Notable Women of Gloucestershire
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve decided to bring you the most notable names from our favourite county to celebrate…
The surroundings of our Cheltenham hotel are steeped in rich history. From the gorgeous architecture to the long list of literary heavyweights who live or have lived here, we have lots to celebrate all year round. Seeing as it’s International Women’s Day, we thought we’d take a look at the wonderful women who have connections with this gorgeous part of the UK.
Born on 31st July 1965 at Yate General Hospital just outside Bristol, Rowling spent her early years between Gloucestershire in England and in Chepstow, Gwent, in south-east Wales. Between the age of nine to eighteen, J K Rowling grew up in the village of Tutshill, Gloucestershire and is now author to one of the most popular book and film franchises in history. The first of the Harry Potter fantasy series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was an international hit and Rowling wrote six more books in the series, which have sold hundreds of millions of copies and were adapted into a blockbuster film franchise. Rowling continues to amaze, having dropped off the Forbes billionaires list in 2012 due to the estimated $160 million she donated to charity and is still working her magic having recently released Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part play which debuted on the London stage to a sold-out audience.
A truly local author, Joanna Trollope was born in her Grandfather’s rectory in Minchinhampton in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, just 17 miles from our superb hotel in Cheltenham. She has since returned to live in the area where many of her books are set. Although Joanna’s childhood was spent in the Midlands and in Surrey, she has always felt her real home was her birthplace, Gloucester. Joanna says, ‘It gave me – still gives me – not just a sense of rootedness, but a capacity to value landscape and weather and the rich life of smallish communities.’ She has also written of the Cotswolds as being ‘more than just beautiful – it is ancient and interesting and varied and uncompromising.’
She is the author of eleven bestselling contemporary novels, including Girl from the South (2002), The Choir (1988), A Village Affair (1989) and The Rector’s Wife (1991), some of which have been made into television series. In 1996, Joanna was awarded an OBE and she now lives partly in London and partly in Gloucestershire, for which county she was made a Deputy Lieutenant in 2002.
Jilly Cooper, author, journalist and broadcaster lives in the southern Cotswold village of Bisley, near Stroud. The huge success of her first novel Riders, published in 1985, reached number one in the bestseller list in its first week. She says this was entirely due to her move to Bisley in Gloucestershire. Jilly said, ‘I was trying to write Riders in London and failing miserably, because it was set in the country. Then there was the fact that we were so broke that the bank said we would have to sell our lovely house here. It was quite an incentive to write better and more quickly,’ she said. She went on to write the blockbusters Rivals and Polo, and then Appassionata, set in the west country and including many references to Stroud.
Cooper has been recognised for her contribution to literature and services to the county and in 2009, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Gloucestershire. In 2004, Jilly received an OBE for services to literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Catherine Johnson grew up near Wotton-under-Edge, and even though she was expelled from Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School at the age of 16, she has gone on to become a celebrated writer, penning the script for the musical, Mamma Mia! and screenplay for the hugely successful movie, which became the highest grossing UK film of all time. Working as producer and writer for both stage and television, Johnson frequently visits her home district of Gloucestershire and market town of Wotton-under-Edge, lending her support to the Wotton Electric Picture House as a patron.
Susan Hill is an award-winning writer, most famous for her novel, The Woman in Black, which was adapted for the stage, became a huge hit in the West End, and was also turned into a successful film starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe. Susan lived in a converted farmhouse in Chipping Campden, a small market town in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, from where she ran her own publishing company, Long Barn Books, for many years before moving to Norfolk in 2013. In 2012, Hill was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Birthday Honours for her services to literature.
Helen Beatrix Potter was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist. Beatrix was best known for her children’s books featuring animals, such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck. In 1903, Beatrix Potter published her book The Tailor of Gloucester. The inspiration for the story came in May 1894 when Beatrix was staying with her cousin, Caroline Hutton. Whilst at the Hutton’s home, Harescombe Grange, Caroline told Beatrix the tale of a local tailor who closed his shop at Saturday lunchtime with a waistcoat cut out but not sewn together, to discover when, on the Monday morning he opened the shop again, to find out that apart from one button hole, the waistcoat had been sewn together. A tiny note was also pinned to the button hole which read, ‘no more twist’. Beatrix requested that they visit Gloucester the next day when she saw the tailor’s shop and sketched some of the city’s buildings. The house of the tailor of Gloucester is just 12.5 miles from our Cheltenham Hotel and is now a famous building in Gloucester visited by Beatrix Potter fans from around the world.
The story of Jane Austen’s links with the idyllic village of Adlestrop, Gloucestershire one of the ancestral homes of the Leigh family. Jane’s mother Cassandra was a Leigh and Jane stayed with her Leigh cousins at Adlestrop several times and kept in constant touch with happenings there by letter. It was in Gloucestershire that she saw, first-hand, how the eighteenth-century craze for improvements totally changed the village landscape. It is probable that Adlestrop Park and the Parsonage House inspired fictional places such as Thornton Lacey in Mansfield Park. In the novel Mansfield Park, Jane wrote ‘I do not call Tunbridge or Cheltenham the country’. The Leigh’s colourful lives and inheritance problems influenced many of the plot lines in Jane Austen’s books.
Need somewhere to stay whilst exploring these places of historical significance in Gloucestershire?