Spa town at the foot of the Cotswold Hills, Gloucestershire, England, 12 km/7 mi northeast of Gloucester; population (2001) 98,900. The town has light industries including aerospace electronics and food-processing (Kraft). Tourism and the conference business are also important. Annual events include the Cheltenham Festival of Literature in October, the International Festival of Music, the National Hunt Festival in March, and the Cheltenham Cricket Festival. There is a steeplechase course in Prestbury Park, known for the annual Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The headquarters of Gulf Oil and the centre of the British government's electronic surveillance operations (GCHQ) are here.
History Cheltenham was a small village until the early 18th century. After the discovery of mineral spring water here in 1716, the only alkaline spring in the UK, the town gradually developed as a spa and fashionable health resort. A pump room was built in 1738 and the town was visited by George III in 1788. During the 19th century the town's education services were its main source of income.
Architecture The town has much Georgian and Regency architecture, with avenues, squares, crescents, and terraces, reflecting the town's development as a fashionable spa. St Mary's Church, now modernized, was built between the Norman period and the 14th century.
Galleries and museums Spa waters can still be taken at the domed Pittville Pump Room, which houses a museum displaying costumes and local history exhibits. The Art Gallery and Museum includes a collection of furniture, silver, and arts and crafts, and there are special exhibits for the blind. The former home of the composer Gustav Holst, who was born in Cheltenham in 1874, is now a museum. Prinknash Abbey, to the southwest, is a Benedictine house which produces pottery.
Educational institutions A grammar school was founded here in 1576, Cheltenham College in 1841, and Cheltenham Ladies' College in 1853. The Universities and College Admission Service (UCAS) is based here.