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Episode 28: Gloucestershire

Where is Gloucestershire?

In our twenty-eighth episode we mentioned lots of interesting places and things in Gloucestershire, so here are some pictures and links if you're interested to find out more.

Gloucester Cathedral

With an 1,300 year long history, the Cathedral is one of the most significant heritage destinations in the South West of England. Read on to find out more about the Cathedral’s world-famous architecture, including the magnificent medieval Cloisters and Great East Window.

Forest of Dean

This ancient forest has changed many times over the centuries. In medieval times it was a royal hunting forest, before becoming a source of timber for the navy's Tudor warships. By Victorian times it was a major site of industry, with coal mining and tramways punctuating the landscape.

In 1938 the Forest was designated the first National Forest Park and today the Forest of Dean is a popular destination for tourists.

Today the forest is still a working forest, producing sustainable timber for the UK market.

The Forest is also a stronghold for nature with larges areas of woodland and open space providing a mosaic of habitats for a wide variety of wildlife.

Chedworth Roman Villa

Chedworth Roman Villa was rediscovered by the Victorians over 150 years ago. Leading the way in archaeology and conservation, Chedworth provides a unique insight into life during the Roman period in Britain. 

A modern conservation building provides exceptional access to the extensive mosaic floors, hypocaust systems and bath house rooms. And a small museum houses a range of finds and artefacts from the villa.

As well as all this, the tranquil setting, idyllic views and rich wildlife haven gives plenty of opportunities for walks, relaxation and reflection.

St Briavels Castle

Built in the early 12th century, St Briavel’s was an important royal castle on the frontier with Wales and the administrative and judicial centre of the Forest of Dean – a royal hunting ground where the game was protected and the king alone allowed to hunt.

Edward I added a fine twin-towered gatehouse to St Briavel's in 1292. During his reign the castle was a crossbow bolt factory, using local Forest of Dean iron to produce weapons for his campaigns against the Welsh and Scots.

After the conquest of Wales the gatehouse became a debtor's prison, and the castle is now a youth hostel, set in wonderful walking country.

Berkeley Castle

The Castle is one of the March Castles, built to keep out the Welsh. It has all the trappings to match: trip steps designed to make the enemy stumble during an assault, arrow slits, murder holes, enormous barred doors, slots where the portcullis once fell, and worn stones where sentries stood guard. 

It is also a fairytale Castle with its warm pink stone that glows in soft sunset light. Outside, the battlements drop some 60' to the Great Lawn below; but inside the Inner Courtyard, the building is on a human scale, with uneven battlements, small towers, doors and windows of every shape and size.  The surrounding land would have been flooded for defence.

Sudeley Castle

Today Sudeley Castle remains the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds - Queen Katherine Parr, the last and surviving wife of King Henry VIII – who lived and died in the castle.

Henry himself, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Queen Elizabeth I and Richard III have all played a part in Sudeley’s story. King Charles I found refuge here during the Civil War, when his nephew Prince Rupert established headquarters at the Castle. Following its ‘slighting’ on Cromwell’s orders at the end of the Civil War, Sudeley lay neglected and derelict for nearly 200 years.

Chepstow Castle

Beautifully preserved Chepstow Castle stretches out along a limestone cliff above the River Wye like a history lesson in stone.

There’s no better place in Britain to see how castles gradually evolved to cope with ever more destructive weaponry – and the grandiose ambitions of their owners. For more than six centuries Chepstow was home to some of the wealthiest and most powerful men of the medieval and Tudor ages.

Building was started in 1067 by Earl William fitz Osbern, close friend of William the Conqueror, making it one of the first Norman strongholds in Wales. In turn William Marshal (Earl of Pembroke), Roger Bigod (Earl of Norfolk) and Charles Somerset (Earl of Worcester) all made their mark before the castle declined after the Civil War.

Goodrich Castle

Standing in scenic countryside above the River Wye, Goodrich Castle is one of the finest and best preserved of all English medieval castles. Boasting a remarkable history and unforgettable views from the battlements, it promises a great day out for all the family.

The life of the castle itself began in the 11th century, soon after the Norman Conquest. Strategically placed along the border, Goodrich remained in royal hands until 1204 – when King John awarded it to the famous William Marshal. Sir William was honoured as 'the best knight in all the world' and made his fame and fortune by winning prizes at tournaments.

When William de Valence, a French nobleman, rebuilt the castle in the late 13th century, he created one of the most up-to-date castles of his day. But sadly, much of the castle was ruined in a siege of 1646, when Parliamentarians attacked it during the Civil War. Parliament used a locally made cannon called ‘Roaring Meg’ to bombard the garrison into submission. The only surviving mortar from the Civil War, Meg is now on display in the castle courtyard.

The Ancient Ram, Wooton under Edge

The Ancient Ram Inn is an 800-year-old Grade II listed former Inn. The Deeds to The Ram Inn, are mostly in Norman French and are held at Gloucester Records Office. They read: “The Ancient Ram Inn dates to Time Immemorial,” so it could have been in existence much earlier than 800 years ago.

The Ancient Ram Inn is unique. It was home to John Humphries and operated as a guest house, which then evolved into a paranormal location because it has a life of its own few can ignore.

Dyrham Park

Dyrham Park was created in the 17th century by William Blathwayt. It is an early example of how a fortune made from empire was invested in a landed estate, transforming Dyrham into one of the most notable stately homes of its age.

The 270-acre (110 hectare) ancient steep and sloping parkland is full of magnificent trees and breathtaking views and space for young explorers to run free, be in nature and tick off challenges on their 50 things list. Splendid borders, idyllic ponds and a wildflower orchard are all features of the stunning garden which is being sensitively developed as a 21st-century garden with echoes of the past.

