Walk 176: Gloucester City Centre Walk

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2.5 miles (4km)

Time to walk: This is a city centre walk so there’s lots of places to visit / explore. You’ll want to spend quite a time in the Cathedral

Difficulty: Flat & all on hard surfaces

Parking: City centre car parks

Public toilets: Plenty in cafes etc

Map of the route:

We visited Gloucester for the first time in October 2022, mainly because we had been given a ‘Treasure Hunt’ as a present. This walk follows part of that route as it takes in the main ‘sights’ in the city, but we’ve also added in our look at the regenerated dock areas

The cathedral city of Gloucester lies on the River Severn, between the Cotswolds to the east & the Forest of Dean to the west, some 17 miles east of the border with Wales.

Founded by the Romans, it became an important city & colony in AD 97 under Emperor Nerva as ‘Colonia Glevum Nervensis’

It was granted its first charter in 1155 by Henry II. In 1216, Henry III, aged only nine years, was crowned with a gilded iron ring in the Chapter House of Gloucester Cathedral. Gloucester’s significance in the Middle Ages is underlined by the fact that it had a number of monastic establishments, including: St Peter’s Abbey founded in 679 (later Gloucester Cathedral), the nearby St Oswald’s Priory, Gloucester founded in the 880s or 890s & Llanthony Secunda Priory, founded 1136. The town is also the site of the siege of Gloucester in 1643, during which the city held out against Royalist forces in the First English Civil War

Economically, the city is dominated by the service industries & has strong financial, research, distribution & light industrial sectors. Historically, it was prominent in the aerospace industry

We’ll look in more detail at the history as we go so….

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk starts in the large paved area in St Algate Street, outside the old ‘Regal’  Cinema

Work on the cinema began in 1939, but stopped with the outbreak of war. The Regal finally opened in 1955, after government restrictions on cinemas had been lifted. The Regal had 1,006 seats in the stalls & 462 in the circle

On the opening night a packed house watched Now and Forever, starring Janette Scott, Vernon Gray, and Jack Warner. There was also an Edgar Lustgarten thriller, Night Plane to Amsterdam, as well as a ‘short’, Journey to the Sea & Pathe News

The first stage show at the Regal featured ‘the thrilling voice’ of David Whitfield. His supporting acts included Harry Bailey, ‘The King of Blarney’

In 1963 the name was changed to ABC. Pop groups often played here including The Beatles. There were further changes in 1974 when the cinema was converted into a triple screen complex.

A change in ownership led to a new name. The ABC became part of the Cannon chain in 1987, but since its refurbishment by J D Wetherspoon’s, the building is once again known as the Regal

2. Facing the pub turn left & walk along St Algate Street…

At the end of the street bear right into Northgate Street & stop to look at The Abbey pub across the road. Note the model on the side of the wall…

Gloucester Abbey was a Benedictine abbey & since 1541 it has been Gloucester Cathedral

A Christian place of worship had stood on the abbey site since Anglo-Saxon times. Benedictine rule was introduced about 1022 & the abbey dedicated to St Peter. In the Middle Ages the abbey became rich & powerful. King Henry III was crowned there in 1216 at the age of nine. King Edward II, who had died in nearby Berkeley Castle, was buried there in 1327 & a shrine erected over his tomb

It’s recorded that the abbey lost about a quarter of its complement of monks in 1377 due to the Black Death. In 1378, when Parliament was held in Gloucester, the king stayed at the abbey.

On 2 January 1540, the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries & granted to the newly created Bishop of Gloucester. We’ll visit the cathedral on this walk

3. On the other side of Hare Lane, & on the market in October 2022, is the ornate Imperial Inn…

The Imperial Inn is a traditional Victorian style pub which dates back to early 18th Century

4. Walk down Hare Lane, one of the city’s oldest streets, whose name is Saxon in origin, derived from the Old English here ‘straet’, meaning military road. It’s very likely that, hidden below the surface, there is an archaeological treasure trove not only of Saxon suburbs, but also Roman buildings…

On the right’s ‘Ye Olde Restaurant & Fish Shoppe’ which was built around 1530 & has its own wishing well. And we can confirm the haddock & chips are very good, but a word of warning…it’s cash only

5. Next to the ‘Fish Shoppe’ is a wonderful mural showing the history of the city with its Roman links…

Take some time to have a good look at the various symbols etc before moving on.

