1902 Encyclopedia > Gloucester (County), England

Gloucester (County), England

GLOUCESTER, a county in the west midland district of England, bounded on the N. by Worcester and Warwick, on the S. by Somerset, on the E. by Oxford and Wilts, and on the W. by Hereford and Monmouth. The river Wye forms the western boundary line, the Stratford Avon part of the northern, the Bristol Avon the south-western, and the Thames for some miles the south-eastern. The shape of the county is irregularly elliptical, its greatest length in direct line from Bristol to Clifford Chambers (N.E.) being 54 miles, its greatest width from Down Ampney to Pres-ton, near Ledbury, at right angles, 33 miles. The area, according to the tithe surveys—deducting 3000 acres of detached land incorporated by an Act of 1844 with the counties of Worcester, Warwick, and Wilts, by which they were surrounded, and 17,688 acres of water—amounts to 805,102 acres, mostly cultivable. The county contains 29 hundreds, among which are grouped 351 parishes, 227 tithings, liberties, and hamlets; and the parishes are arranged in 17 poor law unions for the relief of the poor, and 21 petty sessional divisions for the administration of justice and sanitary purposes. Electorally Gloucestershire is divided into the two divisions of East and West Glouces-tershire, each returning two members. The latter com-prises Dean Forest to the Severn bank (the " Eye between Severn and Wye " of the local proverb), and the country S. of the former river to S.E, and N.E. of Dursley, the chief polling place of the division. East Gloucestershire, comprehending the rest of the county, has its chief polling places at Gloucester and Cheltenham, and besides these boroughs, the former of which returns two members and the latter one, has within its limits the boroughs of Stroud with two members, and Tewkesbury and Cirencester with one each. West Gloucestershire, sharing with North Somerset the city of Bristol, sends two more members to parliament, so that the total representation of the county is 13 members. Gloucestershire contains 28 market-towns and 2 cities.

The population of the county in 1851 was 458,805 (218,187 males and 240,618 females); in 1861 it was 485,770 (229,009 males and 256,761 females); and in 1871 it had increased to 534,320 (251,943 males and 282,377 females). Since the first census in 1801 the population has increased by 283,917 persons, or 113 per cent.
Tetbury 3,349
Newent 3,168
Dursley 2,617
Wotton-under-Edge 2,314
Newnham 1,483
The population of the principal towns at the census of 1871 was as follows :—
Bristol city 182,552
Cheltenham 41,923
Gloucester 18,341
Stroud 7,082
Cirencester 6,096
Tewkesbury 5,409

The county has three natural divisions, the hill, the vale, and the forest, parallel to each other north and south. (1.) The hill country, which, except the high ground of the Forest of Dean, consists wholly of the Coteswolds, a range extending from Broadway near Chipping-Campden on the north to Bath on the south, and from Birdlip hills on the west to Burford on the east, and traversing the eastern side of the county at an average elevation of 700 feet, though in parts, as at Cleeve Hill near Prestbury, it is 1134 feet above the level of the sea. It covers nearly 300,000 acres of undulating table-land, locally subdivided into the Southwolds betwixt Bath and Badminton, the Stroudwater hills betwixt Tetbury and Woodchester, and the Coteswolds proper, or the rest of the hill country northward. (2.) The Vale, or that level tract extending from the base of the Coteswolds to the east bank of the Severn, the upper or nor-thern part of which expanse is known as the vale of Glou-cester, and embraces Gloucester, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, and some 50,000 acres; whilst the lower is the vale of Berkeley, a tract of similar area reaching from Aust Cliff on the Severn opposite the mouth of the Wye to Robin's Wood hill, two miles south-east of Gloucester. The vale of Gloucester is a continuation of the vale of Evesham. (3.) The Forest division is the peninsula lying between the Wye and the Severn, in modern times limited to the Forest of Dean, but anciently occupying all Gloucestershire west of Severn, and covering some 43,000 acres. The area of the present forest is 23,015 acres, 11,000 of which are enclosed. Its length from north to south is 20 miles, its breadth (east to west) 10 miles.

