Queensholme, Pittville Circus Road


Queensholme was built in the 1860s by AC Billings and Sons of Winchcombe Street.  The first Billings was one of the great speculative builders of Cheltenham and for a time worked closely with Joseph Pitt.  The house was built as a “gentleman’s residence”, but its principal occupant during the nineteenth century was a wealthy widow.

References to Queen’s Holme (two words) can be found from 1866, with the current spelling found from 1867. The first census entry for Queensholme is in 1871, although there are entries in local directories from 1868.

House name

Although several Pittville houses later made use of the element holm(e) (Cedar Holme, Eastholme, Edenholme, etc.), Queensholme seems to have been the first to do so. The name Queensholme was occasionally used elsewhere in the country by the mid 1860s (particularly an estate called Queen’s Holme at Willingham near Cambridge), but no association has yet been found between the Pittville house and any of these; nor does there seem to be any connection with Kingsholm in Gloucester.  It is possible that the first occupant, Margaret Block, had her family’s loyal service to the Queen in mind (see below) when she named her new house in 1866, but this is unproven.  It is also possible that the house name could be connected to a holm oak in the grounds, which would have been established in 1866.
The holm oak at Queensholme
Margaret Block

Margaret Block moved into Queensholme shortly after the death of her husband, a London merchant named Samuel Richard Block of Chipping Barnet, Hertfordshire.  She had been born Margaret Orr, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the daughter of William Orr, a Scot in the Ceylon Civil Service. Two of her brothers went into military service, and the eldest, William Adam Orr, was serving as an Aide-de-Camp to Queen Victoria at the time of his sister’s move to Queensholme.  Margaret was close to her eldest brother and provided a touching memorial from a “sorrowing sister” at St Cyrus’s church in southern Aberdeenshire when he died in 1869.

Margaret lived in Queensholme for over thirty years with various nieces or nephews in education and up to five live-in servants, including a butler.

The 20th century

Margaret Block died at Queensholme in 1901, aged 92. The new head of the household was her unmarried niece, Sarah Ethel Orr, who lived there until her death in 1932, aged 75.

By the outbreak of the Second World War seven years later, there was a very different pattern of occupation. By 1939 the house had been divided into at least five flats, whose occupants included shop assistants (one working at Marks & Spencer’s), teachers and an engineering salesman.

One of the occupants of the house after it was turned into flats was the sculptor and painter Adam Seaton White, who was the Principal of Cheltenham School of Art from 1929 until his death in 1950.

Neighbours who have lived in the area since the 1970s remember Queensholme as a care home and then being unoccupied and run down.  It was redeveloped and turned into eight flats in 1999/2000.

Martin Renshaw