The Anglo-Saxon name and its listing in the Domesday Book establish the settlement's identity. Today the following are visible characteristics of a village which for most for its existence has been not only physically separate from Cheltenham but also independent in outlook: St Peter's church, Leckhampton Court, the remains of the Moat, a few thatched cottages, some stone-built farm houses, Leckhampton Hill, the Devil's Chimney and quarry workings, the Village Hall, the war memorial, the Parish Reading Room.
The name Leckhampton was first recorded in the 9th century, when the settlement was the home farm for the royal manor of Cheltenham. The word is now generally considered to mean, 'homestead where leeks (meaning any kind of vegetable) are grown'. Traces of earlier ploughing can still be made out in the ridge and furrow patterns on the lower slopes of the hill, now used for grazing.
The medieval village was close to both court and church. That earlier layout is indicated by a row of 17th-century thatched cottages - 'Moat Cottage,' 'Field Cottage' and 'Sheeps Head Row'. These probably follow the line of an old track and lie at right angles to Collum Street (now Church Road), where there are or were a few other timber-framed cottages, including the so-called 'Cromwell Cottage', demolished in 1962.
The historic parish, both civil and ecclesiastical, was comparatively large and extended from the prehistoric camp on the hill top down as far as Warden Hill - not the same as today's electoral division or the postal district. It was sparsely inhabited until early in the 19th century and its land was largely devoted to agricultural use
In the Domesday Survey of 1086 two manorial estates (at least) were listed under the heading of Leckhampton. One was probably centred on an island surrounded by a moat. Some of the latter is still recognisable, though much overgrown with trees, beside the rectory; older inhabitants recall being able to skate on its frozen surface!
The other manor, whose administrative centre will have been on the site of Leckhampton Court, was more powerful, and in due course absorbed the first-mentioned estate. The Court itself, one of the oldest nonreligious buildings in the county, was saved from dereliction 20 years ago and very sympathetically restored by the Sue Ryder Foundation.
In St Peter's churchyard the earliest identified burial dates from 1670, and the oldest person to be interred was Richard Purser, who died in 1868, aged 111. Three holders of the Victoria Cross have memorials, as does Dr Edward Wilson, who died on Scott's Antarctic expedition. Baron de Ferrières, a great benefactor to Cheltenham, is buried there, and two stained-glass windows are dedicated in his memory.
Over the period 1894 - 1906 Leckhampton Hill was the focus of a significant episode with wider implications in the history of Cheltenham. This was the struggle to protect traditional rights of way across the hill, which its new owner H J Dale proposed to close to the public. He built a house ('Tramway Cottage') for his quarry foreman in an old gravel pit beside Daisybank Road, which had been a favourite spot to set up side-shows and stalls on bank holidays. The building also blocked the main footpath up the hill, and later the area above it was also fenced off. There was much local opposition, not least from R C Barnard and other gentry, whose homes backed on to the hill. In 1902 Miss Beale, Headmistress of the Ladies' College, whose pupils were want to visit the hill for recreational walks, retaliated by sending 100 of her girls to walk over the rights-of-way and by ordering Dale to remove all of his pianos from her establishment!
On several occasions crowds destroyed fences which Dale had had erected. In 1902 four working men, who came to be known as 'the Leckhampton stalwarts', were charged with obstructing the police, they were acquitted, with Ballinger's remaining as a test case. This encouraged as many as 2000 people to gather and walk in procession to Leckhampton. They stopped at the Malvern Inn to hear a rousing speech. They then made for Tramway Cottage, which they dismantled until hardly a stone was left standing. The long awaited trial, 'The Leckhampton Quarries Co. v Ballinger & Cheltenham Rural District Council began in London before Mr. Justice Eady on 29th April 1904. The trial lasted till 12th May and was daily reported verbatim in the press such was the public interest. The judge found in favour of Dale's enclosure and only three paths were granted as public rights of way, court costs totalled £6,000. However, Cheltonians put on a brave face and big victory demonstrations took place on the 25th May 1904. The Chronicle & Graphic issued six halfpenny postcards of the scenes, one showed Clarence Parade solid with people end to end.
