Gloucester - Encyclopedia

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See Gloucester (disambiguation) for articles sharing the titleGloucester.

GLOUCESTER (abbreviated as pronounced Glo'ster), a city, county of a city, municipal and parliamentary borough and port, and the county town of Gloucestershire, England, on the left (east) bank of the river Severn, 114 m. W.N.W. of London. Pop. (1901) 47955It is served by the Great Western railway and the west-and-north branch of the Midland railway; while the Berkeley Ship Canal runs S.W. to Sharpness Docks in the Severn estuary (162 m.). Gloucester is situated on a gentle eminence overlooking the Severn and sheltered by the Cotteswolds on the east, while the Malverns and the hills of the Forest of Dean rise prominently to the west and north-west.

The cathedral, in the north of the city near the river, originates in the foundation of an abbey of St Peter in 681, the foundations of the present church having been laid by Abbot Serlo (1072-1104); and Walter Froucester (d. 1412) its historian, became its first mitred abbot in 1381. Until 1541, Gloucester lay in the see of Worcester, but the separate see was then constituted, with John Wakeman, last abbot of Tewkesbury, for its first bishop. The diocese covers the greater part of Gloucestershire, with small parts of Herefordshire and Wiltshire. The cathedral may be succinctly described as consisting of a Norman nucleus, with additions in every style of Gothic architecture. It is 420 ft. long, and 144 ft. broad, with a beautiful central tower of the 15th century rising to the height of 22 5 ft. and topped by four graceful pinnacles. The nave is massive Norman with Early English roof; the crypt also, under the choir, aisles and chapels, is Norman, as is the chapter-house. The crypt is one of the four apsidal cathedral crypts in England, the others being at Worcester, Winchester and Canterbury. The south porch is Perpendicular, with fan-tracery roof, as also is the north transept, the south being transitional Decorated. The choir Ihas Perpendicular tracery over Norman work, with an apsidal chapel on each side. The choir-vaulting is particularly rich, and the modern scheme of colouring is judicious. The splendid late Decorated east window is partly filled with ancient glass. Between the apsidal chapels is a cross Lady chapel, and north of the nave are the cloisters, with very early example of fan-tracery, the carols or stalls for the monks' study and writing lying to the south. The finest monument is the canopied shrine of Edward II. who was brought hither from Berkeley. By the visits of pilgrims to this the building and sanctuary were enriched. In a side-chapel, too, is a monument in coloured bog oak of Robert Curthose, a great benefactor to the abbey, the eldest son of the Conqueror, who was interred there; and those of Bishop Warburton and Dr Edward Jenner are also worthy of special mention. A musical festival (the Festival of the Three Choirs) is held annually in this cathedral and those of Worcester and Hereford in turn. Between 1873 and 1890 and in 1897 the cathedral was extensively restored, principally by Sir Gilbert Scott. Attached to the deanery is the Norman prior's chapel. In St Mary's Square outside the Abbey gate, Bishop Hooper suffered martyrdom under Queen Mary in 1555.

Quaint gabled and timbered houses preserve the ancient aspect of the city. At the point of intersection of the four principal streets stood the Tolsey or town hall, replaced by a modern building in 1894. None of the old public buildings, in fact, is left, but the New Inn in Northgate Street is a beautiful timbered house, strong and massive, with external galleries and courtyards, built in 1450 for the pilgrims to Edward II.'s shrine, by Abbot Sebroke, a traditional subterranean passage leading thence to the cathedral. The timber is principally chestnut. There are a large number of churches and dissenting chapels, and it may have been the old proverb, "as sure as God's in Gloucester," which provoked Oliver Cromwell to declare that the city had "more churches than godliness." Of the churches four are of special interest: St Mary de Lode, with a Norman tower and chancel, and a monument of Bishop Hooper, on the site of a Roman temple which became the first Christian church in Britain; St Mary de Crypt, a cruciform structure of the 12th century, with later additions and a beautiful and lofty tower; the church of St Michael, said to have been connected with the ancient abbey of St Peter; and St Nicholas church, originally of Norman erection, and possessing a tower and other portions of later date. In the neighbourhood of St Mary de Crypt are slight remains of Greyfriars and Blackfriars monasteries, and also of the city wall. Early vaulted cellars remain under the Fleece and Saracen's Head inns.

There are three endowed schools: the College school, refounded by Henry VIII. as part of the cathedral establishment; the school of St Mary de Crypt, founded by Dame Joan Cooke in the same reign; and Sir Thomas Rich's Blue Coat hospital for 34 boys (1666). At the Crypt school the famous preacher George Whitefield (1714-1770) was educated, and he preached his first sermon in the church. The first Sunday school was held in Gloucester, being originated by Robert Raikes, in 1780.

The noteworthy modern buildings include the museum and school of art and science, the county gaol (on the site of a Saxon and Norman castle), the Shire Hall 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 Priory, a cell of the mother abbey in the vale of Ewyas, Monmouthshire, which in the reign of Edward IV. became the secondary establishment.

Gloucester possesses match works, foundries, marble and slate works, saw-mills, chemical works, rope works, flour-mills, manufactories of railway wagons, engines and agricultural implements, and boat and ship-building yards. Gloucester was declared a port in 1882. The Berkeley canal was opened in 1827. The Gloucester canal-harbour and that at Sharpness on the Severn are managed by a board. Principal imports are timber and grain; and exports, coal, salt, iron and bricks. The salmon and lamprey fisheries in the Severn are valuable. The tidal bore in the river attains its extreme height just below the city, and sometimes surmounts the weir in the western branch of the river, affecting the stream up to Tewkesbury lock. The parliamentary borough returns one member. The city is governed by a mayor, to aldermen and 30 councillors. Area, 2315 acres.


The traditional existence of a British settlement at Gloucester (Car Glow, Gleawecastre, Gleucestre) is not confirmed by any direct evidence, but Gloucester was the Roman municipality or colonia of Glezum, founded by Nerva (A.D. 96-98). Parts of the walls can be traced, and many remains and coins have been found, though inscriptions (as is frequently the case in Britain) are somewhat scarce. 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 Conquest Gloucester was a borough governed by a portreeve, with a castle which was frequently a royal residence, and a mint. The first overlord, Earl Godwine, was succeeded nearly a century later by Robert, earl of Gloucester. 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 Severn. The first charter was confirmed in 1194 by Richard I. The privileges of the borough were greatly extended by the charter of John (1200) which gave freedom from toll throughout the kingdom and from pleading outside the borough. Subsequent charters were numerous. Gloucester was incorporated by 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 Elizabeth in 1560, James I.

in 1604, Charles I. in 1626 and Charles II. in 1672. The chartered port of Gloucester dates from 1580. Gloucester returned two members to parliament from 1275 to 1885, since when it has been represented by one member. A seven days' fair from the 24th of June was granted by Edward I. in 1302, and James I. licensed fairs on the 25th of March and the 17th of November, and fairs under these grants are still held on the first Saturday in April and July and the last Saturday in November. The fair now held on the 28th of September was granted to the abbey of St Peter in 1227. A market on Wednesday existed in the reign of John, was confirmed by charter in 1227 and is still held. The iron trade of Gloucester dates from before the Conquest, tanning was carried on before the reign of Richard III., pin-making and bell-founding were introduced in the 16th, and the long-existing coal trade became important in the 18th century. The cloth trade flourished from the 12th to the 16th century. The sea-borne trade in corn and wine existed before the reign of Richard I.

See W. H. Stevenson, Records of the Corporation of Gloucester (Gloucester, 1893); Victoria County History, Gloucestershire.

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