By Caroline Thorpe
Situated near the western edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in western England, Cheltenham is known for horseracing, its schools and Regency architecture.
Cheltenham may be a provincial town of around 116,000 people, but it has international clout. In its western suburbs sits “The Doughnut”, the ring-shaped office which houses GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), one of the UK’s intelligence and security agencies. Recently, the organisation’s staff advised the British government on its decision to give Chinese technology giant Huawei a role in the UK’s 5G network.
GCHQ has featured widely in the arts, from appearances in countless spy novels to the 2019 film Official Secrets starring Keira Knightley and Intelligence, the new TV sitcom, in which American David Schwimmer is drafted in to help Britain fight cyber terrorism.
Notable local employers include aerospace specialist GE Aviation Systems and Superdry, the international clothing brand headquartered in the town. Cheltenham is also within easy, in some cases commutable, distance by train of several major employment hubs: Birmingham, the UK’s second city, is 45 minutes away; Bristol is 40 minutes; London Paddington is around two hours.
The local borough councils — Cheltenham and neighbouring Tewkesbury — are spearheading efforts to build on the area’s growing cyber technology industry with plans to develop Cyber Central, a new neighbourhood in west Cheltenham including a cyber-tech campus.
Cheltenham bills itself as the UK’s “most complete Regency town”. The town became sought-after — and grew rapidly — following King George III’s five-week stay there in 1788. Streets of stuccoed town houses with multi-panelled sash windows and wrought-iron verandas appeared and many remain today. Buyers seeking an elegant Regency home — the neoclassical style associated with architect Robert Adam and which took off in the early decades of the 19th century — will find the best examples in The Suffolks, a series of roads south of the town centre, and the streets around Bath Road.
Prime homes in the town averaged £962,000 at the end of 2019, according to Savills, notably less than the £1.34m for prime homes in rival Regency city Bath. Fine and Country is selling a three-bedroom, Grade II-listed townhouse on Oxford Street, close to Bath Road, Cheltenham, for £795,000.
Education, education, education
Government inspectors rate all but three of the town’s 35 state primary and secondary schools as good or better, with 13 holding the top outstanding rating. In the independent sector, the all-girls Cheltenham Ladies' College ranked seventh in the world for International Baccalaureate results in 2019, with pupils achieving an average score of 40.4/45. Alumni include actor Kristin Scott Thomas and artist Bridget Riley.
Springtime sees the launch of Cheltenham’s festival season, which runs until the autumn.
The annual Cheltenham Festival, four-days of equestrian jump racing which culminates in the renowned Cheltenham Gold Cup steeplechase, returns this week.
Following the horseracing is a jazz festival in May, a science event in June, and music and literature gatherings in July and October respectively. Speakers and performers at last year’s events included violin virtuoso Nicola Benedetti, author Ali Smith, former UK prime minister David Cameron, Nobel-prize winning biologist Venki Ramakrishnan and US saxophonist Joshua Redman.
Search for more homes in Cheltenham on FT’s Property Listings.
Photographs: Alamy; Bloomberg; Dreamstime; Fine and Country