Discover the history of Montpellier, Cheltenham.
The founder of Montpellier as we know it now, was Henry Thompson, who purchased its site from the Revd De La Bere of Southam in 1801. He built himself a house which stands now in Vittoria Walk. In 1809 he opened his new Montpellier Spa and soon tree-lined ‘walks and rides’ were planted in the vicinity – now known as Montpellier Gardens. Thompson’s son Pearson Thompson continued with his father’s work. During 1830s and 1840s, a succession of purpose-built shops were built, including those along Montpellier Walk, designed by W. H. Knight.
Montpellier Arcade was also built at that time and is now one of the best preserved early 19th century shopping arcades in the provinces. Its design created by the Jearrad brothers, who took over Thomson’s projects of Montpellier and Lansdown Estate after 1830 and also built the Queen’s Hotel and Christ Church, has barely altered. It had 16 shops, typical of the town’s luxury retail outlets – clothiers, chemists, a jeweller, a pastry cook, an artist’s repository and a coffee and cigar house
One of the most elegant rows of shops anywhere is Cheltenham’s Montpellier Walk, It was designed by local architects R W and C Jearrad, begun in 1843, and its chief joy, apart from the way the gentle uphill slope of the street is managed, is the fact that between each shop the cornice is supported by beautiful armless caryatids, the urban, sophisticated sisters of the Atlas figures and the descendants of the caryatids that support the portico of the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis at Athens.
Robert Jearrad was one of the town’s most remarkable architects. As well as designing and developing much of the town’s Lansdown area, he also invented a kind of washing machine that was intended especially for hospitals and could sterilize towels in quantity, reducing the risk of infection. The Jearrads designed several other major Cheltenham buildings, including the classical Queen’s Hotel and the gothic Christ Church, with its tall tower, visible from miles away.
Two of Cheltenham’s caryatids were sculpted in terracotta by John Charles Felix Rossi and these were used as patterns for a local sculptor called Brown, who carved the rest in stone.