Work is due to start this summer on the site of Cheltenham homes shrouded in tragic legend

Construction work on 24 affordable homes on the site of a heartbreaking ancient Cheltenham legend is set to begin this summer.

The dilapidated remaining buildings of the historic Maud’s Elm on Swindon Road, where five people are said to have tragically died in the past, have been demolished to make way for carbon neutral flats and houses. Perhaps the mysterious figure of Maud Bowen, who is said to have met her disturbing end near Wyman’s Brook, would be happy to know that the land where her grave is located is being converted into eco-friendly homes.

Sold last year to Cheltenham Borough Homes, all the old farm buildings are now gone, as is the old elm tree from which the area takes its name, which was felled for safety around 1906. A contractor should be appointed. soon to begin work on the new housing, which will include 17 apartments and seven houses, 100% of which will be affordable.

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All that remains are signs announcing upcoming construction work at the site at 320 Swindon Road, bordered by Richards Road and Malvern Street by a mini roundabout. Even the old gate post that bore the name Maud’s Elm is gone.



A photo of Maud’s Elm taken last year

Legend has it that Maud was the only daughter of Margaret Bowen and lived in an adjoining cottage in Swindon Village hundreds of years ago, possibly in the early 1700s. She was known as a beautiful, kind-hearted girl and hardworking woman whose true love was Walter Baldwin, also known as Walter the Archer, but the lord of the manor and Maud’s uncle, Godfrey, coveted the girl.

When she rejected their advances, they managed to abduct her and make do with her before killing her one day on the way home from Cheltenham market. Rushing to protect his love, Walter managed to kill Godfrey, but the lord escaped, while the distressed Maud fell into Wyman’s Brook and drowned.

A coroner investigated and decided that Maud had murdered her uncle and then killed herself and she was buried at the nearest crossroads with an elm stake through her body as was the custom at the time in case de felo de se (suicide).



Cheltenham High Street in 1906, the same year the town said goodbye to Maud’s Elm

Maud’s mother, Margaret, was kicked out of her home by the vengeful lord, but while her attendant was abusing her, another arrow came out of nowhere and felled him. Accused of murder and witchcraft, the poor woman was condemned to be burned at the stake, but Walter intervened again, striking down the traitorous lord, while Margaret disappeared and was never seen again.

Where Maud’s body lay, a beautiful elm tree rose from the stake, where it grew and thrived until it was felled nearly 200 years later, after being deemed unsafe.

Fast forward to April 2022 and now all that remains of the old site has disappeared under the bulldozer wheels and what is written and remembered by historians and folklore experts of the sad case of Maud Bowen and her end premature.

One can only hope that the current developers decide to keep the Maud’s Elm name on completion of the new development, which is due to open next year, to keep the memory of her alive.

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