Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for GLOUCESTERSHIRE, or Gloucester

GLOUCESTERSHIRE, or Gloucester, an inland, but partly maritime, county of England; bounded, on t he NW, by Herefordshire and Worcestershire; on the N, by Worcestershire and Warwickshire; on the E, by Oxfordshire; on the SE, by Berks and Wilts; on the S, by Wilts and Somerset; on the W, by the Severn's estuary and by Monmouthshire. Its outline is somewhat elliptical, extending from NE to SW; but is narrower toward the NE than toward the SW. Its boundary consists partly of the river Avon, the Severn's estuary, and the river Wye; but is mainly artificial. Its greatest length is nearly 70 miles; its greatest breadth is 43 miles; its circumference is, roughly, about 156 miles, -or, following sinuosities, about 245 miles; and its area is 805, 102 acres. About 10 miles of its boundary, along the Severn, is coast. The surface comprises three parts or sections, eastern, central, and western, or hill, vale, and forest. The hill section extends from end to end of the county; is, in some parts, 8 miles broad; bears the name of Cotswolds, from the words cotes and wolds, the old designations for sheep-shelters and hills; has a mean height of between 500 and 600 feet, with culminating summits of 1, 086 and 1, 134 feet; and is partly open down, more largely enclosed sheep-walk; but includes many winding dales, and possesses much good land and pleasant scenery. The vale section also extends from end to end of the county; lies mainly along the river Severn; spreads from the foot of the Cotswolds, partly to the western boundary, partly to the Severn's estuary; includes the vales of Evesham, Gloucester, and Berkeley, together with all the low lands from Tewkesbury to Bristol; and consists chiefly of fine land, variously arable, meadow, and pasture. The forest section is much the smallest of the three; lies on the W side of the Severn; consists chiefly of the Forest of Dean; and is varied throughout with hill and dale. The chief rivers, besides the Severn, the Avon, and the Wye, are the interior Avons, the Fromes, the Isis, the Calne, the Wind-rush, and the Ledden.

A middle oolite, comprising coral rag, calcareous grit, and Oxford clay, forms a small part of the Cotswolds, around Lechlade; a lower oolite, comprising cornbrash, forest marble, Bradford clay, Bath stone, fuller's earth, and inferior oolite, forms most of the Cotswolds, and considerable adjacent parts of the vale; a has, comprising sand, upper has clay, marl stone, and lower has clay and lime, forms the greater part of the vale eastward of the Severn; a trias, comprising new red sandstone and keuper marl, forms a small portion of the vale east of the Severn and south of Tewkesbury, and most of the vale west of the Severn; an upper carboniferous formation, consisting of the coal measures, constitutes two considerable tracts, the one between Wickwar and Bristol, the other in the Forest of Dean; a lower carboniferous formation, comprising limestone and shale, constitutes tracts in the neighbourhood of Thornbury, in the neighbourhood of Bristol, and around the coal measures of the forest; an old red sandstone formation constitutes the rest of the forest; and a tract. of alluvium extends along the Severn coast-line, from the neighbourhood of Northwick to the Avon. Building stone and limestone abound, and are extensively worked. Coal is mined in 60 collieries; and the output of it, in 1859, together with the output in Somerset and Devon, amounted to 1, 250, 000 tons. Iron is worked near the coal; and the produce of the ore, in 1859, was 31, 750 tons. Lead ore also occurs, a little zinc, traces of strontian, and small quantities of various rare minerals. There are mineral springs at Cheltenham, Clifton, Walton, and Gloucester.

