Gloucestershire Places of Worship

St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (1) (52k) St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (2) (105k) St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (3) (61k) St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (4) (66k) St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (5) (61k) St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (6) (73k) St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (7) (66k) St Mary's Church, Cheltenham (8) (61k) Above Photograph(s)
Copyright of Rosemary Lockie
St Mary's Church, Cheltenham
St Mary's Church (link to Church's website)
Well Walk (off High Street),
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Cemeteries

This Church has (or had) a graveyard.

Note: any church within an urban environment may have had its graveyard closed after the Burial Act of 1853. Any new church built after that is unlikely to have had a graveyard at all.

Church History

This Place of Worship was founded in the 8th century, and we understand it is still open.

St Mary's has had a chequered history, and very nearly did not survive to the present day. In 1859, it was deemed unsanitary and unsafe. The weight of galleries erected some years earlier had caused the floor of the south aisle to collapse into the crypt below, where there had been many burials, and there were plans to demolish the church and replace it with a Victorian gothic 'mini cathedral'. Fortunately this was rejected, and the crypt was filled with dry earth and charcoal, and covered in concrete, and the galleries removed.

During its restoration worship took place in the Town Hall until a temporary church of sheet iron, on the south side of Clarence Street was built, close to St George's Place. St Mary's reopened in 1861, but the temporary church remained in use until Spring, 1877. It is believed to have stood where St Matthew's Church stands today, the building of which dates from 1877. The land it stands on was once occupied by the Court House, where manorial courts were held, and later "The Great House", which is has been quoted as being the 'centre of Cheltenham's social life for over 100 years'.

In an earlier age, the town's market had been held in the churchyard. Evidence of this may still be seen the rope-measuring marks set at the sides of the path at the south east corner of the church.

Inside there is some magnificent stained glass. The visitor's eye is invariably drawn to the rose (or wheel) window in the east wall of the north transept. This dates from the mid-14th century and (the guide book says) it was probably to commemorate the martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria, who was reputedly put to death on a burning wheel; however the glass is Victorian.

The royal coat of arms over the chancel arch is the arms of the house of Brunswick (1816-1837), which may have been erected to commemorate the visit to Cheltenham by George III and Queen Caroline in 1788.

A flavour of the Regency period is captured by Gwen Hart in her book A History of Cheltenham (1965).

"From the reminiscences of Colonel Kendall Coghill the social scene in Cheltenham at this period emerges sharply showing an almost self-sufficient group of men who shared the common background of service in the French Wars and enjoyed their retirement in Cheltenham to the full... A similar picture, but from the point of view of the wives and daughters of these heroes is presented in the papers of the Whinyates family... there is a charming picture of the wedding of [Octavia] at St Mary's Church in 1828. 'At nine o'clock we were all ready... Octavia, wearing sprigged muslin and white satin with orange flowers and a veil ... went to the Church in a sedan chair ... and the rest of the party in carriages separately'. Some time later, when the married couple arrived at the Clarence Hotel after their honeymoon the church bells rang merrily to welcome their return."

[Other Sources: Blake, Steven - Cheltenham, A Pictorial History (Phillimore, 1996), the Parish Church of St Mary, Cheltenham Guidebook (Canon G.W. Hart, 1983), the British Listed Buildings website]

Denomination

Now or formerly Church of England.

If more than one congregation has worshipped here, or its congregation has united with others, in most cases this will record its original dedication.

Maps

This Church is located at OS grid reference SO9483922543. You can see this on various mapping systems. Note all links open in a new window:

Reference

  • Places recorded by the Registrar General under the provisions of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 (2010) is available as a "Freedom of Information" document from the website What Do They Know.
Last updated on 22 Sep 2011 at 15:38.

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This Report was created 3 Nov 2017 - 08:22:35 GMT from information held in the Gloucestershire section of the Places of Worship Database. This was last updated on 30 Aug 2017 at 16:10.

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