Gloucester is a cathedral city on the River Severn and with the Forest of Dean to the west and the Cotswolds to the east, you couldn’t find a more picturesque part of the world. Founded by the Romans in AD 97. Present-day Gloucester Cross once housed a legionary fortress, and the settlement grew around it. You can still see many of the Roman influence today, including at the Gloucester City Museum and Art Gallery, the remains of the East Gate on Eastgate Street, and the four ‘gate’ streets (north, south, east, and west) all follow the same line as their original Roman roads.
Gloucester has a close history with Cardiff, which lies just over the river. This link dates back to the 9th century when Robert Fitzhamon became the first Norman feudal baron of Gloucester and had a military base at Cardiff Castle. Henry II granted Gloucester its first charter in 1155 and thus began the modern era of Gloucester as a city that played a huge part in British History.
To start with, Henry III, at only ten years old, was crowned in the Chapter House of the Cathedral. This cathedral still stands north of the River Severn and originated as the foundation of an abbey. King Edward II and Walter de Lacy are buried here. The cathedral has a remarkable presence in the city, but its cloisters are probably the most recognisable thing about it – having been used in three of the eight Harry Potter films as corridors in Hogwarts.
In the 16 th and 17 th centuries, the city founded two grammar schools – the Crypt School, and Sir Thomas Rich’s School. Both of these schools are still going today, though not in entirely the same location. Two petrol storage depots were built in Gloucester during WWII which connected to the pipeline running between the Mersey and the Avon rivers. It was demolished in the early 1970s due to tank corrosion.
Gloucester is the county town of Gloucestershire and has the 53rd largest population in the UK. It has several outlying districts which have slowly become incorporated into the city over the last few decades. The city is a port, a status awarded to it by Queen Elizabeth I in 1580. It is linked via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, allowing larger ships to get directly there far easier than if they were to travel all the way up the River Severn. The docks were in a state of disrepair until the 1980s when renovations made them an open space for the public. Some of the warehouses now form part of the Waterways Museum, and many others were converted into bars, restaurants and housing. The docks are now a thriving part of Gloucester’s culture.
The culture in Gloucester is also thriving with the Three Choirs Festival (one of the oldest music festivals in the UK) is held here every third year. The main cultural venue in the city is the Guildhall, which hosts any number of concerts, cinema, art galleries, bars, and cafes. There is also the Leisure Centre which hosts live music and has a much larger capacity.
It is also home to the Rhythm and Blues Festival every year at the end of July, as well as a Medieval Fayre, and the Frightmare Halloween Festival – the largest of its kind in the South West. Perhaps one of the most famous places you’ll find Gloucester mentioned is the well-known nursery rhyme – Doctor Foster, who went to Gloucester, got very wet and swore he’d never go back!
The county town of Worcestershire lies south of Birmingham, north of Gloucester and is flanked by the River Severn. It is a cathedral city and is famous for a great number of reasons.
Worcester began as an Anglo-Saxon town, occupied by a group known as Weorgorans lived here – a sub-tribe of the larger Hwicce (who lived in Worcester, Gloucester and parts of western Wiltshire. It was a popular place for monastic learning and Oswald of Worcester (Bishop in 961) was an important reformer during the same time as the Archbishop of York. It became a market town, thanks to its position on the river and the existing road network of the time. The main road between London and Wales ran through Worcester, so provided the residents of the town with a lot of travel options.
During this time, it was also a religious hub – holding many different monasteries up until the dissolution in the 16th century. Greyfriars, Blackfriars, and Benedictine monks all made their home here – and the old Benedictine Priory is now Worcester Cathedral. After the dissolution, Worcester set up many public schools to compensate for the schooling lost when the monks left. This school still stands today – King’s School.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Worcester was responsible for employing nearly half of all glove makers in the country. In 1815 the Worcester and Birmingham Canal opened – further increasing the trade routes available to this town. This led to the reorganisation of railways which made this a highly desirable place to be.
