The Tory Architectural Future: 19th Century Pittville in Cheltenham

Pitiville Gates Pic

Pittville Gates in Cheltenham, c. 1845

A number of left-wing bloggers, particularly Johnny Void, have attacked the Coalition’s welfare reforms for the social cleansing they effecting in London and other cities around the country. The massive rises in rents and property prices in London, coupled with the cap on Housing Benefit is forcing poorer residents out of the expensive, middle and upper class districts, leading to ever greater social segregation. The Void’s most recent post, The Rich Will Destroy London, Just Like Everything Else, at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/the-rich-will-destroy-london/, which I’ve reblogged, describes this process. The obscene result of this is that luxury houses now lie empty in Chelsea, waiting for wealthy purchasers, while a few miles down the road are homeless people forced to live on the streets. The so-called ‘affordable homes’ are in reality no such thing. They are classed as affordable only because their cost is pegged at 80 per cent of the market value. This effectively puts them beyond the reach of many at London prices.

Social Segregation in Boris Johnson’s London

Even when housing is built for those on more modest incomes, they are expected to keep out of sight of their social superiors. One block of flats, which was aimed at attracting wealthy purchasers from the Far East, had different entrances for the rich and the lower orders respectively, so that the upper class residents would not have to suffer the indignity of mixing with their social inferiors. If you want to know where this kind of social attitude leads, go to the Pittville suburb of Cheltenham.

Pittville and the Architecture of Social Hierarchy

This was started in 1825 by Joseph Pitt, the local lay rector and MP. At its centre was the Pump Room, modelled on the Temple of Ilussis in Athens in the middle of a park laid out with impressive vistas and stone bridges. Below this was the residential area. Pitt originally intended the new suburb to have 600 houses, but the building work was delayed for several years. This was laid out with a garden area running down its centre. Either side of this were a complex of beautifully designed Georgian terraces, crescents and individual villas, along with squares named after the Dukes of Wellington and Clarence.

It was designed to be an upmarket residential area for the genteel elite, who came to Cheltenham and the other spa towns to take the waters. Not only does the architecture reflect the tastes and demands of the respectable Georgian middle and upper classes, but so does the very layout of the streets. The main streets are broad, designed so that the wealthy could move about freely, and see and be seen by their peers, just like other wealthy citizens of towns across Britain and Europe.

And these main streets were strictly for the White rich. Tradesmen and the lower orders, including Blacks and Asians, were required by law to keep to the narrow lanes running behind the houses, so that they could continue to serve their masters and mistresses, without actually being seen on the street with them. The law banning non-Whites from Cheltenham’s streets continued for over a century until the 1950s.

Tory London Taking on Social Segregation of 19th Century Suburbs like Pittville

Cheltenham is a beautiful town with a multi-racial population, and Pittville is a particularly pleasant area. I don’t believe it’s any more racist than anywhere else in the UK, and probably much less than some. When I was at College there in the 1980s, the Student Union passed a motion making the Union a ‘no platform’ for ‘racists and Fascists’, though there was a faction in the Tory party back then which wanted to make ‘racial nationalism’ – the ideology of the National Front their official stance as well. With so much of the elite, upper class developments in Britain’s cities like London aimed at the international market, there probably won’t be a revival of that type of official racist segregation. What is emerging is a return to the class hierarchies of residential areas, where the poor are expected to remain distant, invisible servants of their social superiors. Boris Johnson’s London, with its poor increasingly priced out and pushed to the margins in this respect increasingly resembles Cheltenham’s 19th century Pittville.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “The Tory Architectural Future: 19th Century Pittville in Cheltenham”

  1. untynewear Says:

    ” I don’t believe it’s any more racist than anywhere else in the UK, and probably much less than some.”

    I’m not so sure – I lived there for 9 years in the 1980s. It was always a strictly Tory voting town – long-term MP Charles Irving. When he died (in slightly mysterious circumstances -rumour was AIDS, hushed up) the new Tory candidate (forget his name – Paul Taylor ?) was black.

    The Tory-voting bloc swiftly switched alligences and voted in the (white) Lib Dem instead.

    Of course they might just have wanted a change, but….

    • beastrabban Says:

      That was the same time I was a student there, Untynewear, and you’re right. I remember the incident, and the election posters with JIm Davidson endorsing Paul Taylor, presumably to demonstrate that Davidson really wasn’t racist. And you’re right about the local Tories. A friend told me that it was this time that one of the Tory stalwarts in Cheltenham tried to make racial nationalism official local Tory policy. He was defeated, but only by a narrow margin, I gather.

      As for Charles Irving, I remember the rumours that he used rent boys, just like there were similar rumours and scandals about other figures in the Tory party at the same time, like Harvey Proctor.

  2. jaynel62 Says:

    Reblogged this on jaynelinney and commented:
    A REAL example of Social Engineering in Cities – another example of the Tory desire to return the UK to the 1099s

  3. sdbast Says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  4. The Tory Architectural Future: 19th Century Pit... Says:

    […] Pittville Gates in Cheltenham, c. 1845 A number of left-wing bloggers, particularly Johnny Void, have attacked the Coalition's welfare reforms for the social cleansing they effecting in London and …  […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: