A history of College Street Gloucester
By Geraldine Walters
College Street is a short street that gives access to Gloucester cathedral from Westgate St.Although it is less than 100 meters long it contains many attractive features, and has a long and interesting history. We shall begin with a brief look at that history and then move on to discover how college St looks today.
College Street has had many different names over the centuries. The earliest record of the street was in 1139, when it was known as ” Lychlone”. The word “Lich” was used to describe a roofed gateway to a churchyard. This was quite fitting as the lane ran opposite the porch of Holy Trinity Church ( in what is now Westgate St. ) to the Abbey gate called St. Edwards Tower, or the Lich Gate. Since then , this little lane has been variously known as Saint or King Edwards Lane, The little street of the Holy Trinity , Turries ( Tower ) Lane , Craftislone ( Craft Lane ) , Iron mongers Row , Peters Lane and Lower College Lane. The latter was used in the 18th century changing to college street in 1780. The name King Edwards Lane was used later ( 1826 ) for an alley, also called Upper George Passage, on the east side of college street which is still there today.
An interesting fact is that when Henry V111 and Anne Boleyn visited Gloucester on July 31st 1535, they entered the grounds of St Peters Abbey ( Gloucester Cathedral ) not by the main gateway in St. Mary’s Street, but by ” Seynt Edwardes Lane ” ( college St )
Apart from it’s use as an access to the Abbey, College Street was initially residential. In 1455, Robert Cole, then Canon of Llanthony Priory compiled a list of Rentals of the Houses in Gloucester. This shows that on both sides of Lich Lane ( as it was then known were tenements with vacant land to the rear. It also gives details of those people who held the tenancy at that time. ( This list was issued in 1890 under the authority of the Corporation of Gloucester ).
As the population of the city and it’s trade grew, some of the properties in the lane became commercial. This may also account for various name changes such as Ironmongers row. This can be seen here
This photograph shows ho narrow college street was; it was originally only 10 feet and 9 inches wide. It was widened by the Gloucester Cathedral Approaches Company in the 1890’s. This was to provide a ceremonial access to the Cathedral.
This photo shows what a considerable difference was made to the appearance of the street.
We will begin our examination of the street outside Youngs Menswear which occupies the building on the west side of college street at it’s junction with Westgate Street.This building has a long history in Gentlemens Outfitting. Youngs have occupied the premises since 1960, before which it was Wearwells, another menswear shop who had traded from the building since before 1890. At this time the main door to the shop was on the corner of the building which was rounded.Since then the building has been extensively modernised and the corner cut.The shop front of No. 1 College Street has been incorporated into a display window for Youngs, and the area where the door would have originally been has been filled with rather ugly concrete blocks. As for the construction of the building itself, it is of red brick with a tiled roof.As can be sen from the photo, the brickwork of the corner building and that of next door do not match.The brickwork of the latter appears to be older, so I would assume that although the buildings may date from around the same period, ( early to mid 19th century ) the facade ofcorner building was renovated at the same time as the shop front. The corner building itself consists of 3 floors. The ground floor is shop front, the first and second floors display white framed sash windows
It is currently owned by Gloucester Pottery & Picture Framing, who also own and trade from No.5. No.3 has retained it’s Victorian shopfront and doorway. These are protected by decorative black wrought iron work. He first and second floors each have a pair of sash windows with white painted frames, sills and lintels. Above the second floor right hand window is a small dormer window, suggesting that use is made of the loft space. Slightly to the left and rear of this window is a red brick chimneystack.
Numbers 5,7,9 and 11 College Street are housed in one of the oldest buildings in the street. No.5 belongs to Gloucester Pottery. Numbers 7 & 9 house a shop named Charlous, which sells rather expensive knick-knacks. Number 11 is a rather cosy little Café aptly named ” The Comfy Pew “.( I do recommend the tea cakes ) The first floor is occupied by the College Green eating house.
This is a black and White timbered building comprising of two stories under a slate roof, set into which are 5 dormer windows, possibly indicating a loft conversion. The ground floor consists of the shop frontages of the previously described businesses. The first floor has 6 square casement windows, one pair of windows above each of the three shops.
I have to admit that I have no idea of the age of this building. I have no doubt that it predates 1876. It was once a servants registry office and has also housed a gunsmith. The building has obviously been extensively renovated, but care seems to have been taken to keep it as near to its original appearance.
Moving along the street towards the Cathedral, the next building you come to is King Edwards Gate. This is the oldest structure in College Street. A plaque on the wall states that it was at this gate that the Abbot of St. Peters ( one John Thoky ) received the body of King Edward 2nd for burial following the Kings murder at Berkley Castle in 1327. The gate originally consisted of 2 gate houses with a room above. This room was leased as a dwelling until it was removed in 1805 or 1806 leaving only the piers standing. The pier on the eastern side was removed in the 1890s when it’s site, and the house adjoining were taken for the widening of College Street. The remaining portion of the western gatehouse that we can see today dates from a rebuilding by Abbot Malvern in the early 16th Century.
While standing by the old gatehouse, one cannot help noticing the beautiful new gates that grace the southern entrance to the Cathedral. A wall plaque on the eastern side of the street informs us that these gates were planned as part of the 900th anniversary of the Cathedral building and were erected in 1992. The ironwork was obviously cast earlier as the date above the pedestrian gates reads 1989. Moulded into the top of each pillar are shields bearing the crossed keys device. These represent St. Peter for St. Peters Abbey, which was the Cathedrals identity until 1541.
This brings us now to the eastern side of College Street. Just adjacent to the gates there is on the eastern side a gateway that leads into a small lane or alley ( as previously referred to , this was called King Edwards Lane or Upper George Passage, though I cannot find any reference to it having a name at all now.) The gateway is surmounted by a room which bridges the corner building of College Green to a large building constructed of red brick with timber gables. This building was designed by Waller & Sons; local Architects of the late 19thcentury who are also responsible for many of the other beautiful buildings of the City, including the City museum and St. Catherine’s Church. The building in college Street was erected in 1892/3 as a range of shops when the street was widened. Although one of the shops is presently unoccupied, the other four contain a beauty salon, a music shop, an Artists suppliers and a gentleman’s outfitters. The latter has a Westgate address as it occupies the corner property.
The building was designed after the Tudor style; in the manner of its projecting casement window on the second floor, with its beautifully carved wooden lintel and equally ornate gables. The first floor window directly below is larger but less ornamented. Below this runs a tiled porch along the length of the building. In line with the first floor windows there are large arched shop windows on the ground floor with it’s corresponding door to the right ( as you face them )
The rapidly changing society in which we live appears to have had little effect on College Street. Over the centuries, countless numbers of pilgrims flocked to the tomb of Edward 2nd. The inhabitants of the lane whence they entered the Abbey grounds would not have been slow to realise that here was a market for their wares. Now the ” pilgrims ” who come to the Cathedral may seem different, but they can still meet their needs in College Street; food and drink, clothing, souvenirs and the like.
I think College Street is a charming little street of which Gloucester may be justly proud. Unlike many other area of the City which suffered greatly at the savage hands of misguided town planners in the 1960s, College St. has survived virtually unscathed. It is very well maintained and is kept exceptionally clean. The widening of the street was an estimable move, one that we can all enjoy today as we turn into College Street to be greeted with a magnificent view of Gloucester Cathedral.
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With Grateful thank to Geraldine Walters