Regency Cheltenham contrasts greatly with more modern retail and industrial areas of the town. Quite close to Cheltenham Ladies College (which was established in the mid-19th century for the daughters of Cheltenham’s gentlemen), we find the clutch of wine bars, boutiques, antique shops and upmarket coffee shops of the

The name is cut deep into the stonework above the arched window and entry (shown below). Across this court stand the first of the 'armless classical ladies', as the local tourist guide refers to the almost life-size caryatids: supporting pillars in the shapes of the femal human form. (An atlas or telamon is a male version of a caryatid, i.e. a sculpted male statue serving as an architectural support – see the balcony supports on  the E. Brand & Sons building in Ipswich.)
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Montpellier Walk properties are separated by these caryatids. The figures are based on the classical models on the Erechtheion in Athens. There are 32 of them and they are not all the same. Only two of them are dated from 1840, made by the original London sculptor Rossi from terracota. The remainder were created by a local man from Tivoli Street. Two of them, located on the extension of the bank, were added in the 1970s. Montpellier Walk was designed by W. H. Knight, the architect of the monumental Cheltenham Public Library (see below).

In the 18th and 19th centuries the name of French spa town of Montpellier had been a byword for a pleasant healthy place – and that name was chosen in 1809 by Henry Thompson for his newly established spa. It was laid out in the early 18th century with attractive villas and terraces surrounding spacious ornamental gardens, now known as Montpellier Gardens. In the 1830s and 1840s specialist shops were built and Montpellier developed as a classy shopping area, the character of which it still retains today.
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Below: just a section of the string of caryatids in Montpellier Walk.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham Montpellier Walk

Montpellier has a special place in history of Cheltenham. It is here that the first Cheltenham (fresh water) spring was discovered in 1716. Thanks to magnificent villas and terraces of Montpellier, Lansdown, Bayshill and Suffolks, Cheltenham gained the reputation of being one of the most beautiful towns in England.
(below) is carved into the stone wall at the end of the Walk, the large and small capitals painted black against the honey surround. This is close to the entry to the domed building which is the original Cheltenham Spa: the Rotunda, today home to Lloyds TSB, originally the building of the Montpellier Spa where the gentry took the waters. The interior could once be visited during the bank's opening hours but it's now 'The Ivy', so debatable.

Rotunda Terrace, Montpellier Walk
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham 1 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham Pump Room dome
In 1809 Henry Thompson constructed a wooden pavilion with a colonnade and by 1817 he had to rebuild it in stone as Montpellier Spa became more and more popular. He employed the architect G. A. Underwood, who completed the building with a statue of crouching lion on the parapet. It wasn’t until Thompson’s son Pearson asked J. B. Papworth in 1826 to take over the project that the building got its dome. Papworth, a London architect and in terms of national reputation the most important architect to work in Cheltenham during that time, was inspired by Rome’s Pantheon. Even the dimensions are almost identical - 53ft high and 54ft across. The building became a bank in 1882 when Worcester City and County Bank moved in although balls and concerts still continued to take place in the venue which would seat the audience of 400.

