Gloucester Spa and environs

Spa waters had been discovered in Gloucester in the 18th century during the construction of Eagle House on Westgate Street. By the late 1780s the waters were being marketed for their medicinal properties, and Eagle House had became Spa House. It was a relatively short-lived enterprise, and from 1827 the property served at various times as a preparatory school, a hotel, a barracks and a lodging house before being demolished in 1971.

Gloucester’s future as a spa town looked more promising with the discovery in 1814 of a spring on open ground at the southern end of Parker’s Row (today’s Brunswick Road). A pump room was completed in 1815, and despite the bankruptcy of the original owner, Gloucester Spa became so popular a new well had to be sunk to meet demand.

The Gloucester Spa Company was formed to manage the spa. Walks were laid out in what became known as the Spa Grounds, which still survive today as the open spaces of Gloucester Spa Bowling Club and Gloucester Cricket Club. To the north, a new road was laid down – initially named Great Norfolk Street, it survives today as Spa Road.

The company built the Spa Hotel on the north side of the road facing the Spa grounds. This side was further developed as the company sold off plots. The spa became a fashionable residential area, and by c.1830 the hotel was part of a row of elegant properties that lined the length of Spa Road and around the corner to Montpellier. Almost all of them still survive today (the list can be found below).

The spa encouraged further development on neighbouring land. Starting in 1822, Gaudy Green – from where, less than two hundred years previously, the artillery of King Charles the First had pounded the city walls during the siege of Gloucester – was transformed into today’s Brunswick Square, complete with covenant that protects the central green from any further development.

New properties were erected north and north-east of the spa (at least some of which have not survived, while the remainder, if they have, are not listed by Historic England). In the 1820s Park Road was laid down to link the spa to Barton Street, and new houses went up along along the Bristol Road, south from the junction with Spa Road to the junction with the then new Stroud Road. More modest houses were built along the Bristol Road south of the Stroud Road Junction.

Between 1811 and 1831 the number of inhabitable properties in the area increased from 7 to 160. Christ Church was built opposite Brunswick Square in 1823 to serve the new community, and its distinctive fronting was added in 1900.

Spas began to evolve, from places where people gathered and sipped salty water to more substantial health resorts. Gloucester’s ability to follow suit was fatally compromised by the completion nearby of the Gloucester and Berkeley (later Sharpness) Canal in 1827. While the likes of Malvern, Cheltenham and Bath became spa towns set in picturesque surroundings which enjoyed fresh air, Gloucester became an industrial city, somewhat less fragrant than its competitors.

The final demise of Gloucester Spa was precipitated in 1860 by the establishment nearby of the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company. The Gloucester Spa Company offered the spa to the City on the condition that more land was added, thus giving birth to Gloucester Park.

The City installed a tap outside the pump room to give free public access to the waters, but suggestions to revive the spa in 1905 and 1946 came to nothing. Despite being legally listed as a place of special architectural or historic interest, the pump room was doomed in 1960 when the estimate for unavoidable roof repairs came in at £3,000 (equivalent to nearly £70,000 in 2020 pounds), and down it came. The site is now a car park opposite the entrance to Brunswick Road.

Where are they now?

In 1861 the Spa Hotel became Ribston Hall, today’s Ribston Hall High School, though the property was taken over by the Gloucestershire College of Arts and Technology in 1970. The neighbouring property – built in 1820 for the former London merchant Alexander Maitland – became offices (in 1986 it was occupied by the Gloucester Registry).

Originally built as houses, Nos. 19 and 21 with their distinctive verandas now accommodate offices. Next door, Sherborne House, originally built c. 1825 as a block of three houses for Gloucester solicitor John Chadborn, was converted into ten one- and two-bedroomed flats in 1984.

Somerset House (also known as Somerset Villas) was built in the 1830s to a design by Sir Robert Smirke, who also designed Shire Hall in Gloucester and the extension of the British Museum in London. The property was converted to lodgings for judges on the assize court circuit in 1864. It served briefly as a mess for the officers of the 2/5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, early in the First World War. Today it is known as the Judges Lodgings, home to a boutique hotel.

The Beaufort Buildings, built 1818 as one of the first properties in the spa development, are now mostly offices for Ecclesiastical Insurance. At the end of Spa Road, The Byways, an 1818-built detached house, is now home to a mortgage brokerage and known as Park House.

