St Mary’s is the only medieval church in the English town of Cheltenham, dating from the twelfth century. One of the more famous ministers here was the Reverend Francis Close, who was here between 1826 and 1856. The poet Lord Alfred Tennyson once described Francis Close as “the pope of Cheltenham”, largely because of his strident opposition to horse-racing – in a town that now boasts one of the most famous race-courses in the country – and his efforts to stop trains serving the town on Sundays. There are also several amusing inscriptions on gravestones here – including that of John Higgs, who will forever be remembered as a ‘pig killer’!

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