The Daffodil Cinema, 18-20 Suffolk Parade
Although it doesn't appear to have integral lettering, The Daffodil is certainly worth celebrating here. It began life as
Cheltenham’s first purpose built picture palace (750 seat capacity), opening its doors to the public on the 5th October 1922. On 7th September 1963 The Daffodil screened its last public film due to falling ticket sales and was in turn a bingo hall and antiques centre, closing in 1989.
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  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham Daffodil 1 
An extensive renovation started in1996 during which many original features and fittings were restored and reinstated including the original projectionist machinery (now displayed in the upper circle) and a pair of red plush courting couple “kissing seats” (at left of the interior shot above) which now occupy pride of place in the Terrazzo mosaic foyer. Today the building is a civic award winning iconic Cheltenham landmark (bar/lounge/dining room) as well as one of country’s finest surviving examples of original Art Deco cinema design. We liked the small, glazed ticket booths to the far left and right of the entrance, at least one of which is still used as a manager's office.
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A stroll down High Street
The Vine
, 47 High St
Sitting on a junction with St James Street, but with that street at an angle to High Street means that the corner entrance is quite narrow with the pub opening up in a wedge shape. But, what an entrance: richly decorated at ground floor level in colorful ceramic cladding. At first floor level (and concealed by the hanging sign), hardly noticed is the fine cermaic sign seen around the area: 'WEST COUNTRY ALES, 1760, BEST IN THE WEST'.
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The corner door adds stained glass doors to the mix.
The lettering above the ground floor level is:
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The St James Street elevation shows the fine Victorian/Edwardian detailing with its lustrous glazes. Scrolls, swags of fruit and pilasters are features of this three colour ceramic feast.
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Former Burton shop
, 170 High Street
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This is a typical Montague Burton shop-front in soaring Art Deco stonework. Very near to is a vestigial trade sign. The solution can be seen on our Guildford page (where there is more information about Montague Burton), showing the logo is in place:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Guildford Burton signGuildford sign
Most interesting is that the whole sign, presumably in stone, is removable from the flat tablet behind and so has left its shadow. Quite how this works without lots of holes in the fabric of the building to bear the weight of the name style:
we would have to ask a stonemason, perhaps. In the 21st century, this shop is home to Monsoon/Accessorize.

202 High Street
At Cobbler's Corner an Art Nouveau'ish canopy over a shoe repair, engraving and key cutting business obscures the mirrored sign above which curves all the way round the building. From the far side, reading clockwise, it says:
'Tobacco Blender ... DICKINS ... Cigar Importer ... Highest Quality ... CIGARS ... DICKINS ... CIGAR IMPORTER'
The upper/lower case phrases are in a bespoke, cursive script replete with flourishes. The initial capital letters of the other words are very decorative.
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This lettering bears comparison to C.W. Abbs at 2 High Street in Hunstanton in Norfolk.

231 High Street
A minute or so later, on the right...
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At the other end of the social spectrum, so to speak, we move to one of the more workaday shopping streets in Cheltenham where you can find Wilkinsons and Peacocks. This enormous and well looked-after piece of lettering hangs on an unusual shaped cartouche which wraps wround the corner of the building at first floor level. F. Hinds, jeweller, stands at the junction of Bennington Street and High Street. The serpentine lettering is in san serif capitals with an emphatic square full stop at the end. What does it all mean? We came across Rebsie Fairholm's excellent 'labour of love' website called Cheltonia (see Links) and discovered that this spot has considerable (now nearly lost) history:-

'During the first half of the 19th century, the northern end of what is now Bennington Street was occupied by the town’s main market place, moved away from its traditional site in the High Street to avoid offending genteel visitors with stray scraps of smelly vegetables and the noise of rough types plying their wares. The market was formed into a tidy square – or rectangle – with stalls arranged round it in an orderly manner. The High Street end became the site of a beautiful Regency shopping area called the Arcade, built in 1822. All of this was paid for by Lord Sherborne, who was one of Cheltenham’s main landowners at the time. In the entranceway was a stone known as the Centre Stone, which was deemed to be the central point in the town, from which distances could be measured and cab fares calculated. James Hodsdon in his wondrous gazetteer suggests there may have been an older market cross on the site previously.'

Sadly, all that has gone now. There is much more information on Cheltonia to take you down the byways of history and away from the litter, Coke cans and dog-ends of the 21st century. Somebody determined that this historic spot should be comemorated in such a striking way and the current owners keep it in very spruce condition. Hats off.

Cheltenham Chapel, Jenner Walk
Standing back from the street stands the attractive building:
CHAPEL. 1809'
Again, we're indebted to the Cheltonia website:
'Cheltenham Chapel, Jenner Walk. Well, at least dating this one isn’t difficult. A more detailed history of the chapel can be found in the article about Jenner Gardens [on the Cheltonia website], but this V-cut hand-chiselled plaque remains one of the few of its kind in Cheltenham, and one of the earliest. (In 1809 most of the town hadn’t yet been built, and little existed beyond the High Street.) The lettering is a fairly standard style for this period but the bar on the letter A is strangely high up. The panel is a slightly odd shape … perhaps it originally had some kind of border around it.'

