St Mary's Church Prestbury ghost imagePrestbury is a modest village in Gloucestershire on the outskirts of Cheltenham bordering the edge of the English Cotswolds of the west midlands. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning a Priest’s Fortified Place or preost-burg. Perhaps best known today for the Prestbury Park the location of the Cheltenham Racecourse, the village appeared in the records of the Doomsday Book in 1086 as part of the property of the Bishop of Hereford with 18 villagers, 5 small landholders, 11 serfs and a priest. The town gained importance when the Bishop was granted the right to hold a weekly market and an annual fair in early August by Henry III. The town’s importance declined in the 1400’s as Cheltenham’s growing prominence spread its shadow. The fortress manor house of the once powerful Hereford Bishop is now mostly a ditch and an earthen bump. St Mary’s Church in the center of town on High Street is what remains of the medieval period, though rebuilt in the 15th Century and restored in the 1860s. The town rose again in the 18th Century when the local landowner, Lord Craven discovered a mineral spring, and provided a lodging inn and bath, but this faded by the 1800s.

Prestbury holds its place in horse racing history. The Cheltenham Gold Cup race is held at the racetrack at Prestbury Park every March during the Cheltenham Festival and Prestbury was the home of Victorian era Jockey Fred Archer whose father was the landlord of the King’s Arms. Three other classic pubs hold a spot in town, the Plough, Royal Oak and the Beehive.

Haunted Prestbury

Prestbury has also been called the most haunted town in England. Almost 2 dozen different apparitions have been recounted in various locations around town, from the requisite Lady in White, a sad girl ghost who plays spinet music in the garden of the Prestbury House at the spooky Burgage, a headless horseman, and even a full funereal hearse coach and plumed four followed by Victorian garbed mourners. The headless ghost rider is thought to be a dispatch rider racing with missive to battle during the English Civil War, either decapitated by a rope across the highway or executed by ax. Cromwell himself had his army headquarters briefly at the Prestbury House during the Gloucester campaign and his route commemorated by the Cromwell Road. Another apparition knight sometimes seen on the road was supposedly a Yorkist messenger of Henry IV, killed by an archer on his way to the Battle of Tewkesbury during the War of the Roses in 1471. Prestbury’s most famous ghost is perhaps the Black Abbot. A dark garbed priest who appears from St Mary’s Church, walking through the graveyard and through a building wall on High Street. The abbot mostly appears during church holiday festivals. His identity or history is a mystery, though he would most likely be associated with the Priory of Llanthony, granted Prestbury church lands by the Hereford Bishops.





©Copyright 2014 Prestbury Books/wlev