Just past the mural is another ‘beamed’ property…

The plaque on the wall tells you that “This building was probably erected around 1520 at a time when Hare Lane was the main road from Gloucester to the north & before Worcester Street was built. The original use is now uncertain. Although popularly know as the Raven Tavern, it has been established that the Raven Tavern was in fact located in Southgate Street. The present site had for long been associated with the Hoare family who emigrated to America in the 17th century, but there is no evidence to support this. Restored by public subscription in 1949, the building was opened as an Old People’s Centre in 1964”

6. Look in the distance to see Kingsholm Stadium, home of Gloucester Rugby Club

Look at the building opposite the beamed one, on the edge of Pitt Street, which was once the Gloucester Court of Probate…

7. Turn left & walk up through the small garden…

This is St Lucy’s Garden named after St Lucy’s Home for Nurses which once stood here. You’ll arrive at a pointed structure which was the 14th century spire top which was removed for safety from the top of the nearby church of St John the Baptist

8. Turn right through the archway along Cathedral Way…

At the end’s the cathedral & the path splits left & right…

9. Follow the right hand route…the cathedral is quite impressive. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter & was later dissolved by Henry VIII

The cathedral’s noted for its grand Gothic architecture, the 225 foot high central tower that is visible all across the city centre, the particularly elaborate fan vaulting of the cloisters (the first use of this architectural style in the country) & for being the resting place of Edward II, who died in nearby Berkeley Castle – one of the few monarchs not interred in London or the southeast…

The full name is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter & the Holy & Indivisible Trinity. The cathedral building in its present form has remained largely unchanged since the mid 14th century

10. Following the path around to the right you’ll come across a set of arches…

In the 13th century an infirmary was built where you’re now standing, which was connected to the abbey by a covered passage leading to the cathedral cloisters. To the right is Dulverton House. Look above the door to see a shield with some stars & stripes on it. We’ll refer back to this when we go inside the cathedral

11. Walk along the arches & through the one at the end. Many of the buildings you see in this area form part of King’s School which traces its heritage to a monastic school founded in the 11th century in the cloisters of the cathedral.

As you’ll see when we visit the cloisters, they have recently been home to another ‘school’

12. After passing through the arch, the path winds its way down to a lovely square known as Palace Yard

Walk towards the arch in the corner & look for a blue plaque on the left wall. This tells you that Samuel Sebastian Wesley once lived here, a well-renowned organist. Pass through the arch…

13. Turn immediately right & walk through St Mary’s Arch

Straight ahead of you on the other side of the arch’s a monument which commemorates a rather gruesome event that took place here in 1555

John Roy Hooper was an English churchman, Anglican Bishop of Gloucester, later of Worcester & Gloucester, a Protestant reformer & a Protestant martyr. A proponent of the English Reformation, he was executed for heresy by burning on this spot during the reign of Queen Mary I

14. Turn around & walk back through arch. It’s even more stunning from this side…

…& bear right towards the cathedral buildings. To the right’s the War Memorial

15. Look for a plaque on the left as you walk towards the cathedral which commemorates another gruesome outcome…

William Laud was once Dean here & went on to become the Arch Bishop of Canterbury. He was seriously unpopular & on 10th January 1645 was beheaded for treason at the Tower of London

16. Walk around the corner & it’s time to have a look inside the cathedral…

It’s free to get in, but please make a donation towards the upkeep. This is just one of those places where you could explore for ages…

17. We walked around the left side initially where you’ll come across a Union Jack & a Stars & Stripes…

This is a reminder that John Stafford Smith who was son of Martin Smith, the organist of the cathedral between 1743-1782 composed the tune of the National Anthem of the USA

We continued through the choir…

18. Look out for the tomb of Edward II. Many rumours surround the circumstances of his death. Having died at Berkeley Castle (in suspicious circumstances) in 1327, he was buried at here. His tomb was later to become an important pilgrimage site

The popular account that Edward II was assassinated by having a red hot poker thrust into his anus is not supported by modern-day historians. He either was murdered or died of natural causes, but most likely not in the gruesome manner of legend

