Saturday, 1 August 2009

Gloucestershire/ Gleawecestre: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series ****

Gloucestershire (pronounced /ˈɡlɒstərʃər/ ( listen) GLOSS-tər-shər) is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean.
The county town is the city of Gloucester, and other principal towns include Cheltenham, Stroud, Cirencester, and Tewkesbury.
When considered as a ceremonial county, Gloucestershire borders the preserved county of Gwent in Wales (now Monmouthshire),

Map of Medieval Wales showing Gwent

and in England the ceremonial counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Bristol. As an administrative county, it excludes the area covered by the South Gloucestershire unitary authority.
According to a 2002 campaign by the charity Plantlife, the county flower of Gloucestershire is the Wild Daffodil.

Gloucestershire is a historic county mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the 10th century, though the areas of Winchcombe and the Forest of Dean were not added until the late 11th century. Gloucestershire originally included the "small town" of Bristol. The "local" rural community moved to the port city, (as Bristol was to become) and Bristol's population growth accelerated during the industriual revolution. Bristol became part of the administrative County of Avon in 1974.
Upon the abolition of Avon in 1996, the region north of Bristol became a unitary authority area of South Gloucestershire and is now part of the ceremonial county of Gloucestershire.
The official former postal county abbreviation was "Glos.", rather than the frequently used but erroneous "Gloucs." or "Glouc.".
In July 2007, Gloucestershire had the worst flooding in recorded British history, with tens of thousands of residents affected. The RAF conducted the largest peace time domestic operation in its history to rescue over 120 residents from flood affected areas. The damage has been estimated at over 2 billion pounds.
The county is recovering rapidly from the disaster, investing in attracting tourists to visit the many sites and diverse range of shops in the area.


1. Gloucester

2. Tewkesbury

3. Cheltenham

4. Cotswold

5. Stroud

6. Forest of Dean

7. South Gloucestershire (Unitary)

The Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Tewkesbury in the English county of Gloucestershire is the second largest parish church in the country and a former benedictine monastery.


The church itself is one of the finest Norman buildings in England. Its massive crossing tower was rated "probably the largest and finest Romanesque tower in England" by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner. Fourteen of England's cathedrals are of smaller dimensions, while only Westminster Abbey contains more medieval church monuments.

Notable monuments

Notable church monuments surviving in Tewkesbury Abbey include:
1107 - when the abbey's founder Robert Fitzhamon died in 1107, he was buried in the chapter house while his son-in-law Robert FitzRoy (an illegitimate son of King Henry I), Earl of Gloucester, continued building the abbey 1375 - Edward Despenser, Lord of the Manor of Tewkesbury, is remembered today chiefly for the effigy on his monument, which shows him in full colour kneeling on top of the canopy of his chantry, facing toward the high altar ~1395 - Robert Fitzhamon's remains were moved into a new chapel built as his tomb 1471 - a brass plate on the floor in the center of the sanctuary marks the grave of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, the son of King Henry VI and end of the Lancastrian line, who was killed in the Battle of Tewkesbury - the only Prince of Wales ever to die in battle. 1477 - the bones of George, "Butt of Malmsey" Clarence, (brother of Edward IV and Richard III) and his wife Isabelle (daughter of Richard "the Kingmaker" Neville) are housed behind a glass window in a wall of their inaccessible burial vault behind the high altar <1539>

Construction time-line

23 October 1121 - the choir consecrated 1150 - tower and nave completed 1178 - large fire necessitated some rebuilding ~1235 - Chapel of St Nicholas built ~1300 - Chapel of St. James built 1321-1335 - choir rebuilt with radiating chantry chapels 1349-59 - tower and nave vaults rebuilt; the lierne vaults of the nave replacing wooden roofing 1400-1410 - cloisters rebuilt 1438 - Chapel of Isobel (countess of Warwick) built 1520 - Guesten house completed (later became the vicarage)


The Chronicle of Tewkesbury records that the first Christian worship was brought to the area by Theoc, a missionary from Northumbria, who built his cell in the mid-7th century near on a gravel spit where the Severn and Avon rivers join together. The cell was succeeded by a monastery in 715, but nothing remaining of it has been identified.
In the 10th century the religious foundation at Tewkesbury became a priory subordinate to the benedictine Cranbourne Abbey in Dorset. In 1087, William the Conqueror gave the manor of Tewkesbury to his cousin, Robert Fitzhamon, who, with Giraldus, Abbot of Cranbourne, founded the present abbey in 1092. Building of the present Abbey church did not start until 1102, employing Caen stone imported from Normandy and floated up the Severn.
Robert Fitzhamon was wounded at Falaise in Normandy in 1105 and died two years later, but his son-in-law, Robert FitzRoy, the natural son of Henry I who was made Earl of Gloucester, continued to fund the building work. The Abbey's greatest single later patron was Lady Eleanor le Despenser, last of the De Clare heirs of FitzRoy. In the High Middle Ages, Tewkesbury became one of the richest abbeys of England.

After the Battle of Tewkesbury in the Wars of the Roses on 4 May 1471, some of the defeated Lancastrians sought sanctuary in the abbey, but the victorious Yorkists, led by King Edward IV, forced their way into the abbey, and the resulting bloodshed caused the building to be closed for a month until it could be purified and re-consecrated.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the people of Tewkesbury saved the abbey from destruction in 1539: Insisting it was their parish church, which they had the right to keep, they bought it from King Henry VIII for the value of its bells and lead roof which would have been salvaged and melted down, leaving the structure a roofless ruin. The price came to £453.
The bells merited their own free-standing belltower, an unusual feature in English sites. After the Dissolution, the bell-tower was used as the gaol for the borough until it was demolished in the late 18th century.
The central stone tower was originally topped with a wooden spire, which collapsed in 1559 and was never rebuilt. Some restoration undertaken in the 19th century under Sir Gilbert Scott included the rood screen that replaced the one removed when the Abbey became a parish church.
Flood waters, from the nearby River Severn, reached inside the Abbey in severe floods in 1760, and again on 23 July 2007.

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