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331 High Street
Over the road, a gnomic sign over a double shop-front which must originally have extended to the left. But what does it mean?
The tarnished mirror-backed lettering (compare with Dickins cigar emporium above) is repeated in the central vertical panel (close-up to the right) and we can make out its contents...
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Fresh ground
The words 'Teas' at the top and 'Marmalade' at the bottom curve round to bracket the rest of the sign, some lettering is in a decorative font, some plainer. Was the shop ownwer 'Mr Kingsale' (with his most emphatic full stop)? Why is 'And Retail' stuck on its own? Surely it should be 'Wholesale And Retail'?
This lettering was later covered over.

343 High Street
A little further down on the same side, above the Aerials and Cable business is a high, weathered and little noticed trade sign in carved characters in a plain stone inset:
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The 'Wilks Ironmonger' masonry detail at first floor level, 343 High Street is specifically mentioned in the Cheltenham Local Development Framework on this area: "Local details within the Lower High Street character area collectively enhance the character and appearance of not just Lower High Street but the whole of the Central Conservation Area."

332-4 High Street
On the other side of the road is:
on the eastern wall of the Royal Oak (currently Irish Oak): an old embossed lettered advertisement. This lettering was later covered over and the building used by other businesses.
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Cheltenham Gas Company
1 Gloucester Road
Continue down under the disused railway bridge which used to carry the line from Cheltenham Spa station to Cheltenham Racecourse and on the coner of Gloucester Road and Tewkesbury Road is a striking red brick building (with gothic clock-tower) bearing the words under the dentitioned lintel below the first floor windows:
in an 'Arts & Crafts'-style typface.
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British Listed Buildings (see Links) tells us that it is Listed Grade II:
"Gas works offices, now offices and walls adjoining. 1880 with later alterations including conversions to offices c1995. Red brick with terracotta tile and black brick bands, ashlar dressings to windows and copings, slate roof with external end and ridge stacks with cornices and decorative ridge tiles. Asymmetrical composition mostly in Gothic Revival style. L-plan... First floor has continuous chamfered sill band interrupted by 2 first-floor breakforwards but carrying across breakforward to angle and with 'CHELTENHAM GAS COMPANY' to terracotta decorative modillion band below."
Here's to the modillion band, eh?

Winchcombe Street
110 (Columbia House)
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Number 110 is Columbia House, now Constatinou's who have left the illustrated tiling and decorative lettering above the shop front. This was once the gamey:
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47 Winchcombe Street
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'W.W. DOWTY.  
This is a typical Edwardian method of mirrored or gilded characters on the reverse of a glass panel, with a background layer then applied. Just visible in the bottom left corner is the manufacturer: 'Cheltenham Shopfitting Co.' The rather fine central door is reached via three steps up from the pavement; the red-brown tiling appears to be original.
We learn that W.W. Dowty also had a portrait studio in Pershore, Worcestershire. It is possible that he was related to the industrialist, engineer and inventor Sir George Dowty who was born in Pershore. Sir George Dowty's company was once pre-eminent in hydraulics, pioneering hydraulic pit props for mines and working in other areas, especially aviation. Part of the company survives at one of Dowty's original sites between Cheltenham and Gloucester; it's known as Messier-Bugatti-Dowty now. Interestingly, George Dowty lost the sight in one eye when as a boy he was experimenting with chemicals. Some sources say these were photographic chemicals. (English Buildings blog)

