University Archive

Archive Item of the Month – August 2011

A mystery almost 100 years old
These photographs show the havoc wrecked by a fire at Cheltenham Training College on the night of 8th January 1914. The building is now part of the Teaching Centre at FCH, housing lecture rooms and the IT Suite. Back then the building, only recently constructed in 1907-1908, housed the laboratories on what was the male St Paul’s campus of the College.
There has never been a verified cause attributed to the fire, occurring in the middle of a winter’s night. Popular belief has been that the fire was something to do with chemicals or combustibles stored in the laboratory. Or could it have been something more deliberate?

The Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic publication reports that there were a number of fires started by suffragettes in the Cheltenham area during the winter of 1913-1914. Could it be possible that these militant ladies targeted the all male campus of the Cheltenham Training College? Archive Staff have recently searched the Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic publication for stories and photographs relating to Cheltenham Training College, St Paul’s and St Mary’s Colleges as these were the foundation institutions of what is now the University of Gloucestershire. The Graphic, as it is popularly known, was a periodical featuring details and photographs of events mainly in Cheltenham but also covering Gloucester, Tewkesbury and the Cotswolds. Volumes from 1901-1941 are available to browse at Gloucestershire Archives, with Cheltenham Local Studies Library also holding these and a volume for 1942.

It is unlikely we will ever know for definite what or who started the fire, but it is interesting to speculate.


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