15 fascinating historical facts about Gloucester

From royalty and Roman remains, to world-breaking windows and cheese production, SoGlos unearths 15 fascinating historical facts about Gloucester.

Explore Gloucesters rich heritage, with SoGloss historic hot list.
Explore Gloucester’s rich heritage, with SoGlos’s historic hot list.

With its famous docks, iconic cathedral and history that dates back to Roman times, Gloucester boasts a fascinating history, and SoGlos has been digging deep into the archives to find out about the city’s rich heritage.

Whether you’re an aviation enthusiast, rugby fan, scholar, or simply a history buff, discover 15 fascinating facts about Gloucester, in this fascinating hot list.

1. Royal connections

Boasting one of the most fascinating histories of any school in the county, The King’s School Gloucester dates back to 681, before it was established by King Henry VIII in 1541 as a prestigious new College School – with expectations of the highest standard.

The leading independent school has gone from strength to strength over its history, offering academic excellence, an impressive range of extra-curricular activities, and outstanding pastoral care.

2. A regal coronation

Aside from housing the burial place of King Edward II (one of only a few monarch tombs outside of London), Gloucester Cathedral hosted the coronation of King Henry III in 1216, who was nine years old at the time when he succeeded to the throne.

3. Elver Eaters

Current Gloucester Rugby fans cheer on the Cherry and Whites during matches at Kingsholm Stadium, but this wasn’t always the case, with the team’s former unofficial nickname said to be the ‘Elver Eaters’ – a reference to the unusual eel delicacy, for which there is an annual eating competition in Gloucestershire.

4. Roman remains

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Offering a slice of history in the heart of Gloucester, Roman ruins can be found in the Eastgate underground viewing chamber, showcasing remains of the city from when it was a Roman fortress, with the site including the base of a 13th century tower and a horse-pool.

5. Aviation developments

The first ever British and Allied jet, the Gloster E28, was designed and built by the Gloster Aircraft Company, and powered by Frank Whittle’s jet engine. Many trial flights took off from Brockworth airfield, with a replica of the aircraft on display at the Jet Age Museum.

6. The Tailor of Gloucester

Said to be Beatrix Potter’s personal favourite story, The Tailor of Gloucester was inspired after the author heard the true story of a local tailor and visited his shop in Gloucester, along with sketching images of the city. The original building, now The House of the Tailor of Gloucester museum can be traced back to 1535, and resides close to Gloucester Cathedral.

7. The largest window in the world

The Great East Window at Gloucester Cathedral boasted the accolade of being the largest window in the world when it was installed in the 1350s, and still remains a landmark of European medieval stained glass. Reaching 22-metres high and 12-metres wide, the window is a big as a tennis court.

8. American National Anthem

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Born in Gloucester in 1750, local composer and former King’s School student John Stafford Smith wrote the music for ‘The Anacreontic Song’ which became America’s National Anthem, known as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. A memorial for John now resides in Gloucester Cathedral.

9. The Domesday Book

Extraordinary historical tome, the Domesday Book was planned right here in the county, when William the Conqueror held the Christmas Court in Gloucester back in 1085, directing his men to visit shires across England, and to find out how the land was occupied.

10. Cheese markets

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Gloucester’s Eastgate Indoor Market remains a bustling shopping area in the city, and it’s one with historic – and delicious – roots which date back to 1498, when the market area was set up due to the vast amounts of cheese, including Double Gloucester, being produced.

11. Ivor Gurney’s birthplace

World-renowned poet and composer Ivor Gurney was born at Queen Street in Gloucester back in 1890, attending The King’s School and singing as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral, before going on to write hundreds of poems and songs. The revered musician is now commemorated at Gloucester Cathedral in Thomas Denny’s Ivor Gurney window.

12. Famous matches

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Match-making company, S. J. Moreland and Sons, was established on the outskirts of Gloucester in 1867, and went on to produce the iconic England’s Glory matches – and although the brand went bust in the 70s, the tribute pub, under the same name, still resides on London Road.

13. Crimean War

Gloucester contractor William Eassie made a priceless contribution for troops in the Crimean War, providing shelter in the form of prefabricated wooden huts. In 1854, a group of French soldiers visited the city to observe how the huts were manufactured, before more than 2,000 were dispatched.

14. Sunday school movement

Philanthropist Robert Raikes, the pioneer of Sunday schools, was born in Gloucester in 1736, and was baptised in the city at St Mary de Crypt Church. Famed for his contribution to the promotion of Sunday schools in 1780, Robert used a local paper for publicity, with several schools opening in and around Gloucester across two years.

15. The oldest medieval library in Britain

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One of Gloucester’s most beautiful buildings, Blackfriars Priory boasts the honour of being one of the oldest surviving Dominican priories in the nation. What’s more, literature lovers will be interested to hear that the Scriptorium is the oldest and most well preserved medieval library in Britain.

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