Visitors can get a flavour of the life of William Blathwayt in the late 1600s by stepping into the impressive baroque mansion house with its collection of fine art and Dutch Delftware. His years as a diplomat in Europe, and his several colonial and administrative positions in government, helped to hone – and indulge – his increasingly refined taste.

Snowshill Manor

Charles Paget Wade created Snowshill's magical and eclectic house and garden in the Cotswolds. Wade's upbringing with his grandmother and his education in art and architecture certainly influenced his eccentric life.

This is reflected in Snowshill Manor and Garden, where his grandmother's 'magic' cabinet can still be seen here today.


Hidcote is a world-famous Arts and Crafts-inspired garden nestled in a North Cotswold hamlet, created by passionate plantsman and talented designer, Major Lawrence Johnston.

Covering an area of 10.5 acres the garden takes visitors on a journey through intimate formal areas revealing a different atmosphere or new vista at every turn. Smaller, more formal garden ‘rooms’ near the house, give way to more natural areas that blend in with the surrounding countryside further away. There is a central axis running from East to West and another North to South, forming corridors off which the garden rooms can be found, each one with its own character and personality.

Using Hidcote as a ‘blank canvas’, Lawrence Johnston designed the garden in phases from 1907 to 1938. He furnished borders with newly discovered plants and exotic rarities gathered during plant collecting expeditions from around the world. As a member of both the Garden Society and the Royal Horticultural Society, Johnston and the name ‘Hidcote’ have become synonymous with the best forms of many plants, such as Hypericum ‘Hidcote’, Lavandula ‘Hidcote’ and Rosa ‘Lawrence Johnston’.

Major Johnston was also described by many as the ‘most generous’ of hosts and gardeners, sharing seeds and cuttings with friends, delighting in garden parties, and even opening the doors to Hidcote to the public on a few days each year.

In 1948 Lawrence Johnston gifted Hidcote, now a Grade I listed garden, to the National Trust, becoming the first garden-only property in the Trust’s care.

Uley Long Barrow

Uley Long Barrow is a partially reconstructed Neolithic chambered mound. It is 37 metres long and overlooks the Severn Valley. It's known locally as Hetty Pegler's Tump, after Hester Pegler who owned the land in the 17th century.

The barrow as seen today is largely the result of the excavation and reconstruction undertaken by Dr John Thurnham in 1854 and subsequent repairs in 1871, 1891 and 1906.

Belas Knapp

Belas Knap is a particularly fine example of a Neolithic long barrow featuring a false entrance and independently accessible side chambers. Other examples, such as Uley and Nympsfield barrows, have strongly emphasised entrances with chambers opening out on either side of a central passage.

At Belas Knap the impressive entrance is a dummy and the burial chambers are entered from the sides of the barrow – when closed and covered by earth they would have been invisible from the outside.

It was probably constructed around 3000 BC and was used for successive burials over a period of years until eventually the burial chambers were deliberately blocked.

Opinion differs as to the reason for the false portal. It may have been to deter robbers, although little in the way of value has been found in undisturbed tomb chambers. Alternatively, it could be that the false entrance functioned as a ‘spirit door’, intended to allow the dead to come and go and partake of offerings brought to the tomb by their descendants.

Nympsfield Long Barrow

Nympsfield long barrow stands high on the Cotswold scarp near Frocester with spectacular views over the Severn Valley. Constructed in the Neolithic period, it has long been surrounded by legends and bizarre stories, including one that it was a refuge for lepers.

Excavations were carried out by Professor Buckman in 1862, Mrs Clifford in 1937 and in 1974, when the barrow was redisplayed following further work by Alan Saville.

The remains of at least thirteen human skeletons, as well as Neolithic pottery, have been recovered during excavations. These included a skeleton of a child that was enclosed in a stone cist or coffin in the northern burial chamber.

The excavations also found later Neolithic pottery within the blocking of the entrance to the burial chamber, suggesting that the gallery was closed before the end of the Neolithic period.

Windmill Tump Long Barrow

This barrow, also known as Rodmarton Long Barrow, is of early Neolithic date (4000–3500 BC). It seems that the site was used for burials well after the Neolithic period, as Roman pottery and coins of Claudius Gothicus (AD 168–70) have been found there.

The barrow was excavated in the late 19th century, and also in 1939 when 13 skeletons were found as well as leaf-shaped arrowheads.

When two trees fell down in the great storms of 1987 they revealed a previously unknown chamber situated to the south-west of the north chamber. A large capstone and the bones of a child were also discovered.

Notgrove Long Barrow

Notgrove Long Barrow is a Neolithic chambered tomb. When it was surveyed in 1974, it was approximately 46 metres long, 30 metres wide and a maximum of 1.7 metres high. Excavations were done by G. B. Witts in 1881 and E. M. Clifford in 1934-5. These revealed a dome-shaped chamber within the mound.

They found two burials, a man and a young female. The chamber was built and sealed off before the long barrow was built over it. The long barrow had an inner passage that led into an antechamber, which in turn led into four side chambers and an end chamber.

The excavations within the passage and chambers found areas of burning, Neolithic pottery, human and animal remains (including the almost complete skeleton of a calf), and flints. There was evidence that the barrow had been robbed and disturbed since at least Roman times.

In one chamber, which had not been disturbed, two human skeletons were uncovered beneath a large flat stone. They were accompanied by animal bones and teeth, a leaf arrowhead, and a jet or shale bead. The finds are now held at Cheltenham Museum.

The barrow is now grassed-over and the inner passage and chambers can not be accessed in order to protect the monument.

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