Gloucester is a city, district and county town ofGloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately 32 miles (51 km) north-east of Bristol, and 45 miles (72 km) south-southwest ofBirmingham.
A cathedral city, capital of its county which was built on a flat spot of land, Gloucester is situated on the River Severn and the Bristol and Birmingham Railway.
Gloucester was founded in AD 97 by the Romans under Emperor Nerva asColonia Glevum Nervensis, and was granted its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II. Economically, the city is dominated by the service industries, and has a strong financial and business sector,being home to the bankCheltenham & Gloucester and historically was prominent in the aerospaceindustry.
The origins of Gloucester is Caerloyw in the modern Welsh. There are various appellations in history such as Caer Glow, Gleawecastre, Gleucestre as an early British settlement is not confirmed by direct evidence. However, Gloucester was the Roman municipality of Colonia Nervia Glevensium, or Glevum, built in the reign of Nerva. Parts of the walls can be traced, and a number of remains and coins have been found, though inscriptions are scarce. In Historia Brittonum, a fabled account of the early rulers of Britain, Vortigern's grandfather, Gloiu (or Gloyw Wallt Hir: "Gloiu Long-hair"), is given as the founder of Gloucester. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Gloucester is shown as part of Wessex from the Battle of Deorham in 577 until 584, when it came under the control of Mercia. The name Gloucester derives from the Anglo-Saxon for fort (Old Englishceaster) preceded by the Roman stem Glev- (pronounced glaiw).
Gloucester was captured by the Saxons in 577. Its situation on a navigable river, and the foundation in 681 of the abbey of St Peter by Æthelred, favoured the growth of the town; and before the Norman Conquest of England, Gloucester was a borough governed by a portreeve, with a castle which was frequently a royal residence, and a mint. In the early tenth century the remains of Saint Oswald were brought to a small church in Gloucester, bringing many pilgrims to the town. The core street layout dates back to the reign of Ethelfleda in late Saxon times.
During the Anarchy, Gloucester was a centre of support for the Empress Matilda. The first Earl of Gloucester, Earl Godwine, was succeeded nearly a century later byRobert of Gloucester. King Henry II granted the first charter in 1155, which gave the burgesses the same liberties as the citizens of London and Winchester, and a second charter of Henry II gave them freedom of passage on the River Severn. The first charter was confirmed in 1194 by Richard I of England. The privileges of the borough were greatly extended by the charter of King John (1200), which gave freedom from toll throughout the kingdom and from pleading outside the borough.
In the Middle Ages the main export was wool which came from the Cotswolds and was processed in Gloucester; other exports included leather and iron (tools and weapons). Gloucester also had a large fishing industry at that time. In 1223 thatched roofs were banned after a massive fire that destroyed a part of Gloucester. In November 2011 a unique coin, dated to 1077–1080, was discovered, just north of the city, featuring the name of the moneyer Silacwine and its place of minting. The Portable Antiquities Scheme said that, until the coin was discovered, there had been no known examples of William I coins minted in Gloucester in this period.
Subsequent charters were numerous. Gloucester was incorporated by King Richard III in 1483, the town being made a county in itself. This charter was confirmed in 1489 and 1510, and other charters of incorporation were received by Gloucester from Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Gloucester was the site of the execution by burning of John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester in the time of Queen Mary and martyred by her in 1555. In 1580 Gloucester was awarded the status of a port by Queen Elizabeth I. The Siege of Gloucester in 1643 was a battle of the English Civil War in which the besieged parliamentarians emerged victorious.
The spring of 1994 saw the arrest of Fred West and his wife Rosemary West for the murder of 12 women and girls who went missing between 1967 and 1987 – including two of their daughters. Their home, 25 Cromwell Street, where the remains of many of the victims were buried, was later demolished and a public walkway laid in its place.
In July 2007, Gloucester was hit badly by a flood that struck Gloucestershire and its surrounding areas. Hundreds of homes were flooded, but the event was most memorable because of its wider impact – about 40,000 people were without power for 24 hours, and the entire city (plus surrounding areas) was without piped water for 17 days.
In 2009, Gloucester Day was revived as an annual day of celebration of Gloucester's history and culture. The day originally dates from the lifting of the Siege of Gloucester in 1643, during which the city held out against Royalist forces during the First English Civil War.