During the Second World War, Worcester was designated as the place an evacuated government would sit, in the event of a German invasion. Where they would have sat is now part of the modern-day West Mercia Police. Large parts of the medieval city were destroyed in the 1950s and 60s, to the outcry of many residents and studiers of architecture. However, many parts of the historic city remain to this day particularly in City Walls Rd, Friar St, and New St.
Nowadays, the city still enjoys its status as a major retail destination thanks to its excellent transport links in all directions. The main shopping centre is Worcester high street and has been revamped and modernised in the 21 st century – to some controversy. There are three shopping centres, an unenclosed shopping area, and three retail parks.
Perhaps the most famous landmark in Worcester is the Cathedral itself which includes the only circular chapter house in the country and is where King John’s tomb is located. However, this isn’t the only landmark in the city, as you can still see some medieval structures such as the city wall. One of the most recognisable features of Worcester is The Hive, a public and university library and archives. The building itself has seven towers and a gold roof and has gained international recognition.
There are many festivals held in Worcester, such as the Three Choirs Festival every third year, as well as the Worcester festival consisting of live music, cinema, theatre and a beer festival! There is also the Worcester film festival and the Victorian-themed Christmas Fayre (which attracts around 100,000 visitors each year!) Worcester is a vibrant and thriving town, with history and modern-day culture everywhere to be found.
In Worcestershire, at the foot of the Malvern Hills, lies the spa town of Malvern. Established in the 11th century by Benedictine monks who built a priory at the foot of the highest peak of these hills. After this, Malvern remained virtually unchanged, until the 19th century when it rapidly grew into the town we recognise today.
The reason for this rapid growth is thanks to the supposed health-giving properties of the water here. This water, and surrounding area, was given high praise by the top physicians of the day –
including the physician for Queen Victoria’s mother. The natural spring water, combined with the beauty of the rolling hills, made Malvern an incredibly attractive place and as such development in Malvern began to make space for tourists.
The, still relatively small, town of Malvern started to bottle and ship the water all over the country –using its medicinal properties as the main selling point. Two clinics were set up in 1842 by Drs James Wilson and James Manby Gully – leading experts in hydrotherapy. The two clinics were divided by gender, with Holyrood House for the ladies and Tudor House for the gents. It was during this time that many hotels started to crop up – some of which are still standing today. By 1865, a mere 23 years after these clinics were established, over a quarter of the town’s 800 homes were hospitality venues. Also during this time, a number of famous people visited the town – Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, and Lord Lytton to name a few.
Great Malvern is the town centre and today is still a bustling hub of activity. Because of the town’s rapid expansion, there are several suburbs of Malvern including Malvern Wells, Newland, Madresfield, and Guarlford. Each suburb was once a local parish, that became a part of Malvern during its urbanisation in the latter half of the 19th century.
During WWII, the Telecommunications Research Establishment moved here for safety, along with the Radar Research Establishment. These two hubs became the major source of employment for people in the town and the technological and scientific industry here has boomed ever since. In 1999, the Malvern Hills Science Park was built – paying homage to the 30 science and technology businesses that call this place their home.
But it’s not just science that Malvern is known for. Many other manufacturers are based here too, such the Morgan Motor Company, Nicholson Organs, and the Chance Brothers. Malvern is also a hub for agricultural activity, with the Three Counties Showground lying just to the south. This showground plays host to the Royal Three Counties Show every June and is one of the most important shows in the agricultural calendar. The date of this show goes back to 1797 but is more popular than ever, with the three-day event nearly doubling the town’s usual population.
The architecture of the town consists mainly of Regency, Edwardian and Victorian styles, though there are new modern builds now included. Much of the architecture is dedicated to the water around the town, which helped it become what it is today.
Malvern is a highly cultural place, with many a novelist, playwright, and poet writing about the beauty found in this part of the world. The Malvern Theatre has hosted many plays, including several new plays which have gone on to be incredibly popular.
Malvern has a wide and varied range of leisure activities, with theatres, cinemas, concert venues, bars, restaurants – the list goes on! The Malvern Hills themselves are a popular place for hang gliding and paragliding if you’re feeling brave!