Heritage > Counties > England
Occupying some 1,019 square miles in the South West of England, Gloucestershire is the home the Cotswolds and the source of the River Severn. Berkeley Castle, where Edward the Second was murdered, is just another of it's many attractions.
The county's main cities and towns are Gloucester, Stroud, Cheltenham,Tewkesbury and Cirencester.
The county's main products are cereals, fruit, dairy products with engineering and restricted coal mining being found in the Forest of Dean.
As with other English counties Gloucestershire boasts some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere in the world. The cotswolds are considered one of the most scenic areas in Great Britain.
One famous son of Gloucestershire is Edward Jenner, the pioneer of Vaccinations.
Facts on the region
Origin of name: From the Brittonic Glouiu, meaning bright place or shining fortress. Its Roman name is Glevum.
Name first recorded: 1016 as Glaucestrescir.
County Town: GLOUCESTER Lies on the east bank of the Severn, its centre spread around a curve in the river. A city without airs and graces, it is well worth a visit.
County Rivers: Severn, Windrush, Coln, Leadon.
Highest point: Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham at 1,083 feet (nearest place to London over 1,000 feet).
Gloucestershire's local government: Two tier government provides the services for the northern part of Gloucestershire with two single tier authorities controlling its southern part. Gloucestershire County Council and the six district councils of Cotswold, Cheltenham, Forest of Dean, Gloucester, Stroud and Tewkesbury provide services for the north. The South Gloucestershire unitary council and that part of the City of Bristol unitary authority north of the River Avon administer the south of the County. There are three detached parts of Gloucestershire in Worcestershire, Kemerton is under Worcestershire County and Wychavon Councils in Wiltshire. Tidling Corner is under Wiltshire County and North Wiltshire Councils in Oxfordshire. Shennington is under Oxfordshire County and Cherwell Councils: in Warwickshire, Little Compton and Sutton-under-Brailes are under Warwickshire County and Stratford upon Avon Councils.
In 1373 Edward III decreed the City and County of Bristol "was a County by itself and separated (from the) Counties of Gloucester and Somerset and in all things exempt ... (to be) called the County of Bristol for ever". In 1996 Bristol was made a separate ceremonial County.
The local landscape
Gloucestershire is the essence of England. Its lovely hills, verdant valleys and deep grassed pastures have an air thatís unique. Its views, such as Birdlip, are spectacular. The county is set with small towns and pretty villages, often constructed and roofed with golden Cotswold stone.
This county shares with Oxfordshire the splendour of a part of Britain renowned for its beauty - the Cotswold Hills.
The Cotswolds are actually chalk hills, the bare bones lightly soil covered and furred with fine grass. Once the sludge of prehistoric shelled creatures at the bottom of an ancient sea these hills were long ago folded and forced up under enormous pressure to form the familiar heights, rising in soft blue outline and giving the county its romantic and rural appeal. Aside from estates with planned parkland there are many great gardens here.
On its farthest, and some say wildest edges to the west, Gloucestershire embraces the Bristol Channel. Part of the county, the Forest of Dean, is actually across what might otherwise be its border, the lordly River Severn.
The River Avon forms one of several waterways that made Bristol such an important inland port. The city that grew rich on rum and sugar is still thriving today on its links with communications, computing and finance. This attractive, hilly, cathedral city has its own museum, but the surviving Norman, 16th-century and Georgian buildings provide enough outdoor history to satisfy the most demanding sightseer, as do Bristolís two great engineering monuments: Brunelís SS Great Britain and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Theatre-lovers should check out Britainís oldest working theatre, the delightful Georgian Theatre Royal. Bristol is also home to the most vibrant nightlife, music and club scene in the West Country. More sedate visitors can relax at nearby seaside resorts or explore the surrounding rolling countryside.
The first Severn Bridge connecting England and Wales was built between Aust in Gloucestershire and Beachley in Monmouthshire. A second Severn bridge was opened further downstream in 1996.
Local Towns and Villages
BRISTOL (Shared with Somerset) Still an inland port with a canal opened in 1837 connecting the cityís docks with the Severn taking ships up to 1,000 tons. The best city panorama is from the top of the 105-foot Cabot Tower, which commemorates John Cabotís voyage to America.
CHELTENHAM Boasts not one but two famous colleges (one for boys and one for girls).
CHIPPING CAMPDEN Fine gabled stone houses advertise a wealthy wool industry with the 14th-century Woolstaplers Hall and medieval wool church.
CIRENCESTER Capital of the Cotswolds.
LYDNEY Roman remains and strong royal connections.
NAILSWORTH Charming Cotswold town built in a chasm.
STOW-ON-THE-WOLD Highest hill top town in the Cotswolds. The very large market square has stocks and a 14th-century cross.
STROUD At the forefront of Englandís broadcloth industry thanks to steam and canals. Billiard table baize cloth is still used to cover the worldís tables.
TEWKESBURY Timber-framed buildings predominate in this pleasing town with one of the finest Norman structure sin the country: Tewkesbury Abbey. A decisive War of the Roses battle was fought here.
Places to Visit
Berkeley Castle,Berkeley, Gloucestershire
Chavenage, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
Stanway House, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
Ashleworth Tithe Barn, Ashleworth, Gloucestershire
Dyrham Park, Wiltshire
May: Horse trials at Badminton.
September: 14th-century ceremony Clipping the Yews at Painswick.
July: modern music festival, Cheltenham
October: literary festival, Cheltenham
March: Cheltenham Races - National Hunt Festival attracts 40,000 people on each of the 3 days it is held. Other meetings take place in December, January, March, April and November.
Late July/early August: Gloucestershire Country Fair at Gloucester Park.
Famous names from the region
Laurie Lee, the author of Cider with Rosie, a loving tale of growing up in Gloucestershire, lived in Sladd.
Royalty has often favoured the county and the Prince of Wales has a country house at Highgrove.
King Edward II was homosexual but had the misfortune to be married to a scheming and vicious wife who with her lover arranged his murder by red-hot poker at Berkeley Castle.
The sixth wife of Henry VIII, Queen Katherine Parr, who survived the rotund Tudor monarch, died and is buried at Sudeley Castle. Ruined in the Civil War this spectacular castle was restored almost two centuries later.
The late Dennis Potter spent his formative years in a stone cottage in Berry Hill in the Forest of Dean (as recalled in The Singing Detective).
Two blockbusting female authors hail from the county: village Aga-saga author Joanna Trollope and poloínísex scribe Jilly Cooper.