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The real hidden gems of Gloucester

With millennia of history to explore, Gloucester also boasts many off-the-beaten-track attractions that are suitable for groups. We check them out

The New Inn has heaps of history and is still a great place to get a drink or a meal now

Gloucester is one of those modern, history-rich British cities that has been busy reinventing itself in recent years. The result is a wonderful place for groups to visit, with its cosmopolitan atmosphere mixing well with the local passion, expertise and willingness to welcome coaches from the tourist information team.

There’s loads to do, and groups can explore several key periods of history within just a few minutes’ walk of each other. We explore some of the highlights.

Museum of Gloucester

The Museum of Gloucester very much focuses on the timeline history of the city. One of Britain’s most precious Iron Age grave goods is on display here: An intricately designed bronze mirror, which was part of a collection of treasures discovered on top of Birdlip Hill, just outside the city.

The mirror and the other artefacts were part of a female burial, the grave of a woman believed to have been highly important in pre-Roman Gloucester.

The Museum then teaches visitors all about the Roman history in Gloucester, before showing the transition of other cultures, including the Saxons and Normans.

The Museum also hosts both Roman and medieval tours of the city and its Eastgate Chamber. You could be joined by the resident Roman legionary Lucius Sita, bringing to life the Roman history of Glevum (Gloucester’s Latin name).

The Museum of Gloucester takes you through millennia of history

 If all things medieval are your group’s passion, then tag along with Sir Miles Delaney, Gloucester’s medieval mercenary, who can enlighten you on all the pleasant and not-so-pleasant facts the city has to offer.

Gloucester Guildhall

Gloucester’s historic Guildhall is a distinctive venue for meetings, entertainment and corporate events. It was originally built in 1890 and opened in 1892 on the site formerly occupied by old Blue Coat Hospital.

On the ground floor it housed offices for the town clerk, accountant, surveyor and other officials, with council chambers, committee rooms, the Mayor’s parlour and a public hall on the first floor.

The Mayor’s Ball used to be held each year in what is now the theatre, and remained in use for council meetings and as the chief executives’ offices until 1985.

A large-scale refurbishment between 1985 and 1988 turned the place into a lively arts venue, and Gloucester Guildhall has been entertaining, educating and invigorating the area ever since.

The historic Guildhall is now Gloucestershire's 'liveliest venue'

Now known as the ‘county’s liveliest venue’, it’s kept busy with live shows, concerts, film screenings, conferences, exhibitions, comedy nights, cabaret, theatre, celebrity appearances, club nights and theme nights. There is also a lovely, welcoming café to visit in the day.

Blackfriars Priory

Blackfriars Priory, with its magnificent timbered roof, is the most complete example of a medieval Dominican priory in Britain.

The original medieval cloister, completed in 1239, includes the scriptorium where the friars were trained for their preaching mission over 750 years ago. The original study cells or carrels are housed in the oldest surviving library building in the country.

Following renovations, the beautiful historic fabric has been retained and you can now experience the beauty of the site including the private courtyard garden, the magnificent scale of the original scissor-braced roof, and the Scriptorium, the oldest and most well-preserved medieval library in Britain.

The site is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays from April-September (except for event bookings).

The New Inn

The New Inn is a timber-framed pub, hotel and restaurant.

It is the most complete surviving example of a medieval courtyard inn with galleries in Britain, and is a Grade I-listed building, as well as a site of historical importance: The announcement of Lady Jane Grey's succession to the British throne was made from the Inn gallery in 1553.

The Inn was also used for travelling mummers as a place to depict Shakespeare’s works.

Blackfriars Priory is the most complete medieval Dominican priory in the UK

In more recent times, the Inn was the scene of one of the Rolls Royce founders being run over by his own car when working on its engine – thankfully he was unhurt. There is also a lot of alleged paranormal activity connected to the Inn.

St Oswald's Priory

St Oswald's Priory was founded by Lady Aethelflaed of Mercia, daughter of Alfred the Great, around 900. The priory church, initially dedicated to St Peter, was constructed from recycled Roman stones.

At this time it was a bold and unusual move to build a church, as there were frequent Viking raids. At first it was a Christian cemetery, but in 909 the relics of Saint Oswald were taken there.

The building was re-dedicated to St Oswald, and it is thought that Aethelflaed and her husband were later interred in the crypt. Lady Aethelflaed has often been overlooked in English history, but in recent years her importance as a ruler has reignited among historians and academics. She has been represented most recently in the BBC’s popular TV series The Last Kingdom.

Regeneration

There is a real focus at present on regenerating parts of the city. A new bus station is currently being built to replace the old and very weary one. Groundworks are now complete and the new station is hopefully going to be complete by March 2019.

There is also a bid to regenerate Gloucester railway station. The city has a great and nostalgic history of railways, and there are feelings that the station should reflect this.

The House of the Tailor of Gloucester, a tiny museum and shop

It is hoped that a new Wagonworks Museum will open in the next few years, displaying the work of the people of Gloucester in this important local industry.

At the site of the old Victorian Prison (which currently has a short-term lease allowing it to open every day as an attraction), and the surrounding Blackfriars Quarter, there is a huge project in place to re-clad the County Council Offices, creating new student and residential accommodation with architecture that tips its hat to the adjacent Gloucester Docks.

As part of this the Quay, a road which connects Westgate Street to the Docks, will also be given a much-needed makeover that will allow passengers in the Westgate Street Coach and Car Park to enjoy a scenic stroll along the River Severn down to the ever-popular Gloucester Docks.

The Cathedral is nearing the final stages of its Project Pilgrim, which has seen major changes to the outside of the site, allowing a much more pleasant visitor experience. 

Other attractions

Gloucester Cathedral boasts Gothic architecture on a par with York Minster's, the most complete cloisters in Britain, and royal connections: It was both the crowning place of Henry III, and the burial place of Edward II. Tours take in its many special stories, and its TV and film appearances.

The House of the Tailor of Gloucester is a small but charming museum and shop close to the cathedral in College Court. This area inspired Beatrix Potter to write The Tailor of Gloucester, which she described as her favourite book. Learn about the story and shop for Beatrix Potter books and souvenirs.

Gloucester Quays Outlet is an elegant shopping centre in Gloucester's fabulous revived docks. It sells many leading brands, including Denby, Fatface, Jaegar, M&S Outlet, Ted Baker – and a Cath Kidston store is opening shortly. It also has an exciting programme of group-friendly events.

Group planning

Gloucester's TIC team have masses of knowledge and passion for their city, and are very good at making groups feel welcome. Call 01452 396572 to speak to the team.