Geology.—Though the igneous rocks are little de-veloped, the great variety of sedimentary deposits makes Gloucestershire a rich field for the geologist. At

Damory, Charfield, and Woodford is a patch of green-stone, the cause of the upheaval of the Upper Silurian basin of Tortworth, in which are the oldest stratified . rocks of tbe county. Of these the Upper Llandovery is the dominant stratum, exposed near Damory mill, Micklewood chase, and Purton passage, wrapping round the base of May and Huntley hills, and reappearing in the vale of Woolhope. The Wenlock limestone is exposed at Falfield mill and Whitfield, and quarried for burning at May hill. The Lower Ludlow shales or mudstones are seen at Berkeley and Purton, where the upper part is probably Aymestry limestone. The series of sandy shales and sand-stones which, as Downton sandstones and Ledbury shales, form a transition to the Old Red Sandstone, are quarried at Dymock. The " Old Red " itself occurs at Berkeley, Tort-worth Green, Thornbury, and several places in the Bristol coal-field, in anticlinal folds forming hills. It forms also the great basin extending from Ross to Monmouth and from Dymock to Mitcheldean, Abenhall, Blakeney, &c, within which is the Carboniferous basin of the Forest. It is cut through by the Wye from Monmouth to Woolaston. This formation is over 8000 feet thick in the Forest of Dean. The Bristol and Forest Carboniferous basins lie within the synclinal folds of the Old Red Sandstone; and though the seams of coal have not yet been correlated, they must have been once continuous, as further appears from the existence of an intermediate basin, recently pierced, under the Severn. The lower limestone shales are 500 feet thick in the Bristol area, and only 165 in the Forest, richly fossiliferous, and famous for their bone bed. The great marine series known as the Mountain Limestone, forming the walls of the grand gorges of the Wye and Avon, are over 2000 feet thick in the latter district, only 480 in the former, where it yields the brown hematite so largely worked for iron even from Roman times. It is much used too for lime and road metal. Above this comes the Mill-stone Grit, well seen at Brandon hill, where it is 1000 feet in thickness, though but 455 in the forest. On this rest the Coal-measures, consisting in the Bristol field of two great series, the lower 2000 feet thick with 36 seams, the upper 3000 feet with 22 seams, 9 of which reach 2 feet in thickness. These two series are divided by over 1700 feet of hard sandstone (Pennant Grit), containing only 5 coal-seams. In the Forest coal-field the whole series is not 3000 feet thick, with but 15 seams. At Durdham Down a Dolomitic conglomerate, of the age known as Keuper or Upper Trias, rests unconformably on the edges of the Palaeozoic rocks, and is evidently a shore deposit, yielding dinosaurian remains. Above the Keuper clays come the Penarth beds, of which classical sections occur at West-bury, Aust, &c. The series consists of grey marls, black paper shales containing much pyrites and a celebrated bone bed, the Cotham landscape marble, and the white Lias limestone, yielding Ostrea Liassica and Cardium Rhceti-cum. The district of Over Severn is mainly of Keuper marls. The whole Vale of Gloucester is occupied by the next formation, the Lias, a warm sea deposit of clays and clayey limestones, characterized by ammonites, belemnites, and gigantic saurians. At its base is the insect limestone bed. The pastures producing Gloucester cheese are on the clays of the Lower Lias. The more calcareous Middle Lias or marlstone forms hillocks flanking the Oolite escarpment of the Coteswolds, as at Wotton-under-Edge, and Church-down. The Coteswolds consist of the great limestone series of the Lower Oolite. At the base is a transition series of sands, 30 to 40 feet thick, well developed at Nails-worth and Frocester, Leckhampton hill is a typical section of the Lower Oolite, where the sands are capped by 40 feet of a remarkable pea grit. Above this are 147 feet of free-stone, 7 feet of oolite marl, 34 feet of upper freestone, and 38 feet of ragstone. The Painswick stone belongs to lower freestone. Resting on the Inferior Oolite, and dipping with it to S.E., is the "fuller's earth," a rubbly limestone about 100 feet thick, throwing out many of the springs which form the head waters of the Thames. Next comes the Great or Bath Oolite, at the base of which are the Stonesfield " slate " beds, quarried for roofing, paling, &c, at Sevenhampton and elsewhere. From the Great Oolite Minchinhampton stone is obtained, and at its top is about 40 feet of flaggy Oolite with bands of clay known as the Forest Marble. Ripple marks are abundant on the flags; in fact all the Oolites seem to have been near shore or in shallow water, much of the limestone being merely com-minuted coral. The highest bed of the Lower Oolite is the Cornbrash, about 40 feet of rubble, productive in corn, form-ing a narrow belt from Siddington to Fairford. Near the latter town and Lechlade is a small tract of blue Oxford Clay of the Middle Oolite. The county has no higher Secondary or Tertiary rocks ; but the Quaternary series is represented by much northern drift gravel in the Vale and Over Severn, by accumulations of Oolitic detritus, including post-Glacial extinct mammalian remains on the flanks of the Coteswolds, and by submerged forests extending from Sharpness to Gloucester.