61 Winchcombe Street
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No. 51 next door is the barber's premises in the photograph; however, the cycle shop on the other side of the building carrying this vestigial sign is no. 61. So, let's think of this building – now converted into flats – as "nos. 53-59". The building in the foreground which abutts '53-59' is clearly modern and, because it is set back from the shop line (having a step up from the pavement with a wrought iron barrier), a small section of what would have been a much bigger advertisement on the gable end is still visible on the upper rendering:
'Ola...' or 'Old...'
in a fat cursive script (with three-dimensionality sugested) covers an earlier sign:
'AGRIC...' with something else above it.
We hope that the later sign is recognisable and its trade name identifiable because, as today, companies tended to adopt a namestyle for their product and use it for all advertising, to ensure brand recognition.
This fragment looks unpromising, but such is the fraternity of The Ghosts Of The Sign that we can reveal that the sign advertises: W.J. Oldacre & Co., Corn and Coal Merchants is listed at at 40 Winchcombe Street. There are also branches at Bishops Cleeve, London Road Cheltenham and High Street Tewkesbury, as revealed in
the 1938 'phone book. As we know the numbering hereabouts is somewhat fugitive, we think that this must be the address mentioned. Many thanks to Sam Roberts at Ghostsigns project website (see Links) for putting it out on social media and to Dave Rodney for finding the printed evidence.
From the Ghostsigns Facebook page: this address was occupied by W.Ride & Co. (Hay, straw & corn merchants) – hence the partial sign which probably read ‘Agricultural supplies’ or similar. Then W.J. Oldacre (Coal and corn merchant); then the Axiom bar/night club and now converted to nineteen flats called Axiom Apartments.

Everyman Theatre, Regent Street
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The restrained, serif'd capitals 'EVERYMAN' are incised into a stone block panel above three oculus windows. Frank Matcham (1854-1920) designed the Everyman Theatre building around 1891. He was the pre-eminent architect of theatres and music-halls, particularly in the period 1892 to 1912.
In 1905 Matcham designed the Ipswich Hippodrome in St Nicholas Street Sadly, it was closed in December 1982 and demolished to make way for an office block called Cardinal House (the name celebrates the fact that this is the site of the boyhood home of Thomas Wolsey). He was also responsible for The Picture House (1910 to 1958)
in Tavern Street, Ipswich.

The Playhouse, 47-53 Bath Road
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The Playhouse Theatre at 47-53 Bath Road has a marvellous and eccentric crest atop the building which many might not have noticed due to the incredibly heavy traffic. The grotesgue mask, swags, 'peeled' crest flourishes and nicely coloured elements on the town's crest and on a flowing, curly banner at the base, the motto:
which means 'Health and Education'. Decoding the elements on the crest, we find the pigeon at the very top is sitting on a blue striped sphere and this represents the discovery of the fountain of spa water by a pigeon that made Cheltenham famous (there are still an awful lot of pigeons). This is sitting on top of a wreath of oak leaves. The two open books, either side of the silver cross, on the blue band represent education, particularly Pates Grammar School and Cheltenham College. The silver cross shows religion. The two pigeons represent the flock that gathered at the spa water spring. The Oak tree at the bottom is there to represent the tree lined Promenade and streets for which Cheltenham is also known. See also the crest on The Library (below).

The Bell Inn, 70 Bath Road
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Across the road at number 70 is a nice green tiled public house frontage with the name
'BELL INN' clearly shown in white serif'd characters three times below the windows.

St John's Schools, Albion Street
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Old All Saints School
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Fairview and All Saints areas
On the junction of Fairview Street and Fairview Road stands this  redbrick building with terra cotta detailing: a Victorian School, now converted into flats. It stands at the entrance to the rabbit warren of narrow streets and small cottages – some rendered and painted white (particulalry Fairview Street), some in three colour brick, particularly in Winstonian Road, itself an intriguing street name. The Cheltonia website: 'Charles Winstone – builder active in Fairview, who built Winstonian Road in the 1890s in defiance of the Borough Council, who had not approved the plans. Winstone himself was living in All Saints Terrace in the 1890s, and was dead by the turn of the century.' The Fairview estate was developed from 1806 to the 1820s.
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On the end gable on Fairview Road in an oval feature above second floor level is the date '1890' with the familar Victorian squashed '8' .
Below: the usual gender-segregated school entrances are clearly signed on the lintels, but now converted into windows.
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All Saints' Parish Room, Fairview Road
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Round two corners and at the rear of the school site is a corner entrance to:
on a rather eroded piece of stonework. Nice use of the plural possessive apostrophe. Further down the street is The Kemble Brewery at number 27.

