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Cheltenham Heritage Open Days 2020
11 - 20 September

Pate's Grammar School's 20th century stained glass window

Not surprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on all of the Civic Society’s events this year. But in the face of that, our dedicated Heritage Open Days’ team has pulled out all the stops to bring you an exciting variety of walks & talks, visits and – for the first time – online presentations and videos. 

Needless to say, all the activities during the festival from 11-20 September will be strictly limited in numbers and subject to all the essential Covid-19 social restrictions including face masks and distancing.

But the complete programme of digital events will be will be available on our website for all to enjoy at home during the 10-day festival. 

For example, Cheltenham Playhouse’s contribution to Heritage Open Days will be a series of short films about the history of this Grade II listed building’s life through from a salts laboratory in 1807 to slipper baths, swimming pool, medical spa and now theatre.

Heritage Open Days’ national theme this year is ‘Hidden Nature’ and this is reflected locally in several of our events.

One of the highlights will be a guided walk by Cheltenham Borough Council’s Senior Trees Officer, Chris Chavasse, who will be talking about the many fine specimen trees in Montpellier Gardens.

Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve will also be the subject of a short audio-visual presentation that illustrates the Reserve’s history and its remarkable variety of wildlife. 

An ancillary and purely local theme this year is ‘Secret Places’. One of the events under this theme is a guided walk titled ‘Cheltenham Backwaters’ led by Mary Moxham. This will explore the little known route of the River Chelt as it flows through the town centre.  

One other must see presentation is about how Pate’s Grammar School got and managed to retain its stained glass window (see above).


Call for High Street action!

Fed up with getting nowhere with its previous attempts to draw attention to the poor condition of the public realm in our High Street, the Civic Society’s Successful Streets Group (SSG) is upping the ante this year.

Old lamp-post, now ashtray!

It is adopting a new, more proactive approach to working with both local councils that between them control the streetscape, and the various private companies that can help to improve matters (Ubico, BT, Virgin, etc.). 

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The group’s three-fold focus in 2020 will be to: highlight the categories of problem items; identify and engage constructively with the person or team in the Council or company who have responsibility for these; and follow up to see tasks carried out or, if not possible, to develop new ways to somehow get the jobs done. 


SSG points out that a significant number of the issues could be sorted quickly and at minimum cost. But despite this, the councils will too often say ‘No’ to something due to lack of budget. But then they also say ‘No’ to alternative constructive suggestions. In future, SSG wants to hear “Yes, we can”!


See here for the full Successful Streets Group Report 

Clean Air Day Cheltenham
8 October 2020

Chris Chavasse, CBC Senior Trees Officer

Clean Air Day in Cheltenham on Thursday 8 October 2020 will be celebrated with a Tree Walk led by Cheltenham's Senior Tree's Officer, Chris Chavasse.

The walk will start at 12 noon in Pittville Crescent at the eastern end of Central Cross Drive.

Booking is essential and can be made through the new Clean Air Cheltenham website 

News from the Chair

In his recent letter to Members, Civic Society Chair, Andrew Booton gives an update on Covid-19 and its effect on the Society's activities.

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1 May 2020

Dear Members, 

I trust this note finds you well and coping as well as can be expected under the circumstances. I thought this might be a good time to update you on Civic Society business. 

AGM. Due to Covid-19, we were forced to cancel this year's AGM. We followed Charity Commission advice on trustee succession and welcome new trustees Steve Bryson and Sarah Harvey. Steve has already taken over as Our Town Editor and Communications lead and Sarah will lead on Heritage Open Days. Claire Attenborough will assume the role of Treasurer from Andrew Chard. Andrew has kindly offered to remain as a trustee as has Richard de Carteret. We say goodbye to Fiona Clarke and thank her for her tremendous hard work and sound judgment. 

Events. This year, we sought to make our events programme more active and less sedentary so it is with some irony that we have had our wings clipped by Covid-19! You will appreciate that all our trips and talks have had to be cancelled. We will obviously keep an eye on the changing situation and will seek to reinstate some of them as soon as practicable. We would certainly like to get together, if possible, for the summer party to re-establish friendships, although given the reports of many whilst under lock and key, I suspect dieting and drying out might be preferable to some! 

Planning Forum. The Planning Forum has continued to submit responses for planning applications and listed building consents to Cheltenham Borough Council. This has been facilitated by relaxation of government rules on remote working and submission dates but, like so many changes to our lives, I suspect this model will be retained after the crisis. It was a pleasure to welcome David Oakhill, Head of Planning at Cheltenham Borough Council, as an observer at the last online meeting. Interestingly, he reported that, unlike some local authorities, there has been no discernible reduction in planning applications in Cheltenham during 'lockdown.'