Agriculture.—In the soil of the hill country is so much lime that a liberal supply of manure is required. This is provided by folding sheep, and by paring and burning tbe turf and strewing the ashes on the surface. Good crops of barley and oats are thus obtained, and even of wheat, if the soil is mixed with clay. But the poorest land of the hill country affords excellent pasturage for sheep, the staple commodity of the district; and the sainfoin, which grows wild, yields abundantly under cultivation. The Coteswolds have been famous for the breed of sheep named from them since the early part of the 15th century,—a breed hardy and prolific, with lambs that quickly put on fleece, and become attempered to the bracing cold of the hills, where vegetation is a month later than in the vale. Improved of late years by judicious crossing with the Leicester sheep, the modern Coteswold has attained high perfection of weight, shape, fleece, and quality. The ewes are good mothers; the wool produce, of which the staple is long and mellow to the hand though rather coarse in quality, is an important item, averaging from 7 to 8 lb a head in a Coteswold flock. An impulse has been given to Coteswold farming since the chartering in 1845 of the Royal Agri-cultural College at Cirencester, to instruct young men in farming and the kindred sciences. The pupils engage in the cultivation of a farm of 700 acres attached to the col-lege, a Gothic structure near Cirencester, which has hitherto accommodated on an average 100 inmates. Yet, despite the march of improvement, the aspect of the district is somewhat barren, owing to the absence of trees and hedge-rows in the so-called " stone wall" country, and to the size of the farms, sometimes exceeding 1000 acres. Cattle are kept for home needs and to improve the soil. Oats and barley are the chief grain crops. In the Vale the deep rich black and red loamy soil is well adapted for cattle, and a moist mild climate favours the growth of grasses and root crops. A great proportion of the Vale is in per-manent pasture, and its farmers look largely to hay as the winter food of their stock. The cattle, save on the frontier of Herefordshire, are mostly shorthorns, of which many are fed for distant markets, many reared and kept for dairy purposes. The rich grazing tract of the Vale of Berkeley is said to produce annually 1200 tons of the famous double Gloucester cheeses, and the Vale in general has long been celebrated for its cheese and butter. The Vale of Gloucester is the chief corn district. Its aspect is generally pastoral, characterized by grass-lands hemmed in with hedgerows and hedgerow timber, and dotted with apples, pears, and orchard fruit as if to compensate for the comparative barrenness of the Coteswolds. The Vale, from its position and climate, is subject to violent storms of wind and rain.

Statistics of Agriculture for Gloucestershire as returned on
ith of June 1878.
Total area 804,977 acres.
Total acreage under crops, bare fallow, and grass 648,795 ,,
Corn crops (nearly one-half wheat and one-fourth
barley) 172,515 „
Green crops (about two-thirds turnips and swedes)... 62,679 ,,
Grasses under rotation 94,279 ,,
Permanent pasturage 307,026 ,,
Bare and fallow 12,263 ,,
Flax and hops 33 ,,
Live Stock.
Horses 25,725
Cattle 107,236
Sheep 416,853
Pigs 69,331

According to the Owners and Heritages Return 1872-73, the county was divided among 37,705 proprietors, holding land whose acreage was 733,640, and whose gross estimated rental was ¿£2,556,543. The estimated extent of commons and waste lands was 7429 acres. Of the owners 76 per cent, possessed less than one acre, and the average value all over was ¿£3, 8s. llfd. There were 10 proprie-tors who possessed upwards of 5000 acres, viz. :—Lord Fitzhardinge, 18,264; Duke of Beaufort, 16,610; Lord Sherborne, 15,773 ; Earl Bathurst, 9967; Crown Pro-perty, 9575; R. S. Holford (Weston Birt), 9332 ; Thomas W. C. Master (Cirencester), 7226 ; Earl Eldon (Encomb), 6664; Lord Sudeley (Winchcomb), 6620; Earl Ducie, 5193.