All Saints Church, All Saints Road
All Saints (Listed Grade I) stands in the 'Traditional Catholic tradition of the Church of England': a parish that rejects the ordination of women. The church was built between 1865 and 1868 by the architect John Middleton. It was refurbished by the appropriately-named Temple Lushington Moore in 1907.
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Below: the West Door of the church is a magnificent piece of carving within an ornate gothic-arched doorway. The sculptor's signature "A.B. Wall. Sc."appears at the lower right of the tympanum.
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The east end of the church features a large apse, taking in the width of the building (not obvious from the street).

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Berkeley Street/corner with Berkeley Place
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The carving of the serif'd capitals in the stone is showing signs of weathering. The prominent Berkeley family is commemorated in many Cheltenham street names, etc.: Col. William Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1786-1857) entered the House of Lords as Lord Segrave in 1831 (Hodsdon, Gazetteer), and Craven Fitzhardinge Berkeley served as Cheltenham’s MP almost continuously from 1832 to 1855. Lord Segrave’s Cheltenham residence was German Cottage, on North Place just south of Pittville; in the winter of 1840 his younger brother Craven leased nearby Pittville House. (Pittville History Group)

The Library, Clarence Street

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The Borough arms of Cheltenham in pierced stone can be seen high on the facade and carry the motto on a scroll;
meaning 'Health and Education'. See also the crest on the Playhouse Theatre (above) for an explanation of the coat of arms.
Cheltenham Public Library was designed by W. H. Knight, the architect of Montpellier Walk (see above) .
Below – the lettering on the door lintels (and doesn't that 'A' look like a back-to-front 'E'?):
'PUBLIC ... AD1887 ... LIBRARY'
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Former Manchester Hotel, Clarence Street (Manchester Court/Clarence House Rest Home)
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The two colours of mineral used on the entrance steps (no Disability Discrimination Act then) pick out the hotel name in capitals a strips to emphasise each step edge. This lettering has the look of the 1930s about it, so this may be the period when the three houses were combined into a hotel. Why 'Manchester Hotel'? – the old name of Manchester Street, between Ambrose Street and St Georges Place, disappeared when it was made part of Clarence Street.
The building is Listed Grade II: 'Formerly a terrace of 3 houses, now rest home. c1820-30. Pinkish-brown brick with slate roof, end and ridge stacks. 4 storeys with basement, 6 first-floor windows. Ground, first and second floors have 2/2 horizontal-pane and 6/6 sashes; third floor has 3/3 sashes. Entrances: 3 round-arched openings with tooled stucco surrounds, steps to recessed C20, part-glazed 6-panel doors, two with fanlights. Low parapet. Apparently shown on Merrett's Map of 1834.'

The Horse & Groom 30 St Georges Place, corner with Chester Walk
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This Victorian public house closed in about 1970. At the time the photographs were taken (2018), this building was occupied by a printing company.

Cheltenham Shopfitting Company Limited, 85 St Georges Place
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Right up against the side wall of The Bayshill public house, once stood:
It looks as if the company ceased trading around 2004. These signs and the walling later disappeared; the plot where the building stood is now a car park.
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Above: the same lettering in a different configuration is partially visible next to the pub.

Engine House/Fire Station, St James Square
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham Engine House 1
Built in 1906 (as shown in the centre of the roundel/oculus), the buildings were in use until 1959 and have had a variety of uses since, including as a health club, a coffee bar and as an antiques showroom. Today the three linked units are a pub/restaurant.
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On wonders if the lettering here isn't that old.

