There is a strange but well-known rivalry between Cheltenham and Gloucester. Cheltonians tend to consider themselves more sophisticated and posher than their Gloucester neighbours and, in their turn, Gloucestrians tend to look upon their Cheltenham neighbours as a bit too snooty for their own good.
This was something that I noticed immediately that I started working in Cheltenham, too many years ago to mention. I hadn’t really had a great deal to do with Cheltenham up until this point and it came as something of a shock. And from the beginning I wasn’t convinced that the Cheltenham air of superiority was warranted.
One thing that I found odd was that Cheltonians on the one hand decried Gloucester as far too rough, and on the other hand revelled in tales of the Cheltenham ‘families’. These were spoken of in awed tones, as if they were the Krays. Everyone knew them and loved to recount tales of their lawlessness and violence. Weird; I wasn’t aware that we had such families in ‘rough’ Gloucester.
On the face of it, though, Cheltenham is posher. It still benefits from its Victorian reputation as a spa town and an influx of posh Cotswold types. It also has students from the University, which imbue it with a certain vibrancy in term time. As a consequence it has a wider range of up-market shops.
By contrast, Gloucester’s history is much more based around industry. It also has the Gloucester College, which perhaps attracts less high-brow students. Although there is a campus of the University at Oxstalls it houses the Faculty of Sport, Health and Social Care, which gives a different mix of people from the Business School in Cheltenham. On the other hand, Gloucester has a Cathedral, which should provide some cachet.
However, if you discount Cheltenham’s upper-most strata of (mostly imported) posh people and the students, what you are left with is a population not dissimilar to that of Gloucester, which is what you would expect as the towns are only separated by around 10 miles.
It was with some satisfaction, therefore, that I read in the Citizen last week (25 May) that the owner of the Bridal Shop described Gloucester as safer and more prosperous than Cheltenham. He runs a shop in Gloucester and recently opened one in Cheltenham only to have it vandalised and found it less profitable.
Of course this is just an isolated incident and is in no way statistically valid as a comparison of the two towns, but nonetheless it is nice to see Gloucester coming out on top for a change. I just hope that there aren’t any Gloucester idiots out there that will see this as a challenge!