The soil of the Cotswolds is, in most parts, a shallow calcareous loam, on a stratum of rubble; but, in the depressions and bottoms, and sometimes on the hills, a stiff clay. The soil of the vale is, for the most part, an uncommonly rich deep loam; in some places black, in others red; sometimes incumbent on compact rock, but generally incumbent on blue clay. The soil of the forest is chiefly sand; in some places peat, in other places a thin limestone debris; generally not very fertile, yet not unfavourable to certain kinds of cultivation. About 10, 000 acres lie waste; only about 500 acres are supposed to be incapable of reclamation; and a considerable aggregate area is under wood. The agriculture is not first-rate, but has been improving; and it differs in complexion, in aim, and in details in the most characteristic portions of respectively hill, vale, and forest. Some estates are large; and the farms are of all sizes, mostly from 200 to 500 acres, and some on leases of from 7 to 21 years. The hill or Cotswolds section has undergone vast improvement since the latter part of last century; now comprises much arable and enclosed pasture land, which formerly was open down; carries on cultivation of corn, with produce of from 16 to 20 bushels per acre, barley, with produce of 32 bushels, turnips, sainfoin, and other crops; has sheep farms of from 200 to 1, 000 acres, pastured by a native breed, estimated at about 550, 000, yielding annnally about 15, 500 packs of wool, and exporting annually about 15, 000 sheep; and generally is characterized by harvests a fortnight later than in the vale, and by stone-wall enclosures. The vale is disposed variously in arable land and dairy land, together with orchards; is intersected with elm, willow, and thorn hedges; grows wheat, with produce of from 24 to 28 bushels, barley, with produce of 40 bushels, beans, with produce of from 20 to 30 bushels, oats, turnips, potatoes, and other crops; includes meadows along the Severn below Gloucester, yielding from 2 to 2½ tons of hay per acre; maintains a good native breed of cattle, whose milk yields from 3 to 4 cwt. of cheese per year, and also excellent butter; and maintains likewise a variety of breeds, chiefly the Staffordshire and the Herefordshire, in training for the shambles, extensively fattened with oil-cake, and exported to the amount of about 10, 000 head a year. Calves and swine are numerously fed; and the swine now are chiefly the Berkshire and cross breeds. An orchard exists on almost every farm; and cider and perry are largely made. The forest section is noted principally for its timber, and for an excellent cider apple; and it formerly bred considerable numbers of a very small and finely-formed sheep, now nearly extinct.

The number of persons employed in the chief manufactures within the county, at the census of 1861, were 2, 655 males and 3, 765 females, in woollen cloth manufacture; 69 m. in wool or woollen dyeing; 9 m. and 10 f., in worsted manufacture; 193 m. and 923 f., in silk manufacture; 58 m. and 68 f., in flax or linen manufacture; 8 m. and 51 f., in lace manufacture; 323 m. and 480 f., in cotton manufacture; 5 m. and 390 f., in calico or cotton-printing; 530 m. and 213 f., in hat-making; 5 m. and 273 f., in straw hat and straw bonnet making; 9 m. and 3 f., in shawl manufacture; 65 m. and 17 f., in button-making; 183 m. and 183 f., in hose manufacture; 13 m. and 564 f., in glove-making and leather-working; 228 m. and 18 f., in rope and cord making; 349 m., in malt-making; 483 m., in brewing; 26 m., in distilling; 255 m., in sugar-refining; 102 m., in soap-making; 112 m., in candle-making; 68 m. and 13 f., in comb-making; 27 m. and 70 f., in hair and bristle manufacture; 320 m. and 26 f., in brush and broom making; 295 m. and 47 f., in basket-making; 339 m. and 58 f., in earthen-ware manufacture; 81 m. and 160 f., in tobacco pipe-making; 169 m. and 4 f., in glass manufacture; 64 f., in pin-making; 75 m., in lead manufacture; 192 m., in brass-founding; 61 m., in wire drawing and wire weaving; 606 m. and 3 f., in iron manufacture; 285 m. in nail-making; 176 m., in boiler-making; 133 m., in the manufacture of chemicals; 363 m. and 12 f., in saddlery and harness making; 540 m. and 5 f., in coach-making; 968 m. in engine and machine-making; 293 nr and 4 f., in watch and clock making; and 55 m. and 4 f., in musical instrument-making. One railway, the Birmingham and Bristol, goes down all the vale, past Cheltenham and Gloucester, to Bristol; branches go from this to respectively Evesham, Malvern, and Dursley; another, the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton, goes across the north-east, past Moreton-in-the Marsh, Chipping-Campden, and Evesham, and sends off branches to Bourton-on-the-Water and Stratford-upon-Avon; another, the Great Western Union, and the Gloucester and Hereford Junction, goes west-north-westward across the centre, past Stroud, Stonehouse, and Mitcheldean, and sends off a branch to Cirencester; another strikes eastward from Cheltenham, curves round to the south-south-east, and goes into junction with the Great Western; another, the South Wales, strikes south-westward from Gloucester, and goes down all the forest side of the Severn; and another, the Bristol and Wales Union, strikes north-westward from Bristol, and goes, by ferry, across the Severn, into junction with the South Wales. The Great Western also, in the portion of its run from Box to Bristol, is everywhere so near the county as to serve as well for this as for Somerset. The canals are the Berkeley and Gloucester, the Stroudwater, the Thames and Severn, and the Hereford and Gloucester. The roads are abundant and good; and those for wheeled carriages have an aggregate extent of about 3, 150 miles.

