Gloucester began life as a Roman settlement for retired soldiers, and has since had its ups and downs, like many small cities. The centre is on the site of an ancient fortress that dates back to about AD60.
The city was given its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II, so it had the same privileges as London. It is renowned as being the place that became the turning point in 1643 during the English Civil War, when King Charles I demanded that the city surrender, having taken nearby Bristol. But Gloucester supported Parliament and its people refused. For nearly a month, the king’s army of 35,000 camped on the outskirts of Gloucester while it was defended by about 1,500 men inside. Finally an army from London relieved the city, and Charles’s hopes of winning the war were dashed.
In the old Welsh language, Gloucester means ‘glowing castle’. Today, alas, there is no castle; but instead there is a magnificent Gothic cathedral, located on the site of a Saxon abbey where a Norman church was built in the 12th century by a group of Benedictine monks.
When King Edward II was murdered in 1327, the church was chosen as his burial place. The tomb proved so popular for pilgrimages that the money generated from them meant that the church could be converted into the stunning building you see today.
Situated on the eastern side of the River Severn, Gloucester built its wealth on profits from the river trade during the Middle Ages. Being a port, the status awarded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1580, held it in good stead during leaner times. The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which linked the docks to the Severn Estuary, meant that bigger ships could get to the docks, which otherwise would have been impossible.
During that time, wool was the main export along with iron and leather, and Gloucester also had a thriving fishing industry. The layout of Gloucester’s main streets survives from this period, with Northgate, Southgate, Westgate and Eastgate converging on a cross in the centre.
When trade shifted to Bristol, Gloucester deteriorated with the docks and warehouses falling into disrepair. However, the city is now transforming its fortunes by redeveloping its historic dockyard into trendy apartments and waterside office space. The opening of Gloucester Business Park has also boosted the city’s prospects. Near to the M5 and A417 dual carriageway, the business park is in a perfect location for offices in Gloucester, with easy access to all other parts of the country including Wales, the Midlands, the North, the South East and the South West. It’s an ideal location for this historic city, where many medieval and half-timbered buildings still stand as a reminder of its past.