19. Continue along to the high altar & don’t forget to look up at the amazing ceiling…

What many younger people visit Gloucester cathedral for is its links with the Harry Potter films, scenes of which were shot in the four cloisters. Enter them at your peril & walk around…

20. The cloisters feature heavily in the first two movies & then again in the sixth. As you walk around look out for the wonderful Lavatorium where the troll appeared & various other scenes such as ‘Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom & the writing about the Chamber of Secrets being opened took place…

And then of course at the end of the West Cloister is the door that leads to the Gryffindor Common Room

21. When you’ve finished exploring, come back out of the main door & cross diagonally left. Have a look at the quotes on all the stone cubes…

Walk to the top left corner & into wonderful College Court

22. Enter the court through the magnificent St Michael’s Gate & ahead of you now is what’s known as Gloucester’s most beautiful street…

And immediately on your right’s ‘The House of the Tailor of Gloucester’ now also a dedicated Beatrix Potter store. Go inside & have a look at the wonderful museum upstairs

23. Continue to the end of the Court & turn right into Westgate Street & then turn left into Berkeley Street…

After a few yards pop into the courtyard of the wonderful Fountain Inn, one of the oldest known sites connected with the brewing in Gloucester. It was owned by Peter Poitevin in the time of Henry III, who was probably the bishop who crowned the young King at St Peter’s Abbey (now the Cathedral) in 1216

It was almost certainly an Inn by the early 14th century. A plaque in the courtyard is said to commemorate a visit by William III who allegedly rode his horse up the stairs to show his contempt for Jacobite rebels meeting there

24. Come back out & continue to the end of the street, turning left into Longsmith Street & then right into Ladybellgate Street

Now turn left along Blackfriars. The house on your right’s one of the most complete surviving Dominican black friaries in England. Now owned by English Heritage, it was restored in 1960

The Monastery was known as Blackfriars from the black cloaks the friars wore & comprised a church & a quadrangle. It was established around 1239 under the patronage of Henry III &, at its height, was home to 30-40 friars

The friary went into private hands after the Dissolution of the Monasteries & the conversion of the church into a grand mansion was completed by 1545

The site is today the most complete surviving Dominican priory in Britain, containing the oldest surviving purpose-built library in the country

25. Walk to the end of Blackfriars & cross over Southgate Street to St Mary de Crypt Church

You must go into this church & don’t forget to give them a small donation. The ladies looking after it are so knowledgeable & helpful. The church was first recorded in 1140 & has played an important part in Gloucester’s history since then

The Crypt School was founded adjacent to the church in 1539 by Joan Cooke with money she inherited from her husband John, & the school room still exists, although the school has now moved to larger premises…it’s now a nice cafe

In 1643, during the Siege of Gloucester in the First English Civil War, the church was used as an ammunition factory & store. George Whitefield, one of the founders of Methodism, gave his first sermon at the church in 1736

In 1811, Robert Raikes, the founder of Sunday Schools, was buried beneath the South Chapel. He had been baptised there in 1736…

In 1836, Jemmy Wood, The Gloucester Miser, was buried here. He was the owner of the Gloucester Old Bank who became nationally known as “The Gloucester Miser”. His wealth of around £900,000 was stated at the time to have made him “the richest commoner in His Majesty’s dominions”

Charles Dickens may have been inspired by the stories about the Gloucester Miser to create the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’. A character by the name of ‘Dismal Jemmy’ appears in ‘The Pickwick Papers’ & ‘Jemmy Wood of Gloucester’ is mentioned in ‘Our Mutual Friend’.