Gloucester is the county town of Gloucestershire, and is the 53rd largest settlement in the UK by population. In 2011 the city had a population of 121,900. However the built-up area extends beyond the city boundary, with several outlying districts. The 2011 census gave the population of the whole "Gloucester Urban Area" as 149,820. It is located on the eastern bank of the River Severn, sheltered by the Cotswolds to the east, while the Forest of Dean and the Malvern Hills rise to the west and north, respectively. Gloucester is a port, linked via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal which runs from Gloucester's docks to theSevern Estuary, allowing larger ships to reach the docks than would bepossible on the tidal reaches of the river itself, which go well north of the city to Haw Bridge. The wharfs, warehouses and the docks themselves fell into disrepair until their renovation in the 1980s. They now form a public open space. Some warehouses now house the National Waterways Museum others were converted into residential apartments, shops and bars. Additionally, the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum is located in the Custom House. Next to the Museum is Gloucester Yacht Club. The port still houses the most inlandRNLI lifeboat in the UK.
Gloucester Cathedral, in the north of the city near the river, originates in the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter in 681. It is the burial place of King Edward II of England and Walter de Lacy. The Cathedral (mainly its cloisters) was used for corridor scenes in the films Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Attached to the deanery is the Norman prior's chapel. In St Mary's Square outside the Abbey gate, the Bishop of Gloucester, Bishop John Hooper, was martyred underQueen Mary I in 1555.
A good number of medieval and Tudor period gabled and half timbered houses survive from earlier periods of Gloucester's history. At the point where the four principal streets intersected stood the Tolsey (town hall), which was replaced by a modern building in 1894. None of the old public buildings are left except for The New Inn in Northgate Street. It is a timbered house, with strong, massive external galleries and courtyards. It was built around 1450 by John Twyning, a monk.
King's Square is at the heart of the city centre and occupies what was once a cattle market and bus station. Officially opened in 1972, it was the centrepiece of a radical redesign of the city, The Jellicoe Plan, which was first proposed in 1961. It stands beside the Debenham's (formerly Bon Marché) store built in the early 1960s. Many of the features of the redevelopment have since been dismantled; the brutalist concrete fountains in the middle of the square have gone and the overhead roadways which linked three multi storey car parks around the centre have been either closed or dismantled. The present main bus station received a Civic Trust Award in 1963 but is now in a state of disrepair.
An indoor market opened in Eastgate Street in 1968, followed by the Eastgate Shopping Centre in 1974. The corner of Eastgate Street and Brunswick Road was redeveloped around this time; Roman remains unearthed below street level in 1974 may be seen through a glass observation panel outside the Boots building, which opened in 1980. The HSBC building on the Cross was renovated and a modern extension added to the Westgate Street aspect in 1972 which received a Civic Trust Award. Sainsbury's opened a supermarket in Northgate Street in 1970; it retains its original interior. Opposite, Tesco opened a large two-storey supermarket in 1974 on the site of a demolished chapel. This is now occupied by Wilkinsons after Tesco moved to Quedgeley in 1984.
Gloucester Leisure Centre opened on the corner of Eastgate Street and Bruton Way in September 1974 and was redeveloped and rebranded (as "GL1") in August 2002. Gloucester Central railway station was rebuilt in 1977 to serve both the original traffic to that station and the services from the closed Gloucester Eastgate railway station (former Midland Railway) which had stood on another site further east along the same road. Opposite the station stands one of the city's largest office blocks, Twyver House, opened in 1968, which houses the regional Land Registry. The main shopping streets were pedestrianised in the late 1980s.
The 1966 Heights Plan for Gloucester sought to restrict construction of tall buildings and defend spiritual values by protecting views of Gloucester Cathedral. The tower of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, started in 1970 and completed in August 1975, can be seen from miles around. In Brunswick Road, a brown concrete tower, which housed classrooms at theGloucestershire College of Arts and Technology (now moved to a site near Llanthony Bridge). The tower was added incongruously to the existing 1930s Technical College buildings in 1971 which has now been demolished. Clapham Court, a tall block of flats, stands in Columbia Close, between London Road and Kingsholm Road. It was built in 1972 and stands on what was once Columbia Street in a small district formerly known as Clapham.
