Back in the Jurassic period, Gloucester was nothing but swampland.
When the Romans settled, they had to drive stakes into the ground to hold the buildings up, rather like rafts.
Builders today still use the same method, except their stakes are made of steel rather than wood.
The Romans built a large fortress called Glevum, centred on a cross.
The four gate streets, North, South, East and West followed much the same lines as they do today.
Glevum became a Colonia in AD97. As the residence of retired legionaries, it enjoyed the highest status in the empire.
Inhabitants along Eastgate Street lived in substantial stone houses. The most affluent had mosaic floors, under-floor heating and decorated plaster walls.
An account in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that in AD577 Saxon Warlords, Cuthwin and Ceawlin, “slew three kings, Commail, and Condida, and Farinmail…and took from them three cities, Gloucester, Cirencester, and Bath."
The Roman town was still impressive during Saxon rule, although decayed, with the city walls largely ruined.
The Jewish community of Eastgate Street was one of the most important in Medieval England.
The site of their synagogue was opposite St Michael’s church, most likely where Thorntons is today.
In 1217, Henry III confirmed the right of the Jews of Eastgate Street to live in Gloucester. But in 1275, wicked Queen Eleanor revoked that right and expelled the entire Jewish community to Bristol.
In 1327 the body of King Edward II was buried at St Peters Abbey. A stream of pilgrims followed, and Gloucester prospered.
Many entered or exited the city via East Gates.
The market at the cross and along the gate streets would have been crammed with stalls and activity, with everyone trying to tempt the visitors to part with their money.
The rights to Barton Fair were granted in 1465.
The fair went through various incarnations as a pig fair, a cheese fair, a livestock fair and later the city’s principal pleasure fair.
It had virtually died out, except for a small annual funfair in Gloucester Park, until the Barton Residents Association revived the Fair in the 1990s.
Gloucester suffered frequent outbreaks of plague with epidemics in 1565, 1573, 1577, 1580, 1593 and 1637.
They closed the City Gates to try to keep contagion out, which in practice had little effect on the spread of the disease.
The Siege of Gloucester took place during the English Civil War between August 3 and September 5, 1643. Gloucestrians demolished houses in the suburbs, including Barton. East Gate was attacked by cannon fire. The Royalists also tried to tunnel under it, but their attempts to breach the City’s defences were in vain. The siege ended with the arrival of a relieving Parliamentarian army under the Earl of Essex.
To watch our music video about the siege, please click the tab above.
Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. Displeased with Gloucester’s alliance to the parliamentarians in the civil war, he ordered the demolition of the city walls and reduced the city’s boundaries, leaving Barton outside the control of the Mayor of Gloucester. Barton residents responded by inventing their own ‘Mock’ Mayor, to poke fun, who was always installed on 'Wap Monday', at the opening of the medieval Barton Fayre.
The tradition died out in mid-Victorian times, but was revived in the late 1990s and continues to be popular to this day.
Sir Thomas Rich’s Bluecoat School opened in 1667. It was named in honour of its patron, who left his house and £6000 in his will to start the school for 20 poor Gloucester boys.
The boys all wore blue drugget gowns and caps, hence the name, ‘Bluecoat’ school.
Although the site has moved to another part of town, the school is still going strong.
Their orchestra worked with Tier 5 to learn and play a new composition written especially for this project.
Barton Street used to begin just outside the original East Gates (where Boots is now).
The mid 17th century saw the beginning of a phase of new, impressive houses on Barton Street, which came to be known as the posh part of town.
The photo shows an example of one of these mansions (later called Mynd House), which was built in 1800 by Barrister and Banker, William Fendall.
Notorious Gloucester character, Jemmy Wood started life as a Bluecoat School boy. He went on to own the Gloucester Old Bank and became known nationally as ‘The Gloucester Miser’.
He had huge riches, but he didn’t like to spend them.
His notorious stinginess even inspired Charles Dickens’ classic character, Ebenezer Scrooge.
The existing Vauxhall Inn (now an Asian supermarket) was built in 1876.
It replaced the original Vauxhall and Tea Gardens, which at one time had a private zoo.
The Gardens were built over with terraced housing in 1863.
With the introduction of the railways, the mid-late nineteenth century saw the Barton area transformed by the construction of terraced streets that still characterize the area today.
The Guildhall was built in the early 1890s on the site of the original Bluecoat School.
It was one of many prominent buildings erected around that time that transformed the appearance of the old city.
As the civic headquarters, The Guildhall hosted many important functions including a state dinner with King George V.
It was converted into an arts venue in 1987, and now houses a cinema, bar, exhibition space and a thriving theatre/music venue.
Gloucester’s Public Baths opened on Barton Street in 1891, in the building where Liquid nightclub is today.
They included two indoor swimming pools, once convertible for use as a gymnasium, and a suite of Turkish Baths.
The main pool was opened on 30th July 1891 by the then Mayor, Joseph John Seekings.
At that time, no one dreamt that ordinary folk would ever have baths in their own homes.
A smallpox epidemic killed 434 people across the city, despite the inoculation programme of Edward Jenner’s famous vaccine discovered in 1796.
Most cases occurred in the slums to the southern half of the city, where it has been suggested that poor sewerage contributed to the spread of the disease.
The horror and devastation would have affected and frightened the people of Barton and Eastgate Streets, and everyone across the city.