Introduction to Gloucester History

The city centre of Gloucester stands on the site of a Roman fortress dating from the 60s, which by about AD 97 had been made a colonia – a self-governing city with similar rights to those of Rome itself..

The original fortress provided the lines for a defensive wall around the core of the colonia. This is still reflected by the main street names because they led to gateways through the wall, and by the curving corner of Brunswick Road and Parliament Street, which was the corner of the original fortress.

Gloucester was one of three cities captured by the Saxons following the battle of Dyrham in 577.It is still not clear how much of the Roman town survived at this time, nor when the Saxons actually occupied it, although gradually archaeology is helping to clarify the picture. In about AD 900 Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great, and wife of Æthelred, Earl of Mercia, founded a free chapel royal here to house the remains of St Oswald. She probably also refounded the city as a burh and laid out the street pattern which largely survives in the centre. It is thought that she probably also built a palace at Kingsholm Gloucester, which was later used by several Saxon and Norman kings for councils and parliaments. Probably the most famous occasion was that in 1085 after which William the Conqueror ordered the Domesday Survey.

The importance of the city was confirmed by Henry 1st in 1155 by the granting of a charter giving the city privileges equal to those of London. Over the years the City burgesses succeeded in having these liberties confirmed and extended by successive monarchs, culminating in the grant of the full freedom of the town’s self-government by the Letters Patent of Richard III. These also made the city a county in it’s own right. The grant probably stemmed from the city’s refusal to allow Henry VI’s queen Margaret (the She-wolf of France) to cross the river, which led to her defeat by Edward IV at Tewkesbury, and to Richard’s former status as Duke of Gloucester. Richard III is held in particular regard in the city because of this immensely important grant, which created the mayor and common council

Throughout the English Civil War Gloucester stood for Parliament against the King. In 1643 the issue came to head, when the King Charles I demanded the surrender of the city, following his capture of Bristol. The citizens refused, on the grounds that they were ‘wholly bound to obey the commands of his majesty signified by both houses of parliament’. From August 10th to September 5th an army of about 35,000 men camped outside the city, which was defended by no more than 1500 soldiers, and perhaps as many others bearing arms. The city was relieved by an army from London on September 5th, and with it went Charles last real chance of winning the war. In the opinion of most of the contemporary writers Gloucester was the turning point of the English Civil War.

The monarchy was restored in 1660. Charles II did not forget Gloucester, although the former military governor of the city Edward Massie, who had led the successful defence, was now one of his most trusted generals. He commanded that the walls be razed, and that the land previously awarded by Richard III as part of the grant of 1485, should be stripped away.

During the 2nd world war, Gloucester was famous for it’s aircraft and the development of the jet engine by Mr.Frank Whittle. Gloucestershire Airport is at Staverton, mid way between Cheltenham and Gloucester.