Walking back up Spa Road, Norfolk House was built in the 1820s on the opposite side, near the junction with Southgate Street. It later served as the Royal Air Force Association club, but is currently empty pending redevelopment into flats.

The Spa Road area today shows its age in places: a couple of fenced-off properties awaiting regeneration here, peeling paintwork and exposed brick there. But the tree-lined avenue overlooking a park still has the air of the fashionable quarter to which it was born.

Included in the gallery is a photo of the Gloucester Park perimeter walk as it skirts the former Spa Grounds, now the cricket ground. It is perhaps indicative of the walks laid out in the early 19th century for the spa. The path passes the badly weathered statue of Queen Anne, originally installed at the top of Southgate Street in 1712. The statue is well travelled in Gloucester, having been moved to Paddock House on Pitt Street c.1780 then to College Green in 1839 before arriving at its current location in 1865.

Also included are neighbouring sites at Brunswick Square and on Southgate street, the development of which was stimulated by the Spa. 

Listed Sites

  • 1245614 – Nos. 3–7 Spa Road – Three early 19th-century terraced houses with later 19th and 20th-century alterations

  • 1245616 – Nos. 9 – 11 Spa Road – Two mid 19th-century mirror-image terraced houses altered 20th century with the addition of dormers

  • 1245617 – No. 11a Spa Road – Early 19th-century end of terrace house

  • 1245618 – Ribston Hall – Built 1829 as the Spa Hotel

  • 1245619 – Maitland House – House built 1820 for the former London merchant Alexander Maitland

  • 1245620 – Nos. 19–21 Spa Road – Pair of semi-detached houses c.1825 with later 19th-century verandas

  • 1245621 – Sherborne House – Block of three houses c.1825 with late 19th-century alterations

  • 1245622 – Judges Lodgings – Pair of semi-detached houses built 1833–1839 and originally named Somerset House or Somerset Villas. Converted 1864 into lodgings for assize court judges

  • 1245962 – Beaufort House – Built c.1818 for the Gloucester Spa Company. Forms the western end of the Beaufort Buildings terrace

  • 1271780 – No. 1 Beaufort Buildings – House c.1818. Part of the Beaufort Buildings terrace

  • 1271781 – Nos. 2–4 Beaufort Buildings – Three Houses c.1818. Part of the Beaufort Buildings terrace

  • 1271782 – Nos. 5–6 Beaufort Buildings – Two Houses c.1818. Part of the Beaufort Buildings terrace

  • 1271783 – No. 7 Beaufort Buildings – House 1835–1840. Eastern end of the Beaufort Buildings terrace

  • 1245709 – The Byways – Detached House c.1818 with late 20th-century alterations

  • 1245706 – Nos. 1–2 Spa Villas – Pair of semi-detached houses c1830

  • 1245705 – North Villas – Pair of semi-detached houses c1830

  • 1245963 – Christ Church – Built 1822–1823 and refronted 1899–1900

  • 1245615 – Norfolk House – c.1820

  • 1245629 – Nos. 123–131 Southgate Road – Early 19th-century terrace stimulated by the spa development (NB No. 123 not included in photo)

  • 1245630 – Nos. 133–135 Southgate Road – Pair of houses built c.1835 in the terrace stimulated by the spa development

  • 1245632 – No. 137 Southgate Road – House built c.1835 on the end of the terrace stimulated by the spa development

  • 1271784 – Statue of Queen Anne in Spa Field – Sculpted 1711–1712 and originally installed at the top of Southgate Street

Awaiting photograph​

  • 1245708 – Nos. 5–6 Spa Villas – Pair of semi-detached houses c1830

  • 1245707 – Nos. 3–4 Spa Villas – Pair of semi-detached houses c1830

  • 1245613 – 2 Spa Road – One half of an c.1825-built semi-detached house on the corner of Spa Road and Southgate Street

  • 1245628 – Spalite Hotel – The other half of the c.1825-built semi-detached house on the corner of Spa Road and Southgate Street

  • 1245633 – Nos. 139–141 Southgate Road – Semi-detached houses c.1835, stimulated by the spa development

  • 1245635 – Nos. 143–151 Southgate Road – Terrace of five houses c.1835, stimulated by the spa development

  • 1245636 – Nos. 155–157 Southgate Road – Semi-detached houses c.1835, stimulated by the spa development

All sites are listed at grade II, except the Judges Lodgings and Sherborne House, both grade II*.

© 2020–2021 All images copyright Shadowed Eyes unless otherwise credited

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