The county contains 356 parishes or quasi-parishes, parts of 5 others, and 10 extra-parochial tracts; and is cut, for parliamentary representation, into two divisions, E and W. The E division contains the hundreds of Bisley, Bradley, Brightwells - Barrow, Cheltenham, Cleeve, Crowthorne, Deerhurst, Dudstone, Kiftsgate, Longtree, Rapsgate, Slaughter, Tewkesbury, Tibald-stone, Westminster, and Whitstone; and the W division contains the hundreds of Barton-Regis, Berkeley, Bledisloe, Botloe, St. Briavels, Grumbalds-Ash, Henbury, Lancaster-Duchy, Langley, Pucklechurch, Thornbury, and Westbury. The county, prior to the Act of 7 and 8 Vict. c. 61, comprised 807, 931 acres; and there were annexed to it, by that act, the parishes of Kingswood and Poulton, and parts of Iccomb and Overbury, -and severed from it the parishes of Widford, Little Compton, Shenington, Minety, and Sutton-under-Brailes, and part of Lea. The registration county takes in seven parishes from Wilts, two from Hereford, and six and parts of three others from Worcester; gives off one to Berks, three to Somerset, one and part of another to Hereford, ten to Worcester, thirteen and parts of three others to Warwick, and eight and parts of two others to Monmouth; comprises 716, 045 acres; and is divided into the districts of Bristol, Clifton, Chipping-Sodbury, Thornbury, Dursley, Westbury-on-Severn, Newent, Gloucester, Wheatenhurst, Stroud, Tetbury, Cirencester, Northleach, Stow-on-the-Wold, Winchcomb, Cheltenham, and Tewkesbury. The boroughs are Gloucester, Bristol, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Stroud, and Tewkesbury; the other towns, with more than 2, 000 inhabitants and not included in any borough, are Dursley, Tetbury, and Wotton-under-Edge; the other market-towns are Newent, Northleach, Chipping-Sodbury, Chipping-Campden, Coleford, Fairford, Marshfield, Minchinhampton, Mitcheldean, Painswick, Stow-on-the-Wold, Thornbury, Winchcomb, Newnham, Berkeley, and Wickwar; and there are about 1, 230 villages and hamlets. The chief seats are Badminton Park, Berkeley Castle, Stanway, Southam, Woodchester, Barrington Park, Hempstead House, Kings-Weston, Northwick, Sherborne, Stowell, Batsford, Barnsley, Flaxley, Toddington, the Elms, Highnam, Miserden, Seisincourt, Whitcomb, Daylesford, Hill Court, Ablington, Addles-trop, Admington, Alkington, Bibury, Blaize Castle, Boddington, Bromesberrow, Clifton, Cote, Down-Ampney, Estcourt, Gatcombe, Hamsel, Henbury, Hardwicke, Huntley Lodge, Kingscote, Leckhampton, Lydney Park, Lypiat Park, Newark Park, the Priory, Radbrook, the Ridge, St. Margaret's, Sandywell, Sedbury, Little Sodbury, Tortworth, Wick House, William-strip, Wormingham, Prescot, and Rodmarton. Real property in 1815, £1, 315, 726; in 1843, £2, 074, 515; in 1860, £2, 288, 217, -of which £2, 773 were in quarries, £74, 852 in mines, £2, 421 in iron works, £1, 045 in fisheries, £22, 977 in canals, £9, 424 in railways, and £6, 839 in gas-works.