Finally don’t forget to look at the rare wall murals…

26. Whilst you’re here it’s worth popping around the back of the church to see the magnificent ‘Storyteller’s Bench’…

…& next door’s Addison’s Folly which was built in 1864 by Thomas Fenn Addison in memory of Robert Raikes who, together with Thomas Stock (both pioneers of the Sunday School movement) in 1780 started a Sunday School to teach poor children to read

27. Walk back to Southgate Street passing the Friends Meeting House…

…& turn right passing the church go through the arch at the end into Marylebone…

Under the arch is a plaque to George Whitefield, co-founder of the Methodist Movement

28. Further along Marylebone’s Gloucester’s own French Bistro, Cafe Rene

Turn around & come back out of the arch. The old school room you visited earlier is on the left of the arch

29. Directly over the road is where the founder of the Sunday School, Robert Raikes lived. He inherited a publishing business from his father, becoming proprietor of the Gloucester Journal in 1757. He then moved the business into Robert Raikes’ House in 1758…

The movement started with a school for boys in the slums. Raikes had become interested in prison reform, specifically with the conditions in Gloucester gaol & saw that vice would be better prevented than cured. He saw schooling as the best intervention. The best available time was Sunday as the boys were often working in the factories the other six days. The best available teachers were lay people. The textbook was the Bible, & the originally intended curriculum started with learning to read & then progressed to the catechism

30. Continue along Southgate Street, stopping outside ‘Baker’s’. Look up at the wonderful clock that’s above the door. You have to wait for it!

There are five bells in this autonomon display that are used to signal the quarter hours & hours of the clock. Each figure has a bell to strike with the centre bell being hit by a hammer attached to a cord pulled by Old Father Time in the centre. The other bell chiming characters are represent the nations of Ireland, England, Scotland & Wales

31. Next door’s St Michael’s Tower which stands at The Cross, where the four main streets of Gloucester (Northgate, Eastgate, Southgate & Westgate) meet. The Cross is also the highest point in the city. The Tower was built in 1465 on the site of the previous St Michael the Archangel. It’s no longer used for religious ceremonies

32. Carry straight on over the crossroads into Northgate stopping outside the New Inn on the right. It doesn’t look too much from the outside but…

…walk through the arch to be transported back to 1450. It’s the most complete surviving example of a medieval courtyard inn with galleries in Britain

The Inn was built in 1450 by John Twyning, a monk, as a hostelry for the former Benedictine Abbey of St Peter. It’s on the site of an earlier inn. After the dissolution of St Peter’s the inn passed to the Dean & Chapter of Gloucester Cathedral & was leased to various inn holders until it was sold in 1858. Stories that the inn was built to provide lodgings for pilgrims to the tomb of King Edward II were first recorded in the eighteenth century & may be incorrect

In 1553, King Edward VI died & Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen from the first floor gallery by the Abbot of Gloucester

It’s thought that William Shakespeare may have performed at the Inn with his company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men as it is known that the company did visit & perform in the city

At 1am on the 7 May 2018, a fire had started at the rear of the Inn which spread to several bedrooms on the second floor, the roof & the bar area & had expanded by 5.50am. Soon afterwards twelve fire engines throughout Gloucestershire had arrived to save the building with Police & Ambulances

33. If you wanted to return to the start of this walk continue up Northgate Street & turn right opposite The Abbey pub

However…we’ve heard that Gloucester Docks are well worth a visit & someone else had read the words “Designer Village!”

So about turn & walk all the way back down Southgate Street & cross the zebra crossing…

34. Walk down the steps to the docks, which are located at the northern junction of the River Severn with the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. They are Britain’s most inland port

The docks include fifteen Victorian warehouses, that are now listed buildings

It also contains the Gloucester Waterways Museum & the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum

35. Bear left & walk along the waterfront…

…where, across to the right’s the charming ‘Mariners Church which opened in 1849 & was frequented by seamen from many nations. In its first 5 years, 2,000 copies of the Bible were distributed

36. Continue in the same direction. Across to your right’s the Gloucester Waterways Museum

The museum opened in 1988. Formerly known as the “National Waterways Museum, Gloucester”, it was one of three museums operated by the Waterways Trust that focussed on the history of canals in Britain. The museum went through extensive refurbishments between 2007 and 2008, adding new galleries. In the summer of 2010 the Gloucester site was renamed the Gloucester Waterways Museum, focussing on the local area

37. Ahead now’s an area known as Gloucester Quays which was opened by Gok Wan in 2009 & is a multi million pound development of designer outlets, restaurants & entertainment complexes

So that’s where our look at Gloucester end & it’s time to move quickly out of the Quays with my wallet intact

It’s a small city we’ve never visited before, but there’s lots to explore & it’s a place we’d definitely recommend

Go Walk!