a brief history of naunton park:
historical details


historical details

early days at naunton park primary school

memories of the garden

friends of naunton park

map of the area

The idea to create a recreation ground for the South Ward of Cheltenham was formally proposed in September 1891 and the decision to purchase Naunton Park (see map A) for the proposed ground was made in November that year. A price of £10 per acre was agreed and the Council sought a loan of £2,200. By September 1892 the land was owned by the Borough. Tenants were given six months' notice; allotment holders were given grace to lift potatoes.

  Map A

In December 1892 levelling and laying out was begun. Fencing was started in January 1893 and completed two months later. Naunton Park recreation ground was officially opened on 6 July 1893, the wedding day of the Duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck (later George V and Queen Mary). Later that month Captain St Clair Ford of "Zeelugt" (now Linton House), arranged a fete and concert in the recreation ground on the occasion of his daughter's wedding. A severe winter delayed the laying out of Naunton Park until March 1894; further additions followed in the months ahead. The gardens, lawns and paths were designed for the older people whilst a field for football, cricket and other sports was laid out for everyone to enjoy. Local people donated plants for the gardens; Mrs Hay of "St Ronans" (a house no longer standing) on the Old Bath Road, gave an arbour - this was thatched and stood near to what was to become the poplar avenue.

Naunton Park Football Team 1905/6 with thatched arbour behind  

In August 1893 Captain St Clair Ford offered to provide a drinking fountain if the council would assist. This it did, by putting in the foundations. The fountain was designed by Joseph Hall, the Borough Engineer, and "opened" by the Mayor, Alderman Wethered, in October 1894 on a pouring wet day. It was a square brick pillar faced in Doulton tiles, about 20 feet (7 metres) high, topped by a terracotta cornice and an Italian style vase. On the sides of the pillar were Doulton plaques of female heads representing the four seasons. The cost of the drinking fountain was £100.

  Drinking Fountain

Meanwhile the Baths and Recreation Ground Committee had been instructed to build a shelter and conveniences in the recreation ground. There was some dispute about the cost of the proposed shelter at a Council meeting; eventually Captain St Clair Ford and friends donated a rustic shelter to be ready for use in June 1895.
The caretaker of the recreation ground at this time was a Mr Sutton, who lived in a house facing the park, No 90 Naunton Lane.
In June 1893 an open air concert was held in Naunton Park ground attended by 2,850 people. Captain St Clair Ford presented 6 dozen poplar trees which were planted by Mr Hall in December to form what became known as the St Clair Ford Avenue along the school side of the garden (see Map B). Seats were placed along this avenue. The Captain also donated a rustic arch to form an entrance to the garden. It was based on an Indian design and had the words "Naunton Park" incorporated in it: these can only have been seen during the winter months as it was obviously composed of living plants (honeysuckle or clematis?). The poplar avenue was felled in 1951.

St Clair Ford Avenue  
  Map B

It is not surprising to learn that Captain St Clair Ford regarded Naunton Park ground as "The Garden of Eden" - indeed his generosity helped make it so. He died in February 1896. His widow wished to carry out her late husbandÕs wish and donate a bandstand. The Council agreed to lay the foundations and in July of that year a pretty thatched bandstand, situated on the south side of the poplar avenue, was opened. This became a regular venue for concerts by local bands for many years until its deteriorating condition made it necessary to remove it in December 1925.

Archway in Summer  

At this time the garden benefited from donations of large vases and a variety of plants from Councillor Ward-Humphrey, Mrs Clair Ford, Rev J. Mugliston as well as many others. A year later a Diamond Jubilee Sports Day event was held on the Recreation Ground. In 1899 Mr & Mrs Hay donated a sum of money sufficient to build 12 cottage homes for the aged poor and the Mayor secured a site next to the gardens which included enough land for a caretakerÕs house. A foundation stone was laid in May 1899 and eventually the 12 cottages were built, one being for a resident nurse (see map B).

Archway in Winter  

Reproduced here is an article published in the Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic on 9 July 1904:

"The Hay Memorial Cottage Homes, Naunton Park, Cheltenham"
In the spring of 1899 these cottage homes were commenced, through the generosity of the late Mr and Mrs Hay, for the benefit of the aged and deserving poor of both sexes.
The buildings are situated on a fine open site overlooking the Naunton Park Recreation Ground and commanding a good view of the Leckhampton Hills.
Two additional cottages (making twelve in all) and two wash-houses for the joint use of the occupants, have recently been occupied. This extension, together with the original buildings, was designed by Mr J Hall (who left Cheltenham last year, having been appointed Executive Engineer of Bombay), and has been erected according to the further drawings and under the supervision of Messrs Healing and Overbury, architects, of Cheltenham and Gloucester.
The outer walls are of Leckhampton stone, with 'chopped face', with brick lining; the roofs are covered with Broseley tiles; the whole of the half-timber work being in solid English oak.
The following inscription is carved on the oak beam over the ground floor windows of the central portion: 'These Cottage Homes were founded by John Alexander Hay and Marianne Louisa, his wife, AD 1899, as a memorial of their long residence in Cheltenham.'
The management of the homes is vested in the Mayor, Alderman and Rector of Cheltenham, and the total cost of the work, including site, has been nearly £3,000.
Mr Allen Wilson was the contractor for the main block of the buildings, and the extension has been added by Messrs A C Billings & sons Ltd of Cheltenham."

  Map C

By 1903 it was recognised that there was a need for a school in the Naunton Park area. A site in Keynsham Road was proposed but objections to this came from Cheltenham College, and eventually it was resolved to build a school on land owned by Mr Jordan, adjoining Naunton Park ground and that 1.5 acres were added to the recreation ground to compensate for that lost to the school (see map C). In January 1906 tenders to build a school were invited and W Gave Ltd of Nottingham were awarded the contract: their tender was £12,587. R E & C Marshall Ltd got the contract to move the boundary fence, the shelter, swings and giant strides to new locations. A new road, Churchill Road, out of Naunton Way, along 45 yards of the school site, was laid. The Council agreed to pay its share of the road charges to make and pave.