The small English city of Gloucester is justifiably proud of its long history. In the centre of town information boards give details of historical events and attractive modern mosaics on the pavements add a flavour of the past.
When we visited in early September they were celebrating Gloucester day which marks the end of the siege of Gloucester during the civil war and many people were in costume.
Gloucester is situated at the head of the Severn Estuary which separates South West England from South Wales. It was founded by the Romans for retired soldiers about 50 A.D and known as colonius Nervia Glevenis. There was a Roman camp at nearby Cirencester.
In London we found a piece of Roman wall in a car park. In Gloucester we found part of the town wall in a furniture store among the sofas. I was surprised to learn that it was one of the oldest bits of masonry in England.
There is a viewing area near the East Gate shopping centre where you can see other Roman remains. My top photograph shows the skeleton of a Roman woman.
Anglo Saxon Gloucester
After the Romans left, Gloucester seems to have declined in importance. King Alfred’s daughter Aelflaed who married Aethelred of Mercia and was known as the lady of Mercia founded a church close by in about 900 A.D. She stole the bones of St. Oswald one of her father’s favourite saints and placed them in the church. The centre of the town is still laid out in a grid pattern and many of the roads still have their old names such as East gate and West Gate.
Gloucester cathedral and the middle ages
Gloucester cathedral which was started in the Norman period is beautiful. It became famous as a pilgrimage place after Edward II who was murdered in Berkely castle nearby was buried there. Nine year old Henry III was also crowned there. The only time a coronation of a monarch has taken place outside London.
We visited the cathedral and loved the beautiful cloisters. Unusually sections of the cloisters contain stained glass which reflects vibrant splashes of colour on the stone work. The Gloucester cathedral cloisters are a favourite location for film makers and have been used in the Harry Potter films and also for Sherlock and Wolf Hall. I can also personally recommend the Monk’s table cafeteria which had a fine selection of cakes. Also look out for unusual gargoyles.
The cathedral close had a lovely display of late summer flowers.
Gloucester during the Tudors and Stuarts
Gloucester was a prosperous city at the end of the middle ages. However during the religious turmoil of the Tudor monarchy both catholics and protestants suffered. Catholic priests were martyred by being hung drawn and quartered and John Hooper the protestant bishop was martyred by being burnt at the stake outside the cathedral.
During the English civil war Gloucester supported the parliamentarians unlike most of South West England which was Royalist. The town was besieged in 1643 but did not surrender. Every year Gloucester holds a parade at the beginning of September to celebrate the relief of the siege. We enjoyed seeing the townsfolks dressed in colourful costumes.
I can’t leave the cathedral area without mentioning Beatrix Potter. She wrote a very famous book “the tailor of Gloucester” based on a local legend.
Modern Gloucester and the Port
Large boats coming up the Severn estuary can only reach as far as Gloucester which meant that Gloucester became an important trading centre for the midlands. Trade increased rapidly with the industrial revolution and the growth of towns like Birmingham. The size of the warehouses at the port attest to the amount of trade that was happening.
Many of the warehouses have been converted into flats and the area has many attractive bars and restaurants. It is also home to the national waterways museum.
I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of Gloucester as much as I enjoyed visiting it in person. If you want to find out more here are a couple of sites I recommend.
As always I love to read your comments.