14TH and 15TH Century Gloucester

This period represent the nd of the middle ages. Around 1321, Gloucester was again in the middle of political arguments between the King and the Barons. The Kings victory resulted in the hanging of John Giffard ( who lead the Barons Group ) in Gloucester. The Cities military importance was decreasing at this time. Its population was about 4000 which made it about a third of the size of Bristol.

1348 was the year of the Black Death. An order was made by Gloucester’s civil authority that no travellers from Bristol should enter the City. Many of Gloucester’s citizens left for the relative safety of the countryside, but the city ordered that they would be fined for every day of absence. The reason for this was that if too many people left the City, then there would be insufficient people left to run the town. Despite these precautions, the plague reached Gloucester in 1349. To give some idea of the death rate, Llanthony priory recorded the death of 19 of the 30 canons.

During the 1300’s and 1400’s, there were 2 principle manufacturing industries; Iron and Cloth goods. Gloucester had an annual fair ( granted in 1301 ) and a weekly market, both of which helped the city to earn it’s living.The King and Parliament came to Gloucester and Parliament met here in 1378,1407, and 1420.

Pilgrims also regularly travelled to Gloucester and in 1327 their numbers increased after Edward 2nd was murdered in Berkley Castle. He was not a popular King when alive, but after his death he was revered as a martyr and a saint. He was buried in the Abbey ( now the Cathedral ) and of course the pilgrims provided a considerable source of income for the Abbey, and Edward 3rd also made donations in the memory of his father.

Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, many Abbey buildings were replaced or repaired with these monies. A new dormitory was started in 1303 and in 1318 the south aisle of the nave was rebuilt. The great south window was built during the reign of Edward 3rd. This is the earliest perpendicular Window now existing in England.The choir was completed in around 1350 and the cloisters were finished by 1400.The tower was built by 1457 and the wonderful Lady chapel was complete by 1499.

The Abbey was also involved  heavily in building speculation and in 1455 it built the The New Inn which can still be seen in Gloucester today

By now many of the crafts had their own guilds which all had their own chapels in one of the local churches and many of them also had their own meeting halls. The most important was the Merchants Guild which met in Booth Hall in Westgate Street. The Tanners Guild was also an extremely important. Many of them worked in Hare Lane ( known then as Tanners Street ). The wool and cloth trades were of course extremely important and all had their own Guilds.

The iron trade was another important source of income for the city at this time and Longsmith Street was named for these merchants.

We must mention here that the butchers and mercers tended to congregate in Westgate Street. One of them was named Richard ( Dick ) Whittington who leased a house next to St. Nicholas Church. The legend that he became Lord Mayor of London was true.

The colonists were given a plot of land in the countryside as well as a house in the town and the governed the town by electing a council of 100 decurions . This council elected four magistrates who organised and financed ( by taxes ) the rebuilding of the new city.