The photograph shows The Leckhampton Stalwarts on the ruins of Tramway Cottage, the picture was taken in the summer of 1904 by Miss N. Moorman in the early morning before work at 6am, Left to Right: Lane, Townsend, Barrett ,___, Luce, Tom Field, Ballinger, Heaven, Price (seated), Sparrow, Burford, Mourton & George Richings,
Dale rebuilt the cottage exactly where it had been. On Good Friday 1906 another crowd assembled at the site and the Riot Act had to be read. Arrests followed and eight men were tried at Gloucester Assizes. Sentences of up to six months' hard labour were imposed, though these were substantially reduced on appeal. Leckhamptoners licked their wounds, and Dale imposed many conditions for access to the hill.
The story had a happy ending, however. By 1929, the Quarry Company had gone out of business and Cheltenham Town Council was in a position to purchase the 400-acre estate, the price was £6,500 thus securing the freedom to walk on the land. The dream had come true at last, and there was never a doubt that the decision to buy was right. Councillors enthusiastically marched over the hill and were amazed at the extent of the property, the whole escarpment from Salterley to the far end of Charlton Common, with 300 acres of agricultural land above and below; one of those Councillors was Walter Ballinger.
Warden Hill History
The area to the west of Shurdington Road is called Warden Hill. As Warden's Hill, it was known thus by 1617. An old field name later became the name of a farm which stood approximately where Warden Hill Close runs today. The hill itself is still partly public open space, known as Weavers Field which received Queen Elizabeth II Field status in 2012 given as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
In the mid-1950s, Warden Hill was a rich agricultural area. Of the road network that we know today, only Farmfield Road existed, and only as a country lane. Building began with the Woodlands estate comprising Woodlands Road, Hawkswood Road, St Michael's Road and Abbots and Friars Close. This was followed by the adjacent Warden Hill estate with the roads taking the names of our cathedral cities, eg Salisbury Avenue and Canturbury Walk. Messrs J A Pye built Warden Hill estate, and their stores and equipment for the whole project were on the St Christopher's church site. When they moved their equipment to 'Pye's yard' (now Hampton Close, off Chelmsford Avenue) they gave the site for the building of St Christopher's.
Warden Hill centres around Salisbury Avenue where local amenities can be found, as well as the Warden Hill United Reformed Church. St. Christopher's Church, a modern structure, is also nearby. Most of the housing in Warden Hill was developed in the 1950s/60s and today it has the population of almost 6,000.
Churches in Warden Hill
Highbury Congregational Church conducted a survey that revealed sufficient demand for a Free Church to be built in the area. Steps were taken to obtain the necessary finance (£4000), one source being the eventual sale of Providence Chapel in the Reddings (the building still stands today as a creche). Other sources included offerings from church members, some of whom took out deeds of covenant (for example, one member gave 5 shillings a week, equivalent to £250 a year in today's money).
Meanwhile, in 1959, the Reverend Ettrick Eynon (later Canon), the new Vicar of St Philip's and St James', Leckhampton, was given a mandate from the Bishop of Gloucester to create a Church of England church in the newly built estate of Warden Hill. With enthusiasm and drive, he set up a committee of local people to steer the plans, create publicity and raise funds. A leading light in the Reverend Eynon's committee was Margaret (Peggy) Oliver, the local chemist who worked from her front room dispensary at 80 Salisbury Avenue, on the corner of Oxford Way, and acted as Treasurer and leaflet distributor. Sadly, she died prematurely at the age of 38 years and did not live to see the Church completed. The sanctuary window was given in her memory and designed with the main building, vestments and altar frontals by Comper and Son.
The foundation stone of the Warden Hill Congregational Church was laid on Friday 10th September 1960 by the late Mr Walter Ansell using a trowel that is on view in the church vestibule. The architect was one of the members, Mr Gordon Hipkiss. Construction was rapid: the opening following three months later at Christmas. The first name in the visitors' book was that of the Reverend Elsie Chamberlain, a member of the BBC Religious Broadcast Services. It celebrated its 50th Anniversary in September 2010.
The Reverend Eynon's committee had not been idle. From the first meeting in St Philip's and St James' side chapel, to the completion of the first phase of St Christopher's took less than three years. At that time the population of the area was more mobile and less settled than it is perhaps now, and as it was seen as a travelling, moving Parish, St Christopher (as the patron saint of travellers) was therefore a very natural choice. It celebrated its 50th Anniversary in July 2011.
History of Schools
Warden Hill Primary School was built in 1960s and opened in 1965. It will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2015. Warden Hill's local secondary school is Cheltenham Bournside School and Sixth Form Centre. The school moved to its present site in Warden Hill Road in the early 1970s.