For centuries life was good for GLOUCESTER, just ten miles west of Cheltenham. The Romans chose this spot for a garrison to guard the River Severn, while in Saxon and Norman times the Severn developed into one of the busiest trade routes in Europe. The city became a major religious centre too, but from the fifteenth century onwards a combination of fire, plague, civil war and increasing competition from rival towns sent Gloucester into a decline from which it never recovered – even the opening of a new canal in 1827 between Gloucester and Sharpness to the south failed to revive the town’s dwindling fortunes.
Today, the canal is busy once again, though this time with pleasure boats, and the Victorian docks have undergone a facelift, offering a fascinating glimpse into the region’s industrial past. The main reason for a visit, however, remains Gloucester’s magnificent cathedral, one of the finest in the country.Read More
The CathedralThe superb condition of Gloucester Cathedral is striking in a city that has bulldozed so much of its history. The Saxons founded an abbey here, but four centuries later, in 1089, Benedictine monks arrived intent on building their own church; work began in 1089. As a place of worship it shot to importance after the murder of King Edward II in 1327: Bristol and Malmesbury supposedly refused to take his body, but Gloucester did, and the king’s shrine became a major place of pilgrimage. The money generated helped finance the conversion of the church into the country’s first and greatest example of the Perpendicular style: the magnificent 225ft tower crowns the achievement.
Beneath the reconstructions of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, some Norman aspects remain, best seen in the nave, which is flanked by sturdy pillars and arches adorned with immaculate zigzag carvings. The choir provides the best vantage point for admiring the east window completed in around 1350 and – at almost 80ft tall – the largest medieval window in Britain, a stunning cliff face of stained glass. Beneath it, to the left (as you’re facing the east window) is the tomb of Edward II, immortalized in alabaster and marble. Below the east window lies the Lady Chapel, whose delicate carved tracery holds a staggering patchwork of windows. The innovative nature of the cathedral’s design can also be appreciated in the beautiful cloisters, completed in 1367 and featuring the first fan vaulting in the country –used to represent the corridors of Hogwart’s School in the Harry Potter films.