This is the only medieval church in Cheltenham and has glorious stained glass windows, which are shown on a separate page, here.
Evidence of Christian worship on the site dates back to the 8th Century, however the earliest part of the existing building are Norman, namely the west wall of the nave and the piers supporting the tower arches.
The building has been altered several times, beginning in the 13th century when the north and south aisles were added, the chancel extended and the upper part of the tower modified and spire added. In the 1870s the church was in a poor condition and a major renovation took place. The crypt was filled in, the 18th century galleries removed, oak pews installed and a sacristy and south porch added.
Above the chancel arch are painted the Ten Commandments. On the day of my visit the chancel was screened off while building works were in progress.
The baptistry is in what what was once the north porch. It has a room above it reached by a spiral staircase. From 1729 to 1847 this room housed the Old Cheltenham Charity or Blue Coat School originally established in the High Street in 1683 after George Townsend left £4 annually for "teaching poor children to read and write". The school moved from the church to Devonshire Street.
The font is a Victorian reproduction and was installed in 1890 when the Baptistry was created and the gallery above opened up (formerly the school room).
The tower contains 12 bells and the octagonal spire rises 167 feet above the floor of the church.
The friends of the church are doing a sterling job and have their own website - www.stmaryscheltfriends.org.uk. The historical notes given here come from their leaflet available in the church.
Click here to view the stained glass windows.
This town centre parish is now combined with St Matthew's Church, and according to the notice board St Matthew's is the main base for activities, although St Mary's is still also used for services.
Visitors to this album since June 2003
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