Even though there is a lot to see and do in Cheltenham, there’s no escaping the fact that Cheltenham is most famous for its Regency architecture.
If you’re interested in this period of history, then here is our quick guide to Cheltenham’s Regency architecture, including how it all started, where to go and which other towns and cities you can visit to see beautiful Regency buildings.
A brief history of Regency architecture
Regency architecture refers to the style of buildings that became vastly popular when King George IV was Prince Regent, through his reign, and some years after he died as well.
These years are often labelled as 1811 – 1830, however, some Regency style buildings sprung up well into the 1840s as well.
Generally speaking, Regency architecture can often be divided into two styles: Neoclassical and Georgian.
Inspired by the classical orders devised by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, neoclassicism was a very popular style at the time of George IV’s Regency.
Buildings with a neoclassical vibe typically have a mixture of ornate cornicing, columns, pillars, plinths, balustrades, large porchways and wide doors.
If you can imagine the Pantheon in Rome, then that is kind of what you can expect from neoclassical Regency architecture, just on a much smaller scale.
But Regency style buildings don’t always have to have these types of classical features…
Other Regency buildings follow the same style as Georgian architecture and are often described as elegant and grand.
Buildings with a strong Georgian influence are often painted in simple colours, with stucco facades, sash multipanel windows and iron balconies as trademark features.
In town centres like Cheltenham, this period of architecture also favours terraced houses, as well as crescent shaped terraces akin to the Royal Crescent in Bath.
Regency architecture in Cheltenham
Due to the vast number of Regency style buildings in Cheltenham, the town has been given the accolade: ‘Britain’s most complete Regency town’.
This makes it the perfect place to go if you’re interested in seeing the best of Regency architecture within the UK.
Although a short walk around Cheltenham will showcase lots of Regency architecture for you to enjoy, if you want to see the best of the best, then we’d recommend you scout out the following areas.
Pittville Pump Room
Pittville Pump Room, found in the beautiful (and sprawling) Pittville Park, is a magnificent example of Regency architecture in Cheltenham and is a Grade 1 listed building.
The Pump Room houses the spa waters that really helped to put Cheltenham on the map in the 18th century, and occasionally throughout the year, you’re allowed to venture inside to have a taste. (We’re reliably informed that it’s disgusting and very pungent!)
One of the most famous examples of the neoclassical style of Regency architecture in Cheltenham can be found in the Montpellier district, along Montpellier Walk.
Here, you’ll find ‘Caryatids’ (armless ladies) decorating the sides of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes. There are 32 in total dating back to 1840, and are inspired by the classical models on the Acropolis in Athens.
Home to row upon row of Georgian style Regency architecture, Pittville Circus is one of the best places to walk in Cheltenham.
You’ll want to stop and photograph almost every house along here, so be warned that your camera will be filled with buildings of all different colours.
In most Regency towns and cities, you’re almost guaranteed to find a row of curved terraced houses called ‘Royal Crescent’… and Cheltenham is no different.
The one in Cheltenham is a fine example of Regency architecture, with balustrade-style balconies and sash windows adorning the houses and iron picket fences leading up to stately entrances.
You’ll easily want to spend around 20-30 minutes strolling along in front of these houses, taking photographs and wondering who lives behind the stucco facades.
Other notable Regency towns and cities in the UK
Across the UK, you’ll find many examples of Regency towns and cities.
Cheltenham is the most complete, however, once you’ve had your fill here, you should make an effort to see as many of these other towns and cities as you can.
Brighton and Hove
The seafront districts of Brighton and Hove were exceedingly popular with Londoners during the 18th and 19th centuries as ways to escape the bustling city life and get some much needed fresh sea air.
In fact, this is also true today — many city dwellers make it their mission to spend summer weekends in Brighton.
For the best of Regency architecture in Brighton, head to Royal Crescent (yes, another one!), Brunswick estate, Kemptown estate and the Royal Pavilion. Brighton’s Regency buildings are often pale and stuccoed with classical-style mouldings and large bay windows.
Usually forgotten off of maps and articles about Regency architecture in the UK is Bristol.
Admittedly, the bulk of the city is made up of buildings with a quirky, hipster vibe, as well as those that have been heavily graffitied.
However, in Clifton, (often dubbed the “posh” part of Bristol), you’ll find row upon row of Georgian-style houses that scream grandeur, elegance and wealth.
Within Clifton, you should make it your mission to see the houses in Royal York Crescent, Victoria Square and Caledonian Place.
Royal Leamington Spa
Found in Warwickshire, Royal Leamington Spa (also commonly known as Leamington Spa or just Leamington) is a small spa town that became hugely popular around 1814 after the Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were opened.
Many of Leamington’s houses are built with a Georgian Regency style in mind (pale stone and sash windows being their main giveaway), while tourist attractions and grand buildings like the Regent Hotel definitely take influence from the classics.
When visiting (and looking for Regency architecture), be sure to check out the Pump Rooms, as well as buildings along the Parade, Clarendon Square and Lansdowne Circus.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of a Regency city in the UK is Bath.
Popular with city dwellers and Londoners throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and positively booming with global tourism today, Bath must be on your Regency architecture bucket list.
The primary style of architecture throughout all of central Bath is of a Georgian influence, with the Royal Crescent, Queen Square and The Circus being some of the most notable examples (and ones you’ve likely seen in multiple period films and TV dramas).
However, like Cheltenham, you only need to take a very short walk through Bath to see all of its Regency architecture uncover itself to you.
In fact, Bath’s architecture is a very large part of why the whole city was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Of course, we couldn’t possibly discuss Regency architecture in the UK without London (the beginning of it all) making it onto the list.
Regent Street, Belgravia and the roads surrounding Regent’s Park are the areas of London you’ll want to head to if you’re interested in Regency architecture.
However, London is also a prime example of so many other grand styles of architecture, such as Victorian, Edwardian, Baroque and Art Deco, which means you’ll never fall short of seeing stunning houses and grand buildings.
We hope this quick guide to Cheltenham’s Regency architecture has been useful, but we also hope you’ve been able to gain some inspiration for other Regency towns and cities to visit in the UK as well.
We’d love to know what your plans are for seeing the best of the best, so feel free to jot down a few thoughts in the comments section below…
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