November 9 – Cheltenham and our 1000th Church Micro

The Annexe and St Gregory's church

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Today we travelled from Rayleigh to our next housesit but we had two days to fill in on the way. So we arranged an Airbnb in Cheltenham for two nights.

I had a list of six church micros to do in Cheltenham but it was hard to find our way around with one way and very narrow streets. We found our way to the Congregational church where we found the cache easily and then we headed towards a church with a spire. Luckily we were able to find a park only 50 metres away and despite the lowering light, St Gregory’s church had its lights on so we peeped inside. We asked a workman whether it was OK to have a look around. He told us that although the church was not officially open that it was OK with him. He was a restorer and conserver of churches and he told us that they had been doing a major renovation including the ceilings, stonework, windows and so much more. and that they were nearly finished and we were the first people outside the church to see the renovations. The church is jaw-droppingly beautiful with fourteen wonderful stations of the cross in stone with the edges gilded. There were at least three wonderful gilded stone reredos, beautiful angels playing musical instruments as corbels and amazing brass railings. The font has wonderful stone carving on marble stands. This church was a real treat with gilded corbels, painted ceilings, an ornate ironwork balustrade, not to mention wonderful stained glass windows including some designed by Hardman & Co. We were privileged to talk to one of the renovators and to one gentleman from the church who were both enthusiastically telling us about the 30 weeks of conservation and decoration work they had been doing.

Designed in the ‘Decorated Gothic’ style by architect Charles Hansom of Clifton, the Catholic church of St Gregory the Great was begun in 1854 to replace a small Catholic chapel on the same site. It was one of Cheltenham’s largest and most expensive Victorian churches. The chancel and tower were built separately and it was not until 1876 that the nave was finally built to connect them together!

When we left I walked down the road to see if I could locate the cache while Mike shot back to the car to get some business cards for the men. Just when I decided I was walking the wrong way, my GPS ran out of batteries. Unfazed we found the right place as we had seen the hint before the GPS died. So this very beautiful church and a nice easy find that could have been challenging without a GPS marked our 1000th church micro!! We could not have chosen a better geocache to mark our great promotion to Archbishop (in geocaching circles). A favourite point from us.