Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Cheltenham Spa

Sculpture of Neptune, the ancient Roman God of sea and water, holding a trident surrounded by seahorses and tritons. Designed in 1892 by the town's Borough Engineer who was influenced by the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
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Cheltenham Spa is our nearest centre for major items of shopping, theatre, and the arts. It is the most complete regency town in England, and has been welcoming visitors for nearly three hundred years, ever since the discovery of the first natural spring. The first Cheltenham Guide written in 1781 described a visit to the town as 'a journey of health and pleasure'. According to legend the first medicinal waters were discovered when pigeons were noticed pecking at salty deposits which had formed around a spring on the present site of the now well known Cheltenham Ladies College school.
In 1788 King George III came for five weeks to take the water cure; he was followed by many aristocratic and distinguished figures of the period, and Cheltenham's transformation into a fashionable resort began.
The boulevards are wide, lined with large mature trees and elegant buildings. In an area called Montpellier are found one of the town's most enduring images: the caryatids - they decorate the 1820s shopping arcade which developed to serve the needs of visitors to the nearby spa.
This is a piece of sculpture by Sophie Ryder showing a Minotaur and Hare. Sophie lives in the Cotswolds but is an internationally recognised sculptor. What I love about the sculpture is the way Sophie has created something so gentle and enduring out of a pile of rusty old industrial waste. This is recycling at its most imaginative and rewarding.
I enjoy the power of the Minotaur but also his tenderness towards his lady hare, and her rather timorous, almost shy disposition. Look how his big strong arm protects her.
This post is leading me on to the latest Architectural Quiz.
All the answer is revealed on this plaque
I remember talking to H about this building when I first came across it. I mentioned that I had discovered a lovely building in Cheltenham which reminded me of an Italian Palazzo. At that stage it had not been restored, did not have a plaque with the above information on it, nor was it called the Strozzi Palace.
Today it has been converted into luxury boutique hotel suites.
Amazingly my dear blogging friend Gina at Art and Alfalfa got the correct answer. Gina - I am very impressed.
Palazzo Strozzi, Florence via wikipedia
Another post on Cheltenham here

45 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary:
    Another beautifully illustrated and informative post and one which takes us to a town which, in the past, we would on occasion visit both for the shops and also the theatre.

    We do so agree with you about the effectiveness of Sophie Ryder's sculpture. There is about this particular work something which is, as you say, very tender and comforting and yet which has an underlying strength.

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    1. Dear Jane and Lance - I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing the sculpture, and also the trip to Cheltenham which is known to you both.

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  2. It is a nice place for relax and renewal of the body! The environment is quiet and beautiful!
    As for the sculpture, it is great that sculptor uses recycled metal, but I try to understand the meaning of the sculpture! The Minotaur was not characterized for his lovely feelings towards the women !
    Unless the sculptor wants to give him the minimum, a loving hug!
    Olympia

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    1. Dear Olympia - Sophie's Minotaur is not based on the character of the Minotaur in Greek Mythology - only on his appearance. Her Minotaur is not threatening but strong, loving and protective. Sophie has used artistic licence with her interpretation of a Minotaur.
      She is well known for her lady hare sculptures, and often accompanies them with a gentle Minotaur such as the one I have shown.
      The Minotaur, as you know, in Greek mythology is viewed as a ferocious and violent creature feeding on Man for sustenance. In fact the opposite to Sophie's interpretation.

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    2. Honestly, I was impressed by the linking of the two creatures. A hare is a cute, smart and beautiful creature. The Minotaur contrary it is ugly, bad and controversial creature with two forms of animal and human! I wish I could knew with which thought created this impressive work!
      Olympia

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    3. Hello Rosemary, I now have an insatiable desire to visit Cheltenham Spa and to see its old architecture and fountain. My favorite photo has to be the was memorial. I love the way it looks, but why is it so spiky--were those part of some machine or implement? No disrespect intended, but it looks like that monument could have finished off any soldiers that had survived the war.

      I am pleased to be introduced to the Cheltenham electrical station. Back then even utilitarian buildings were considered worthy of beautification and of adding to the collective charm of their cities. Chicago's famous water tower/pumping station is another example that comes to mind, although quite different from the electrical station's Renaissance dignity.
      --Road to Parnassus

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    4. Dear Jim - On the war memorial is says that originally it was surmounted by a gun taken at Sebastopol, and presumably the spikes were there to protect it and prevent anyone taking it. The gun was, however, removed and given to the British Government during WWII to help in the war effort by providing metal for armaments.
      There are quite a lot of these Spa towns up and down the country and they all tend to be very elegant having been built during the Georgian and Regency periods. We live very near to the city of Bath, which is also a Spa town founded by the Romans.

