Famous People from Cheltenham
From premiership footballers to rock stars, historical figures to Olympians, Cheltenham has been home to lots of celebrities and notable figures from history. Some of the names on this list you’ll know already but others may surprise you…
Rock Stars from Cheltenham
Michael Burston/Würzel, Motörhead Guitarist (1949-2011)
Michael was given the nickname ‘Wurzel’ whilst serving as corporal in the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. The nickname hailed from his scarecrow (Worzel Gummidge) hair and ‘bumpkin’-like manner. Motorhead frontman Lemmy encouraged him to change it to a more heavy-metal friendly ‘Würzel’.
He worked on several albums with Motorhead and headlined several festivals including the 2008 Download Festival.
Brian Jones, guitarist, keyboardist and founding member of the Rolling Stones (1942-1969)
Brian Jones was born in the Park Nursing Home, Cheltenham and went to Dean Close and Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys where he enjoyed badminton and clarinet.
Leaving Cheltenham for London in the early 60s he went on to be a founder and original member of the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards remembers Brian coming up with the name of the band whilst on the phone trying to book a venue: (From Keith) “The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, ‘What are you called?’ Panic. The Best of Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor—and track five, side one was ‘Rollin’ Stone'”.
Sadly Jones developed a serious drug problem over the years and his role in the band lessened. The rest of the band asked him to leave in June 1969. He died less than a month later by drowning in the swimming pool at his home. Brian’s funeral was held at St Mary’s Parish Church Cheltenham and he is interred in Cheltenham Crematorium.
Premiership Footballers from Cheltenham
Eric Dier (1994), Tottenham Hotspur Defender
Eric was born in Cheltenham and lived here until he moved to Portugal aged seven when his mum was offered a job running the hospitality programme at Euro 2004.
From a sporting family, Eric is the grandson of Ted Croker, a former secretary of The FA and president of Cheltenham Town, and great-nephew of Peter Croker, both of whom played for Charlton Athletic. His father was a professional tennis player.
Mike Summerbee (1942), Manchester City Winger
Mike was raised in Cheltenham and went to Naunton Park Secondary School. There he found a mentor in sports teacher, Arnold Wills, who was a huge influence in Mike’s chosen career path.
Mike began playing for Swindon Town in 1959 at the age of 16. After 200 appearances and 38 goals, Manchester City manager Joe Mercer signed Summerbee for £35,000. During his time with City he was considered one of the most influential players in the team which won four trophies from 1968–70. He left Manchester City in June 1975, moving to Burnley, after more than 400 appearances for the Club.
Mike has also starred in the cult film Escape to Victory alongside Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Pelé.
Olympians from Cheltenham
Leon Taylor (1977), Olympic Diver
Leon went to Bournside School and trained at Cheltenham Leisure Centre (now Leisure@) going on to represent Britain at 3 Olympics winning the Silver medal in the men’s synchronised 10m platform with diving partner Peter Waterfield.
In addition to competing, Leon also mentored Cheltenham Diving Club youngster, Daniel McGlone, who became National Champion aged 9 years. McGlone has gone on to win multiple National and International events.
Michael “Eddie” Edwards (1963), Olympic Ski Jumper
Nicknamed “Eddie the Eagle” by the media, he was the first competitor since 1928 to represent Britain in Olympic Ski Jumping. The Eagle became a folk hero and example of an underdog and perseverance.
Earlier in 2016 Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton and Christopher Walken starred in the film ‘Eddie the Eagle’ which was well-received globally and at point of writing is the highest grossing film in the UK of 2016 (July 2016).
Zac Purchase (1986), Olympic Rower
Zac won a Gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Silver at London 2012, both in the Lightweight Double Scull events.
Historical figures born in Cheltenham
Edward Adrian Wilson (1872-1912)
Edward Wilson is arguably Cheltenham’s most famous son.
Born in Montpellier Terrace, he attended Cheltenham College, subsequently studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge.
He went on to study medicine, qualifying in 1900 and was appointed Junior House Surgeon at Cheltenham General Hospital.
Edward Wilson formed part of Captain Scott’s Antarctic Expedition as Chief of the Scientific Staff. After reaching the South Pole, all of the expedition party died on their return journey to base camp in March 1912. News of their death prompted a national mourning.
Edward Wilson is remembered outside the Municipal Offices on the Promenade with a statue (modelled by Scott’s widow Kathleen) and The Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum was renamed The Wilson in 2013 in his honour.
Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris (1892–1984), RAF Squadron Leader
Arthur Travers Harris was born on Queens Parade, Cheltenham
He trained as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps (now RAF) and qualified as a fighter pilot, organising the defence against the Zeppelin Air Raids in 1916 before taking command of the 44 Squadron and becoming squadron leader.
In the Second World War he led bombing raids across Germany and was Commander-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command during the infamous Dam Busters Raid which historian Dan Snow notes ‘The most important impact of the Dambusters raid may indeed have been in convincing people on both sides that the Allies were winning, and that, often, is how wars are won and lost.’
In 1982 Arthur “Bomber” Harris came to Cheltenham to unveil a plaque at his birthplace at 3 Queens Parade, he died two years later.
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