Cheltenham is associated with a wide variety of famous people and events, from the fields of sport, medicine and literature, from the worlds of stage and film, and from to those of industrial innovation and social reform.
Some are important in the context of the town, others have much wider significance.
Many will know of Dr. Edward Jenner's pioneering work on vaccination which led to the world-wide eradication of smallpox in 1980, but how many are aware that Jenner lived and worked in Cheltenham for 20 years?
He vaccinated many thousands of people in the town from an old farmhouse in St George's Road, which still exists, and which many drive past every day.
How many know that from the same house Samuel Wilderspin led a revolution that gave us the infant education system that we know in Britain today?
Some will know that Cheltenham has many close links with the history of aviation.Sir George Dowty founded the company which bore his name and which still has a major presence close to the town and Sir Frank Handley Page, who was born and raised in Cheltenham, established the company which was to become British Airways. In addition, the Gloster/Whittle E28/39 prototype aircraft, powered by Sir Frank Whittle's revolutionary jet engine, was developed here; as was the Gloster Meteor, Britain's first operational jet fighter, using Whittle's technology, at H.
H. Martyn's Gloster Aircraft Company in 1944. However, few people will be aware that the first ever successful parachute descent by an Englishman was from a gas-filled balloon over Montpellier Gardens in 1838!
Even fewer people may be aware that the first words spoken on the stage of the world-famous Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon were performed by Lillah McCarthy, one of the most famous actresses of her day, who was born in Cheltenham High Street.The aim of Cheltenham Civic Society is to promote good design in the historic environment, and to stimulate interest in the history and character of the town.
The Society's activities include the installation of blue and green commemorative plaques on buildings to celebrate their association with significant people or events. "Commemorative Plaques of Cheltenham" tells the stories behind the plaques affixed by the Society since 1982, and other earlier plaques celebrating notable people associated with the town.Authors Peter Smith and Sue Rowbotham throw light on the broader history of the town through the plaques; from George III's historic visit to take the curative waters in 1788, which changed Cheltenham from a small, isolated market town into a fashionable resort, to the present day.
Eight carefully-drawn maps detail the individual areas of Cheltenham where groups of plaques can be found, encouraging the reader to learn more about the person or event in the specific context of the plaque's location.
The authors hope that both residents and visitors to Cheltenham will find something to capture their interest and imagination, and to see the town in a fresh light, through the stories behind the plaques.