The Regent Arcade was the largest single development in Cheltenham during the 1980s. For the cost £23 million, it was built on the site of the forty-five bedroomed Plough Hotel, that fronted on to the High Street, between 1982 – 1984. The arcade entrance is a near replica of the original frontage of the Plough. The 185,000 square feet arcade with its 78 shops and parking for 540 cars was officially opened by the Princess Anne in May 1985. Since then the Regent Arcade is visited by 7.5 million shoppers every year. The feature of the Regent Arcade shopping Centre is the famous “Wishing Fish Clock” designed by Cotswold artist-craftsman Kit Williams, author of the book “Masquerade”, and built by Cheltenham clockmakers, Sinclair Harding & Co.
The 45 foot high clock was unveiled in January of 1987, costing £80,000. It is believed to be the worlds tallest mechanical clock, weighing in, just over 3 tonnes. Every half hour, the magical performance of the bubble-blowing clock brings the arcade to a stand-still, fascinating young and old. Jumping up and catching a bubble will grant you a wish. Another point of interest is a small commemorative model of the the first jet engine, built by Frank Whittle in 1940. Old Regents Motors Garage, where Frank built his engine, was demolished to make way for the Arcade. Fitted to the Gloster 28/39 it made its maiden voyage in May of 1941. Near the High Street entrance to the arcade a Royal Coat of Arms is displayed on the wall. It comes from the ‘Old Town Hall’, an early 19th century building which stood in the now demolished Plough Yard, and which served in turn as a riding school, a Baptist Chapel and as Cheltenham’s first Town Hall.