The Suffolks │82 previous / next │main map / suffolks map
68-70 Suffolk Road
Although there is nothing about this modern office block to suggest it, the site was associated with road transport for more than 140 years. This part of Cheltenham was developed by the early 1830s and this property was known by 1840 as Suffolk Mews, consisting of stables and coach houses surrounding an open yard.
The first recorded proprietor of Suffolk Mews was Mr Richard Addis, who in 1837 was a "flyman" living in Montpellier Villas. In other words he drove a Fly, which was a light covered vehicle that could be drawn by a single horse, often let out for hire.
In 1842 the business at Suffolk Mews was called Addis’s Carriage and Harness Repository; it hired out horses and carriages by the day, month or year, was an agent for people wishing to sell horses or carriages and provided stabling and secure vehicle lock-ups, at a time when only the grandest houses would have possessed their own facilities.
In 1844 and 1845 Mr Addis advertised several new and second hand Phaetons, and a variety of other carriages, for sale or hire at bargain prices. Richard Addis unfortunately died on 25th November 1845, aged just 44, and within a few months his wife disposed of Suffolk Mews to Mr Richard Glover.
Mr Glover was the proprietor of the “Rival” London coach and the Bell Hotel but almost immediately disposed of the coaching business, presumably in anticipation of the threat posed by the direct train service to London, which started in 1847. The Golden Age of stage coaches in Britain had been between 1800 and 1830, when much improved roads and better suspension made it possible to average speeds of around 8 miles per hour.
Mr Glover seems to have continued the business much as before and often advertised the sale of carriages in the local newspapers throughout the 1840s and 1850s. In 1853 he decided to launch a new coaching service between Cheltenham and Malvern, called “The Queen”. Leaving Suffolk Mews at 9.45 am, it arrived in Malvern at 1 pm.
By 1864 Mr Glover was in partnership with a Mr Hulbert, offering, in addition to the hire of horses, “Broughams and every description of carriage with horses and well-appointed coachmen”. Also in 1864, apparently incongruously, the company offered a wheelchair for sale priced at 10 Guineas (£10.50) but this was, at that time, also a popular form of transport and would have been pushed by a wheelchair man. By 1868 the partnership seems to have been dissolved, as Richard Glover was once more trading under his sole name.
His wife Ellen died in 1861, and being quite elderly, in 1878 Richard Glover finally decided to retire and offered the business and property for sale. It was purchased by Mr Edward Phillips, who seems to have carried on much as before. He advertised extensively in the local press, for example offering a Victoria Phaeton for sale in 1880 for 70 Guineas (£73.50). After Mr Phillips died in 1891, aged 50, his wife continued the business. The company offered a Landau for sale in 1894 and a donkey in 1897. In 1899 it changed its name to Phillips and Marsh.
In February 1900 a broker was instructed to sell “The Old Established Business of Livery Stable Keepers & Fly Proprietors at Suffolk Mews” and it came up for sale again in 1902, suggesting that the first sale was unsuccessful. There is no evidence of any further commercial activity at Suffolk Mews for a few years until, in March 1906, Mr William Thomas Smith of Suffolk Mews was involved in a traffic accident in which his pony carriage knocked down a boy in the High Street. Fortunately the boy survived after being taken for treatment at Cheltenham General Hospital.
Mr Smith, who was already the proprietor of Montpellier Mews, was at Suffolk Mews for the next 13 years, during a time of momentous change. In the summer of 1906 he started to advertise horse-drawn Brake trips to Birdlip on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons (these were early closing days for many Cheltenham shops and businesses until the 1960s) at a fare of 2 shillings (10 pence). The business was now called “Montpellier & Suffolk Mews”, used telephone number 121, and offered a range of services, including wedding carriages and Brakes for football teams. One easily overlooked aspect of running such a business is indicated when in 1907 Mr Smith advertised for sale two loads of manure weekly!
Early 20th century vehicles were generally much slower than today's but accidents were not uncommon. One afternoon in May 1909 Mr Smith was driving two ladies and gentleman in the Bath Road when his horse took fright at a tram and dashed into the railings of the Cheltenham College cadets training ground, at the junction with Sandford Road. He was badly shaken and suffered a leg injury. Worse still, the horse was badly cut by the iron railings and the carriage was wrecked. The passengers were fortunately not injured.
Then, in August 1910, there came a significant development when Mr Smith began to sell Raleigh Bicycles through his "Motor and Cycle Department". This was a transitional time not only for the company but for society as a whole - the dawn of the motor car era and the end of horse drawn mass transport. Within a few months cars were available here for hire or purchase.
Throughout the period 1910-1918 horse drawn and motor vehicles shared Suffolk Mews. In 1913 there was a further traffic accident, this time with Mr Smith at the wheel of a motor car, at Coombe Hill. By 1915 the newspapers were referring to the Suffolk Mews Garage but in 1916 the company sought a chauffeur to drive a Daimler charabanc and also advertised a pony carriage for sale. In 1918 several tons of hay in a rick belonging to Mr Smith was destroyed in a fire in Woodlands field near The Park - the horses were still being fed. Also that year the company was running a taxi service and offered to store cars until after the war.
Finally, in April 1919 it was announced that Mr Smith was giving up horse-keeping to extend his motor business. The sale included 16 carriages, 14 sets of harness, saddles and stable tools. There was however no mention of the horses, so perhaps they had already gone. Many years later, in 1938, the Gloucestershire Echo would publish an article in which they claimed that Mr Smith had run the first motor taxi service in Cheltenham.
Suffolk Mews was bought and renamed the Montpellier Motor & Garage Co., one of the new proprietors being Mr Cyril Thornber. Major alterations were carried out, with the installation of modern repair shops, and skilled mechanics were employed. The company had taxis, open top cars, light lorries and a charabanc, with space for 30 cars. By 1922 they were agents for the Hampton Engineering Company, based in Stroud, selling a 11.9 H.P. car, with a 1795 cc four-cylinder engine, for £480 (which was more than the cost of an average house).
The motor garage was demolished and replaced with a modern office building in the 1980s. This was occupied by a division of Natwest Bank PLC until 2016 and at the beginning of 2017 became the headquarters for the UK National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), which is responsible for providing information, advice and opinion on vocational, academic and professional skills and qualifications from all over the world.
Researcher: Stuart Manton (February 2017)
For further information click here.
If you have any further information or photographs of this property please let us know via the contacts page.