Other features of interest include the museum and school of art and science, the former county jail (on the site of a Saxonand Norman castle), the Shire Hall (now headquarters of the County Council) and the Whitefield memorial church. A park in the south of the city contains a spa, a chalybeate spring having been discovered in 1814. West of this, across the canal, are the remains (a gateway and some walls) of Llanthony Secunda Priory, a cell of the mother abbey in the Vale of Ewyas,Monmouthshire, which in the reign of King Edward IV became the secondary establishment.
Gloucester has many churches, and historically has also had many dissenting chapels. It may have been the old proverb "as sure as God's in Gloucester" that provoked Oliver Cromwell to declare that the city had "more churches than godliness". Gloucester was the host of the first Sunday school in England; this was founded by Robert Raikes in 1780. Four of the churches that are of special interest are
In the neighbourhood around St Mary de Crypt there are slight remains of Greyfriars and Blackfriars monasteries, and also of the city wall. Under the Golden Fleece (The Monks Bar) and Saracen's Head inns early vaulted cellars still remain.
During the construction of the Boots store on the corner of Brunswick Road and Eastgate Street in 1974, Roman remains were found. These can be seen through a glass case on the street. At the back of the Gloucester Furniture Exhibition Centre part of the city's south gate can be seen.
There are three endowed schools:The King's School, refounded by Henry VIII of England as part of the cathedral establishment; the school of St Mary de Crypt now known as "The Crypt School, Gloucester" since it moved to a mile from town centre to Podsmead, founded by Dame Joan Cooke in the same reign (1539), Sir Thomas Rich's School, previously known as Sir Thomas Rich's Bluecoat Hospital for Boys (1666); The High School for Girls (1883) ; and Ribston Hall High School for girls. Comprehensives include Millbrook Academy, Beaufort Co-operative Academy, St Peter's High School (Catholic school), Chosen Hill School, Severn Vale School, Gloucester Academy, Barnwood ParkArts College, andChurchdown School Academy.
Gloucester is served by the M5 motorway, which runs to the east of the city. Junction 12 serves south Gloucester and Quedgeley. Junction 11a serves central Gloucester and junction 11 serves north Gloucester. The A38 runs north–south through Gloucester connecting the city with Tewkesbury and Bristol. The A40 runs west to east, connecting Gloucester with Cheltenham to the east (via a dual carriageway section known as The Golden Valley Bypass) and the Forest of Dean andMonmouth to the West. The A46 and A4173 links Gloucester and Stroud, and theA417 links Gloucester with Cirencester in the south east and Ledbury in the north west.
Until the construction of the Severn Bridge in 1966, Gloucester was the lowest bridging point on the river and hence was an important settlement on the route between London and South Wales. The Severn is split into two branches at this point, so the road crosses first onto Alney Island and then onto the western bank. Aroad bridge on this western side at Over, built by Thomas Telford in 1829, still stands, notable for its very flat arch construction, but its fragility and narrow width means it is no longer used for traffic, and since 1974 it has been paralleled by a modern road bridge. There is a rail crossing, also across Alney Island, which was the lowest on the river until the opening of the Severn Railway Bridge in 1879, followed by the Severn Tunnel in 1886, although following the dismantling of the former in 1970 Gloucester once again has the furthest downstream rail bridge crossing of the Severn.
Gloucester railway station has frequent trains to London, Reading, Bristol, Cardiff, Nottingham and Birmingham. Gloucester was the site of the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company railway works, which have now closed. Buses are run by Stagecoach, operating from its depot on London Road. For longer, slower journeys, National Express operate a number of services including the 444 to London and the 222 to Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Gloucester is linked to the Severn Estuary by the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which is navigable by small coasters. The city is linked to the River Avon and Stourport-on-Severn by the navigable part of the River Severn, which is navigable by river craft of a few hundred tonnes' displacement. Gloucester Docks mark the Normal Tidal Limit (NTL) of the river.Gloucester was formerly linked to Ledbury and Hereford by the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal; and subsequently by the Ledbury and Gloucester Railway, which used the southern section of the former canal, until it also closed in 1964. This canal is now being restored, and the restored canal basin in the Gloucester suburb of Over is a local attraction.