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  3. So glad to have the answer to this quiz... fascinating. I too, love the Sophie Ryder sculpture....beautiful and so much fun. Jx

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    1. Dear Janice - I really enjoy Sophie's work. She always makes lady hares, sometimes with the body of a women, sometimes they are alone. Others have a companion of either a male minotaur, horse or dog. She also makes them out of wire which she scrunches up. We saw her in the Art Gallery in Cheltenham a few years back making tiny wire hares, and I wish now that I had bought one of them. Glad you enjoyed seeing it.

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  4. Dear Rosemary, For a while I was wondering how one pronounces Caryatid. What a strange word for such beautiful and practical supports.
    I don't know why the transformer idea came to my head when I saw your mystery building. I have always admired late 19th c. and early 20th century Power Plants, generating power from water (yes, different from your transformer building.) We find, out here in the West, such buildings built of red brick with enormous Palladian windows. I have always wanted to move right in and start growing orchids. Your mystery building reminded me of those power plants. And speaking of windows, were windows added to your building to accomodate guests?

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    1. Dear Gina - the word Caryatid is a very strange word I agree. I am sure that you recognise the form from classical antiquity. Some of the earliest examples being found in Delphi dating to the 6th century BC. Thinking aloud, Caryatids would probably make a good post sometime!!!
      What a brilliant piece of deduction on your part Gina, I really did not expect anyone to get the answer right. The windows that are shown in the building have always been there. Since becoming a boutique hotel it has become known as the Strozzi Palace, before it was known as The Electricity House.

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  5. What a beautiful photograph's you made of this beautiful town. Great to read the backgroundstory about Cheltenham.
    Have a wonderful evening Rosemary.

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    1. Thanks Marijke - glad that you enjoyed seeing Cheltenham. It is a very elegant town with lovely parks and some very appealing architecture.

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  6. What a lovely town! I love the photos you've been sharing of the area near your home, and those fall pictures are incredible. I get back to London on Nov. 6. Just hope there's a wee bit of autumn beauty left!

    Hope the skies today are as blue as the ones in this photo!

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    1. Dear Debi - in the west of the country we seem to have been enjoying some freaky weather. Lots of very blue skies and plenty of sunshine, but in the east, London and the south to my knowledge they have not been getting such good weather. There should still be some autumn left by your return as long as we do not have a very cold frost. Keep my fingers crossed for you.
      Have a good journey back over, you must clock up an enormous air mileage. Take care.

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  7. Your photos are delightful! We love Cheltenham, nearly moved there and would like to find a weekend to spend a little more time exploring. We usually visit in a hurry to get somewhere as we are members at Cheltenham Racecourse. I love Sophie's sculpture and have spent many happy times admiring it with friends after a day at the races. There are some wonderful little antique shops tucked about in town too! Minerva x

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    1. You probably know Cheltenham better than me, but I wonder if you have ever visited the Cheltenham Art Gallery. It is in the process of having a Heritage Lottery makeover for lots of money at the moment, but due to open again in 2013. They have the national collection of Arts and Crafts furniture, silver, pottery etc. Barnsley Bros work, C.R. Ashbee etc. When they reopen they are also going to house the Painswick Guild of Handicraft's work following on in the Cotwolds Guild traditions. A place you might find of interest to visit.

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  8. How lovely Cheltenham is! Not unlike our nearest town, Harrogate, but with more regency buildings. Harrogate also has a Montpellier area - and a Cheltenham Parade!

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    1. Dear Nilly - we are fortunate to have so many of these beautiful spa towns left in the country. I think too of Buxton, Matlock, Leamington Spa, Malvern and Bath etc.
      The joy of these towns is that they usually have such lovely shops, cafes and eating places, along with their beautiful parks.
      We know Harrogate, and always enjoy a visit there if we are passing nearby.

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  9. A beautiful place... and you show it so elegantly!

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  10. That sculpture is full of whimsy. I especially like your description of it.

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    1. I love the sculpture Olive, and could happily give it a home in my garden.

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  11. Dear Rosemary,
    What a beautiful post on Cheltenham! I love the Spohie Ryder piece-- what an interesting transition from industrial material to art...brilliant! I'm also very relieved to have the architectural mystery solved-- I really thought Italy, like a lot of your readers... a very interesting story there, as well!
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika - I love the Sophie Ryder piece too, and I also love the electrical sub-station. It should be possible to make more utility buildings things of beauty if a bit more care and thought was put into their design.