Crescent Bakery, St Georges Place
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'The bakery itself has long given way to office space and a doctor’s surgery, but its attractive name panel still stands proudly emblazoned on its gable. The design successfully combines the pilasters and volutes of its Neoclassical neighbours (the building backs onto the gardens of Royal Crescent) with the more organic Art Nouveau typography of the building’s own time period.' (Cheltonia website)
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Junction box, Suffolk Road/corner with Bath Road
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We couldn't leave Cheltenham without the inclusion of this work of conceptual/abstract art pretending to be a junction box in 2013. So post-modern is this piece that the authorities have stripped and repainted it since the photographs were taken from a car while queueing at the junction.

The Honeybourne Line
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham Honeybourne Line map1951 map
Virtually all of the Great Western Railway's presence in Cheltenham has disappeared however, the old route to Birmingham via Stratford-upon-Avon was converted into a footpath and cycleway in 2005, now called the Honeybourne Line. The main line last saw trains in 1977 and the short branch, from
the Malvern Road East Junction to the terminus at St James, in1966. The old Honeybourne Line was formerly the railway line connecting Cheltenham and Honeybourne in Worcestershire. The trackbed is still largely intact and runs from Queens Road, close to Cheltenham Spa railway station, all the way past the Prince of Wales Stadium, Tommy Taylors Lane and finally up to a blocked-up tunnel entrance below Hunting Butts Farm. This short tunnel has tracks (now used as sidings) leading from the far end down into Cheltenham Racecourse Station – the gateway to an excellent heritage steam railway.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham Honeybourne Line2020 image
These interesting terra cotta 'coping stones' were found while walking the dog by Blake Sanders and prompted a question to David Sallery, the national resource on all things brick (see Links: 'Old Bricks - history at your feet'). David writes: 'Made at the H. J. Baldwin Brickworks in Bunny, Nottinghamshire. Used to cover electric cables in troughing. Becoming increasingly rare nowadays.'
These heavy objects are linked by a steel reinforcement, presumably cemented into the slots moulded into the ends. The two units shown are clearly reversed so that the warning can be read from both sides.
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway
The photographs below show the view of the Racecourse Station side of Hunting Butts tunnel, taken from the very busy Evesham Road bridge over the railway beside Cheltenham Racecourse Station.
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And just to illustrate the point made above about traces of the Great Western Railway remaining here, the cast iron bench support shows an interesting symmetrical monogram:

which requires a little imagination to make out the 'G'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cheltenham Racecourse Station 3
The former Great Western Railway Cheltenham Spa to Stratford-Upon-Avon and Birmingham railway line was built from 1900 to 1906. The station opened in 1912 to serve the new racecourse at Prestbury Park. The platforms were later extended to accommodate trains of up to 14 carriages. The station was only opened on race days and so facilities were rudimentary, but it continued to serve racegoers until the 1976 Cheltenham Festival.
Although most of the stations on the line closed in 1960, the line itself remained open for non-stop passenger services until 1968. Special trains on racedays only served Cheltenham Racecourse station from 1971 until 1976. The line was also used as a diversionary route with no scheduled passenger services until 1976, when a freight train derailed at Winchcombe and damaged the track. The line was officially closed in the same year; the track was lifted shortly afterwards.
Cheltenham Racecourse is now the southern terminus of the 12 mile-long heritage Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, run entirely by volunteers. The line has been reopened in stages. The line trackbed itself was bought in 1984. The track from Gotherington to the racecourse was relaid in 2001. The line was reopened as a heritage railway by the Princess Royal on 7 April 2003.
The original station booking office in the car park close to the main A435 road is now accessible by car only through the racecourse service roads. It is believed to be the only remaining example of a Swindon-built flatpack prefabricated building that was brought by train and assembled on site. It is situated above the cutting, next to the road bridge and close to the main entrance of the racecourse. It has a collection of artefacts housed within it. A gentle slope gives access to the platform where there is a new station building with a canopy, toilets and waiting room. A new signal box was opened in 2005 to control the signals and point work around the station.

See also our pages on nearby Tewkesbury , Winchcombe (including Upton-On Severn) and on Hay-On-Wye.

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