Projects. Many of us are rediscovering old interests and hobbies. Just because we are cooped up doesn't mean we can't make ourselves useful or look ahead to when we can start to return to normality, so here are a few projects and activities we have either underway or lined up, to which you might like to contribute: 

a. The Society has long discussed collating photographs of Cheltenham. With time on our hands, we would like to pull together a few volunteers to start that project off with a simple methodology, archive and index as well as the collation itself.

b. Phil Collins has started digitising the Civic Society Scrapbooks by photographing them, editing them and saving them for future reference. We have plenty of volumes to go through so if anyone is interested in helping out with this task from the safety of their home, please email Phil ( and we'll look to make arrangements. 

c. Linked with the previous projects, we will probably never see our town as quiet as this again so when you are popping out for your exercise or provisions, perhaps you could capture some photographs of quiet Cheltenham to add to the archive. Signs of the crisis and changes to our everyday routine are likely to be most interesting to those following us. 

d. We're preparing the June Issue of Our Town and would like your input. We've learnt a lot about ourselves, other people, our habitat and our institutions during this 'lockdown' and we'd like to hear your brief reflections on them as they affect the Civic Society's interests. What have you missed in town and that is therefore now more valuable to you? What haven't you missed that perhaps you could live without? Thinking of the consequences for businesses and organisations, what do you think will change in Cheltenham? What measures might help the town? How do you think the Civic Society can help the town to adjust to its new operating environment? These are the sort of questions we'd like you to address but there may be others. Please email your brief comments to Steve Bryson 

If you have any other ideas about our role in the 'bounce back,' we'd be delighted to hear from you. Please feel free to share this letter with friends and family. In the meantime, stay safe and we look forward to catching up in person before too long. 

Yours ever, 







Civic Society Chair, Andrew Booton with Charles Landry, presenter of the 2019 Paterson Memorial Lecture

Annual General Meeting


In accordance with Charity Commission guidance, the Trustees have taken the decision to cancel the 2020 AGM. The Annual Report and audited 2019 Accounts will be approved by the Trustees prior to submission to the Charity Commission by 31 October 2020.

Trustee and Officer Changes
Three trustees were due to step down at the AGM and be replaced by two new appointees. By an email process the Executive Committee of Trustees have accepted the resignation, with effect from 18 March 2020, of Fiona Clarke and have thanked her for her long and much valued contribution to the Society. The other two Trustees who were due to resign at the AGM (Richard de Carteret and Andrew Chard) have agreed to remain for the present. Two new Trustees – Steve Bryson and Sarah Harvey – have been appointed with effect from 1 April 2020 and they will serve until the next AGM (whenever that is). Officers will remain as previously: -

Chair – Andrew Booton
Hon. Treasurer – Andrew Chard
Hon. Secretary – Andrew North 

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We should, according to our constitution, hold our AGM not later than 20 June 2020. However, it seems unlikely that this will be possible. Given this we have been in touch with the Charity Commission and explained the circumstances. The Commission’s response was as follows:

“If you feel that in the best interests of your charity and to follow the governments public health guidance it is necessary to cancel or postpone your charity’s AGM (or any other key meeting) that will be fine. You should record the decision you have made to show good governance. […] whilst it is not ideal to not follow your charities rules, these are exceptional circumstances and the Commission would support any decision made by the trustees that was necessary to follow the governments public health advice during the COVID-19 period.”

Chairman’s Report
The report has been on the website since early March. Hopefully you found it informative. If you have any questions on the report you could email the Chair at

Statement of Accounts for 2019
The adjournment of the AGM has provided an opportunity to do further work to the accounts to ensure accuracy and clarity. They will be published on the website as soon as possible and will need to be explicitly approved by members whenever we hold our AGM.


  Douglas Ogle  1934 - 2019

Douglas Ogle died peacefully on 3rd December 2019, aged 85. The celebration of Dougas's life to be held at Pittville Pump Room is now postponed until later this year. 

Douglas has been a longstanding and active member of the Civic Society, freely giving his time and professional expertise as an architect and gallerist to further the aims of the society. Whether as a member of the Executive Committee, the Civic Awards Panel or the Planning Forum, his insightful contributions were much valued; and for many years he has brought renowned speakers to Cheltenham for the annual Paterson Memorial lecture. It is fitting that his final contribution was to ensure the Grade II listing of Cheltenham's Hepworth sculpture.

Upcoming Events


All Civic Society events in 2020 are cancelled or postponed


The Digital Events held during Heritage Open Days 2020 may still be viewed 


See Digital Events

Planning Forum


Planning applications considered at the online Planning Forum meeting on 22 September 2020 included:-

Balcarras School, Charlton Kings: new modular school building

99 - 101 London Road: change of use to 2 no. three bed dwellings

Reddings House, The Reddings: demolition of existing buildings and erection of 3 new houses