiors photographer, Patrick Clarke, to photograph Parmoor on a pro-bono basis. He recorded a full shoot of all the ‘before’ shots on 2 April 2023 and you can see all of these by downloading our reference album here – Parmoor ‘before’ photography Apr23.

Fire nearly destroyed Parmoor in 1926

Researched by Tess Beck

26 Cambray Place – which we have now named ‘Parmoor’ – was built as a pair with 27 Cambray Place at a total cost of £5,818.26, including £1,150.00 for the land. Both houses appear on the Post Office Map of 1820.

26 Cambray Place – highlighted in red – on the 1820 Post Office map.

Once completed, they were described in 1821 as ‘Two Capital Freehold Mansions, producing a Rental of £340 per Annum’. They were built on behalf of the Cambray Tontine, a subscription scheme for individuals wanting to invest in property development. Advertised in 1815, with an initial share price of one hundred guineas, the ambition was to achieve 10,000 guineas and build four handsome houses “in a line with those on the south side of that pleasant and fashionable street called Cambray Street”. The terms were that when built, the houses would be rented out to provide a dividend to subscribers, then after fourteen years, they would be sold at auction with the proceeds divided between the surviving shareholders.

Only 50 shares were taken up with 37 subscribers, so the plans were  revised to build two houses. Unfortunately, before the two properties were auctioned off in 1832 under the terms of the Tontine, there was a catastrophic financial crash in December 1825. This led to a collapse of Cheltenham’s building boom, and a severe downturn in the value of land and property. William Cobbett, visiting Cheltenham in September 1826, commented that houses would only now sell for a third of the price they would have commanded the previous year.

Under the terms of the Tontine, both 26 and 27 Cambray Place were advertised for sale at auction on 15 May 1832. The rooms listed for each property consisted of a servants’ hall, housekeeper’s room, butler’s pantry, larder, kitchen, scullery, wine, beer and coal cellar on the basement level, an entrance hall, drawing room, breakfast parlour and dining room at ground floor, and four bedrooms and a dressing room on each of the first and second floors.

During the 19th century, 26 Cambray Place, in common with 23-27 Cambray Place, enjoyed the use of a rear garden on a separate lease between the service lane and Wellington Street. Residents during this period included Charles Turner Cooke, surgeon, who lived there through the 1840s to 1860s, with members of his immediate and extended family and four servants. The house also went through a few changes of name, being known briefly as Hornby and, whilst the residence of Mme Gaultier and her daughters, who gave lessons in drawing room dancing, deportment and ladies fencing, it was known as Normandie House.

By the early part of the 20th century, the nature of the area had changed, becoming increasingly commercial rather than residential. From 1914-1926, 26 Cambray Place was the Inland Revenue Office, then for a brief period in 1926 it was used as temporary storage for the Co-operative Society.

It was while it was in use as storage for the Co-operative Society, that the building suffered a catastrophic fire. According to newspaper reports, “nine tenths of the building was gutted from ground floor to roof, all the floors and ceilings above the ground floor having disappeared”. The premises were insured to the value of £2,000, but the Fire Brigade estimated the damage at £4,000 to £5,000.

Plans to rebuild without the second floor were approved in 1927. From 1930 onwards, the property was used variously as auction rooms or warehousing, being the Cavendish House Galleries auction rooms from 1965-1981.

It was listed in 1972, and in 1981 it was purchased and converted to offices by Westminster & Country Properties and was named Westminster House. The current interior layout and fittings date from that time.

In 1926, the major fire at 26 Cambray Place was given extensive coverage by the Cheltenham Chronicle.