A February 2006 trip
to Gloucester by Gwilym Owen
Quote: Gloucester was founded by the Romans in AD43 as part of their conquest of Britain and in the 60s AD a Roman fortress was built on the present day site of the city centre. Its grid formation and street names (Southgate, Eastgate and Westgate) are a testament to this era.
During the short-lived reign of Emperor Nerva, Gloucester was granted the title of Colonia Nerviana Glevensis, the highest status that a Roman provincial town could attain.
Gloucester has strong royal connections, being granted a royal charter by Henry II in 1155, acknowledging the city's equal status with London and Winchester. Henry III was crowned in Gloucester in 1216, being the only monarch since the Norman Conquest to be crowned outside London and Edward II was buried in the cathedral, eventually becoming a mediaeval 'tourist attraction' drawing pilgrims in vast numbers due to his tomb's supposed mystical healing powers.
Gloucester was also a touring point of the English Civil War when in 1643 King Charles I demanded the surrender of the city and for about a month an army of about 35,000 men camped outside the city, which was defended by no more than about 3,000 soldiers and militia. The city was relieved by an army from London on September 5th, and with it went Charles last real chance of winning the war. In remembrance of this act of defiance when the monarchy was restored, Charles II ordered that the walls be razed to the ground.
You can easily 'do' Gloucester in a day or two, with the top two attractions being the beautiful cathedral and the historic docks area. The Cathedral is one of the most impressive in the UK and also holds significance for American visitors as the resting place of John Stafford Smith, who composed the US national anthem...
There are a number of other lesser attractions that might be of interest as well and there are many buildings and places in town that are steeped in history.
Why not have something to eat or drink in the plenty of nice cafes, bars and restaurants?
Gloucester makes a great jumping off point between both the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean.
Gloucester is also a Rugby Town as we found out hearing the raucous cheering from the cathedral cloisters!
All the bits you'd want to visit in Gloucester are bunched very close together in the city centre and the historic docks and therefore it is very easy to get around walking, especially as the centre is pedestrianised...
There is plenty of parking with the easiest location to my mind being the parking in the historic docks.
There are buses but I very much doubt you would need to use them for a visit, though there are connections to the cotswolds and Bristol further afield.
The easiest way to get here without your own transport is by train, taking less than two hours from London.
Situated right in the heart of Gloucester within 5 minutes walking distance of Gloucester Cathedral, the New Inn is a brilliant place to stay capturing the mood of a 'pilgrimage' to the cathedral which is surely something every tourist visitor to Gloucester will make.
As well as en suite rooms, some with four-poster beds, the New Inn is a veritable maze of bars, restaurants and even a coffee shop!
I haven't stayed here but it certainly looks like a great place to stay if you fancy spending the night in Gloucester in a manner the early pilgrims were accustomed to...
It was built as an inn for pilgrims who came to the Cathedral visiting the tomb of Edward II for its reputed healing powers. It has been described as the finest example of a medieval galleried Inn to be seen in Britain today, with galleries on all sides. Certainly the Inn reminds me of the St George's Inn in Southwark, London, however that is not enclosed on all sides like the New Inn is.
"The New Inn has been granted a licence to hold civil weddings. The beautiful Regency Suite is now available for couples wanting to tie the knot in this wonderful, historic city centre Inn. Our historic courtyard is also available for wedding photographs." From the Website
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 3, 2006
The New Inn Hotel Gloucester
16 Northgate Street
Restaurant | "Café René"
With a French theme, though not actually French, Café René has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, with walls and ceilings literally made out of bottles! The restaurant is non smoking and has a wide variety of menus (see website below), apparently they also have 'legendary Sunday barbecues in the summer'. A word of caution however, is that the menus are decidedly British in flavour, with only a slight continental twist.
We ended up eating in the main bar area, making a tapas style lunch choice of both the antipasti, and the three cheese salad. Both were very tasty, with ample portions and at the very reasonable price of £4.25. Afterwards we were able to relax by 'digesting' their selection of quality newspapers with a couple of continental beers in hand.
The cafe also boasts an ever changing array of real ales and ciders, as well as a selection of fine wines. Other activities include live music DJs, a big screen TV for following Gloucester's Rugby exploits, and a late licence - no admissions after 3am! Café René Website
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 3, 2006
31 Southgate Street
Gloucester, England GL1 1TP
01452 309 340
Restaurant | "Falmouth Pasty Company: Cornish Pasties!"
Cornish pasties are about my favourite 'fast food' due to their convenience and value for money, and this is right by the alley way to the Cathedral - and too tempting to pass up! The Pasty I had, a 'traditional' (Beef and Vegetables), was one of the best I've had with plenty of meaty bits...
You can actually watch them being made/rolled on the premises, with a gimmicky (in a nice way) table in the shop window where one poor soul gets to feel really self-conscious making the pasties. As well as seeing how they are made, this does allow you to ensure that you are eating the pasties freshly handmade.
The best thing was that piping hot as my pasty was I could only eat about half of it before getting to the Cathedral whereupon I decided to secrete the other half about my person whilst taking a tour of the cathedral. You can imagine my mild embarrassment trying to look interested in listening to the guide on the crypt tour whilst smelling strongly of warm pasty!
These days there are plenty of choices of fillings including Beef & Stilton, Cheese & Bacon, and Vegetable, with a medium sized pasty amply filling you up from a mere £1.40. Falmouth Pasty Company
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 3, 2006
Started by order of William the Conqueror in 1089, the Norman Gloucester Cathedral is almost half as old as Christianity itself - although there had been a place of worship there since 700AD.
The cathedral started out as the Abbey Church of a Benedictine monastery however this was abolished by Henry VIII in the dissolution of the monasteries, all because the pope wouldn't allow him to divorce...
Gloucester might have been left to ruin, however Edward II was buried here, so the Abbey church became a cathedral, or "The Cathedral Church of St. Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity" to give it its proper name...
Another royal connection is that in 1216 King Henry III was crowned in the Cathedral when he was only nine years of age.
Gloucester cathedral has a major connection with the United States, attracting many visitors from America is that the cathedral is the burial place of the man who composed the American national anthem, John Stafford-Smith an organist and musician who was born and educated in Gloucester and composed the music in 1780. Frances Scott Key set the words to 'The Star-Spangled Banner' in 1812 to Stafford Smith’s music.
The cathedral has also made its mark on the modern tourist map as a location for two of the Harry Potter films.
It was a great place to wander around, with quite a spartan feel about it without the ostentatiousness that you often get in cathedrals - perhaps because of its age.
We got a guided tour of the crypt, being locked in with the guide(!) before descending into its depths, again very interesting, with all the different architectural features being pointed out...
All in all, one of my favourite cathedrals.
Directions: The big churchey building - you can't miss it because it is bigger than the other churchey buildings! ;-)
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 30, 2006
Gloucester City Centre
Gloucester, United Kingdom
(+44 (0)1452 528095