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  12. Ηallo Rosemary!I enjoyed your current post! Very beautiful the village you went!
    The statue of the Minotaur is pretty created by the sculptor!I like this version of the Minotaur!Thank you for your visit!Im glad to see you coming!Have a pleasant evening!Dimi..

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    1. Hello Dimi - I think using old industrial rusty iron to make a sculpture this impressive is a good way of recycling our waste. The sculpture is extremely popular in the town, loved by old and young alike. It always has people viewing and walking around it.

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  13. Thanks so much for thes pictures of fascinating Cheltenham, Rosemary. One of my sisters has lived there for many years, so I know pats of it quite well, but some of these sights are quite unknown to me.

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    1. I think that we are quite fortunate to have Cheltenham and Bath on our doorstep. I hate shopping, but it so much easier if the environment is pleasing to be in for a visit.

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  14. Hi, Rosemary ~
    Lucky you to be so close to such a hansome town. I just googled C.S....fabulous! An architectural gem. The next time we tour the Cotswolds, I'll have to insist we start at or near Cheltenham Spa. Can't wait to visit as I'm very fond of all things Regency.
    Loi

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    1. Hello Loi - perhaps I should do another post sometime, there is so much more to see than I have shown. They have a wonderful Art Gallery which is in the process of being given a makeover. It holds the national collection of arts and crafts objects from furniture to silver to pottery. The Cotswolds was the area where many of the leading crafts people of the late 19th - early 20th century lived and worked i.e Wm Morris, C.R Ashbee and the Barnsley Bros.

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  15. Such a beautiful town. I would love to visit one day. Great photos too and very informative about the beautiful architectural buildings. I am following your blog now. Regards, Pamela

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    1. Dear Pamela - thank you for your visit and for becoming a follower. So pleased that you enjoyed seeing Cheltenham and some of the architecture that I have shown.

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  16. WHat a lovely, beautiful city Cheltenham seems to be!
    Although I though the pair was a bit unusual, a Minotaure with a lady Hare (!) still I like it fr the reasons you are mentioning.
    There is a lot of tenderness in strength.

    Enjoy your day dear friend : )

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    1. Dear Demie - so pleased that you like Sophie's sculpture. They do say that opposites attract. I am just off to Cheltenham now.

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  17. Dear Rosemary,

    You realize, of course, that you have created a theme for your blog, and a popular one at that! I enjoyed your latest Mystery Architecture Quiz, and now knowing the answer is a power station, I can clearly see it.

    The minotaur and hare sculpture is delightful. Perhaps Sophie understands that a successful marriage or partnership works in both directions. I think that while the minotaur is protective of the hare, the hare's magical powers tame the minotaur.

    I like the caryatids and especially that they've been kept spanking clean. Now I'm wondering, are those poppies growing in the Crimean monument?

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    1. No pressure there then Mark!!! I shall have to rack my brain and see what else I can come up with.
      I am pleased that you like Sophie's sculpture. She always does a lady hare, who is sometimes alone, and at other times accompanied by a minotaur, a horse or a dog. Occasionally her sculptures have a female body with the head of a hare or mask of a hare. You are right about the hare and their magical powers, there are many hare associations throughout mythology from Egypt to Africa to the christian religion, and of course it is closely linked in mythology with the moon.
      There are definitely some red geraniums growing in the war memorial, and I think perhaps you are right that there are also some poppies. They are probably silk ones, that are still there from Remembrance Day. Next time I walk past I will have look.

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  18. Your first picture is just fantastic.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Thanks Filip - it is a lovely fountain, and I am glad that you enjoyed seeing it.

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  19. I love the beautiful buildings, statues and tree-lined streets of this lovely town. Thank you for the interesting descriptions too.
    Hope you have a happy week-end.
    Betty

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    1. Dear Betty - Cheltenham is a very elegant town, and I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing it - thank you.

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  20. Fountains are lovely - well captured.

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    1. I always think that it shows an element of care and pride when a town goes to the bother of providing water features and statues for the general public to enjoy as they go about their tasks. Glad you liked them.

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  21. Cheltenham looks like a beautiful city, worth visiting. I must have missed your architectural quiz but I wouldn't have had a clue anyway I'm afraid. Good for your friend who solved this not so obvious to solve quiz(oops, don't know if this is good English....)
    O, I didn't tell you yet did I, made the soup. It was delicious! Thanks again for the recipe.
    Bye,
    Marian

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    1. Dear Marian - Cheltenham is a very elegant city with its Regency buildings and its spa town history. The quiz was not easy, perhaps the next one may be!!!
      Glad the soup turned out alright for you.

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