Gloucestershire is governed by a lord lieutenant, about 60 deputy lieutenants, and about 390 magistrates. It is in the Oxford judicial circuit, and in the Home military district. The assizes and the quarter sessions are held at Gloucester. The police force, in 1862, comprised 303 men for Bristol, at an annual cost of £18, 249; and 274 men for the rest of the county, at a cost of £18, 007. The crimes committed, in that year, were 326 in Bristol, and 428 in the rest of the county; the persons apprehended, 284 in Bristol, and 389 in the rest of the county; the depredators and suspected persons at large, 974 in Bristol, and 1, 641 in the rest of the county; the houses of bad character, 290 in Bristol, and 262 in the rest of the county. Two members are sent to parliament by each of the two divisions of the county; two by each of the boroughs of Gloucester, Bristol, and Stroud; one each by the boroughs of Cirencester, Tewkesbury, and Cheltenham. Electors in 1868 in the E division, 7, 515; in the W division, 9, 368. Gloucester is the place of election for the E division; Dursley, for the W division; and there are 25 polling-places. The entire county is in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol. Poor-rates for the registration county, in 1863, £221, 497. Marriages in 1862, 3, 988, -of which 791 were not according to the rite of the Established Church; births, 14, 669, - of which 744 were illegitimate; deaths, 8, 691, -of which 3, 081 were at ages under 5 years, and 275 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 38, 783; births, 133, 926; deaths, 90, 921. The places of worship in the political county, in 1851, were 433 of the Church of England, with 156, 651 sittings; 96 of Independents, with 33, 502 s.; 102 of Baptists, with 26, 783 s.; 12 of Quakers, with 2, 918 s.; 7 of Unitarians, with 1,805 s.; 3 of Moravians, with 780 s.; 144 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 30, 930 s.; 30 of Primitive Methodists, with 3, 401 s.; 7 of Bible Christians, with 614 s.; 3 of the Wesleyan Association, with 280 s.; 30 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 7, 879 s.; 11 of Calvinistic Methodists, with 4, 303 s.; 1 of the New Church, with 90 s.; 8 of Brethren, with 1, 275 s.; 16 of isolated congregations, with 4, 255 s.; 9 of Latter Day Saints, with 1, 140 s.; 14 of Roman Catholics, with 3, 795 s.; and 2 of Jews, with 345 s. The schools were 489 public day schools, with 41, 295 scholars; 794 private day schools, with 14, 923 s.; 606 Sunday schools, with 59, 154 s.; and 26 evening schools for adults, with 782 s. Pop. in 1801, 250, 723; in 1821, 336, 190; in 1841, 431, 495; in 1861, 485, 770. Inhabited houses, 92, 831; uninhabited, 4, 701; building, 559.

The territory now forming Gloucestershire was inhabited, in the ancient British times, by the Dobuni. The part of it east of the Severn was included, by the Romans, in their Britannia Prima; the part west of the Severn, in their Britannia Secunda; and the whole of it eventually, in their Flavia Cæsariensis. It was the seat of much warfare in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasion; it became subject, at the end of that invasion, to the West Saxons; and it afterwards formed part of the kingdom of Mercia. It was, for a time, much harassed by the Danes, under their general Gurmon or Gurmundus; it submitted quietly to the Norman conqueror; it performed distinguished acts in the subjugation of Wales; it took part with Queen Maude against King Stephen; it was much troubled, in the time of Henry II., by incursions of the Welsh; it behaved conspicuously in the barons' wars, under guidance of Gilbert de Clare, then Earl of Gloucester; and it was the scene of many skirmishes and fights, particularly at Bristol, Cirencester, Gloucester, and Tewkesbury, in the civil wars of Charles. I. A noted event was the murder of Edward II., in 1327, at Berkeley Castle; and another was a sanguinary victory over the Lancastrians by the Yorkists, in 1471, at Tewkesbury.- Ancient British camps occur at Sponebed and Towberry-hill; Roman ones, at Broad Barrow, Bourton-on-the-water, Aust-ferry, Grovesend, Iccombe, Lydney, North Cerney, Oldbury, Sapperton, Little Sodbury, Woodchester, and other places; Saxon ones at Almondsbury, Dyrham, Meon-hill, and Willersley; and a Danish relic, called the "the tingle stone, " in Gatcombe Park. Roman stations were at Cirencester and Gloucester; and the Roman roads, Icknield-street, Ermine-street, the Fosse way, and the Julian way, traversed the country. Roman pavements, of interesting character, have been found at Woodchester, Great Witcombe, Cirencester, and other places. Chief mediæval castles were at Berkeley, Beverstone, Brimpsfield, Bristol, Cirencester, Dursley, Gloucester, Kempsford, Miserden, Newnham, St. Briavels, Sudeley, and Thornbury. Great abbeys were at Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Cirencester, Winchcomb, and Hayles; priories, at Hasledon, Horsley, Kynley, and Stanley-St. Leonard; a Templars' preceptory, at Quenington; and interesting old churches, at Bristol, Cirencester, Deerhurst, Elkstone, Fairford, Northleach, and Tewkesbury.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "an inland, but partly maritime, county of England"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Gloucestershire AncC
Place: Gloucestershire

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.