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PUBLISHED: 11:46 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013

Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral

Enchanting stories of mice helping a tailor finish his work, monks scuttling along secret underground passages beneath the majestic Norman Cathedral and the romantic arrival of a fleet of Tall Ships at the city's Victorian docklands.....

"In the time of swords and peri wigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets--when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta--there lived a tailor in Gloucester. He sat in the window of a little shop in Westgate Street, cross-legged on a table from morning till dark."

Beatrix Potter's Tailor of Gloucester

Enchanting stories of mice helping a tailor finish his work, monks scuttling along secret underground passages beneath the majestic Norman Cathedral and the romantic arrival of a fleet of Tall Ships at the city's Victorian docklands, make Gloucester what it is: an eclectic mix of history and mystery. It evokes imagination and curiosity. "What really happened to King Edward II? What did the tailor of Gloucester see from his little shop? And how did it feel to walk the city streets in Roman times?"

Gloucester can't be judged on street value. It does have pockets of beauty, but it's not your chocolate-box location. Instead it has an incredible sense of time and place. It's witnessed adventure and intrigue, murders and martyrdom and it's the birthplace of former Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington; preacher and evangelist George Whitefield and Sunday School Movement founder Robert Raikes.

Peer through a glass observation panel outside Boots in Eastgate Street and Roman remains reveal Gloucester's historic depths. Stretches of original town wall can be seen below the pavement in King's Walk shopping precinct and in the City Museum in Brunswick Street. Known as Colonia Nervia Glevensium, or Glevum, Gloucester owes its name, location and much of its physical layout to almost 500 years of Roman occupation. Many medieval and Tudor period gabled and half-timbered houses survive from earlier periods of Gloucester's history including the New Inn in Northgate Street, where Lady Jane Grey was pronounced Queen in 1553. It was built in 1450 for pilgrims visiting King Edward II's shrine, which lies in the Cathedral, standing majestically in the beautiful setting of College Green, with its great east window and magnificent fan-vaulted cloisters, made of Cotswold-quarried honey-coloured stone. Renowned for its stunning Gothic architecture, the cathedral was considered 'fit for Hogwarts' by Harry Potter film producers and became the perfect backdrop for three films based on J.K. Rowling's books.

But Gloucester is no stranger to the limelight. Its diverse history has attracted many film and television crews. The Victorian Docks' spectacular waterfront and picturesque tableau of impressive converted warehouses, including the National Waterways Museum; vessels, narrow boats, tall ships, ocean-going yachts and pleasure boats proved the ideal film location for Martin Chuzzlewit, The Onedin Line, Buffalo Girls, Vanity Fair, Amazing Grace and The Colour of Magic. It's also a tranquil haven and a place where one can still see traditional boat builders and riggers at work. Granted its port status by Queen Elizabeth I in 1580, Gloucester is linked via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, running from the docks to the Severn Estuary. This allows larger ships to reach the docks than would be possible on the river's tidal reaches. The impressive Severn Bore, a large surge wave and one of Britain's few truly spectacular natural phenomena, is another crowd-pulling attraction. Hollywood film stars regularly exposed to the limelight are susceptible to facelifts. Gloucester is no exception and has recently undergone a dramatic transformation. The vibrant new 250 million Gloucester Quays shopping and leisure development has put the city in a different league with its mix of waterside restaurants, bars and designer shopping centre, hosting over 100 outlets. It's the new home of Gloucester Antiques Centre, a modern day Aladdin's cave of antiques, collectables and curios.

But the city has other treasures. The charming Tailor of Gloucester Beatrix Potter Museum and Shop at College Court enables the child within to get lost in a world of kittens, mice and ducks. The famous Tailor of Gloucester clock in Eastgate shopping centre, represents Potter's enchanting children's story first published in 1903, and features an animated tailor, mice, owl and cat that come to life on the hour.

Gloucester is home to the Gloucestershire Regiment, affectionately known as 'The Glorious Glosters'; Gloucester Rugby, a professional English rugby union team based at Kingsholm; and The Gloster Aircraft Company Ltd (GAC), a British aircraft manufacturer responsible for producing a famous lineage of RAF fighters. One GAC hero Sir Frank Whittle, an aviation engineer and pilot, invented the UK's first jet aircraft.

Gloucester has other claims to fame. The Domesday Book began here as William the Conqueror commissioned the great survey in 1085; Bishop John Hooper got burned at the stake in 1555 and the Siege of Gloucester, a battle of the English Civil War, took place in 1648. According to some theories, Gloucester is home to Humpty Dumpty, the source of the well-acclaimed nursery rhyme. It was in fact a cannon used during this siege which fell off its mountings when fired. Humpty Dumpty's link with the city was also declared in All the King's Men, a children's opera by Richard Rodney Bennett. And of course one must not forget perhaps the most famous visitor of all, Dr Foster. He went to Gloucester in a shower of rain, but having got rather wet in a puddle, decided never to go back. Dr Foster missed something.


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