Forest District.—The surface of this district is agree-ably undulating to the height of from 120 to 1000 feet, and its sandy peat soil renders it most suitable for the growth of timber, which is the cause of its having been a royal forest from time immemorial. John Evelyn records that the commanders of the Armada had orders not to leave in it a tree standing. In the reign of Charles I. the Forest contained 105,537 trees, and, straitened for money, he granted it to Sir John Wyntour for ¿£10,000, and a fee farm rent of ¿£2000. The grant was cancelled by Cromwell; but at the Restoration only 30,000 were left, and "Wyntour, having got another grant, destroyed all but 200 trees fit for navy timber. In 1680 an Act was passed to enclose 11,000 acres and plant with oak and beech for supply of the dockyards ; and the present forest, though not containing very many gigantic oaks, has six " walks" covered with timber in various stages of growth. The two finest oaks of the Forest are a headless giant 45 feet in girth just out-side the village of Newland, to the left of the road from Coleford to Monmouth, and "Jack of the Yat," with 19 feet of girth, on the right of the roadside from Coleford to Mitcheldean.

Botany.—The flora of the eounty, representing that of the two maiu hydrographical areas of the kingdom and of various geological formations, is extremely rich. Its distinct forms of phanerogams number more than half the British flora. But there is little bog land in the county, and no true sea coast. Hence certain gaps in the list of indigenous plants. There are only some 25 species of ferns; but the rare flowers mentioned below are worthy of note as indigenous. The quantity of mistletoe on the numerous apple trees in the cider orchards of the Vale is another botanical feature of the county, a parasite occurring on other trees also, notably on the Badham Court oak, Sedbury Park, Chepstow, and on the Frampton-on-Severn oak. The elm, used at Bristol for shipbuilding, the willow, and the maple form the chief hedge timber of the Vale, while in the Forest some fine hollies, 6 feet round, are found amongst the oaks. The Spanish chestnut at Tort-worth, Piffs elm, Boddington, near Cheltenham, and the Lassington oak are the most notable trees of the county. Mustard was once much cultivated in the Vale, " few houses being without a cannon ball and bowl in which the seeds were bruised " (see Rudge's General Views of Agriculture of Gloucester, London, 1807).

Communication and Trade.—Gloucestershire is, in virtue of its two city ports, Bristol and Gloucester, a maritime county. The approach to the first is by the Somerset Avon, to the second by the Severn, or, more strictly, by the Gloucester and Berkeley canal, for which, owing to the dangerous navigation of the Severn, an Act was obtained in 1793, though the works were not com-pleted and opened for traffic till 1827. They consisted of a small tidal basin and lock at Sharpness Point, on the Severn, near Berkeley, connecting the estuary of the river by a ship canal 16 miles long with the city of Gloucester, where there was a suitable discharging dock, and where the canal was again connected with the river Severn by a lock. The gradual extension of the trade necessitated a corresponding extension of the works, and in 1869 a new and enlarged entrance, half a mile further down the river, was projected, with suitable discharging and repairing docks, which last form one large sheet of water on the same level as the old canal connecting them also with Gloucester. These were com-pleted and opened in 1874. Through the river Severn from Glou-cester to Worcester and Stourport the port is brought into direct communication with the great system of internal canals throughout the kingdom, and both at Sharpness docks and Gloucester is in direct communication with the Midland and Great Western rail-way systems. The following are the trade statistics of the year
ending September 25, 1878.

Tons. Tons.
Foreign imports 428,532
Coasting 105,224
Foreign exports 51,047
Coasting 112,176

Total traffic 696,979
Of the foreign imports 253,643 tons, amounting to about 1,200,000 quarters, were grain and seed. The port is well situated for a corn port, its corn warehouses at Sharpness accommodating 100,000 quarters, and those at Gloucester about 130,000 quarters. The new works at Sharpness will accommodate vessels up to 2500 tons burden.
The Severn Bridge railway—5 miles in length—commences at Lydney by a junction with the Great Western Railway and the Severn and Wye railway, crosses the Severn at Purton Passage, and terminates at the Berkeley new docks by a junction with the Midland, thus forming a long-needed connexion between the two sides of the river, and shortening the distances from South Wales to London by 14 miles, and from South Wales to Bristol by 20.
2 Anemone Pulsatilla; Arabis stricta ; Thlaspiperfoliatum ; Hut-chinsia petrcsa; Poly gala oxyptera and calcarea; Cerastium pumilumf Lotus angustissimus ; Pyrus pinnatifida ; Epilobium lanceolatum ; Sedum rupestre ; Trinia vulgaris ; Limnanthemum nymphceoides ; Veronica hybrida ; Orobanche Hederce ; Cynoglossum montanum j Ulricularia neglecta ; Daphne Mezereum ; Buxus sempervirens ; Ce-phalanthera rubra; Galanthus nivalis.
3 Authorities.—Swete's Mora Brisloliensis, 1854; Buckman's Botany of Cheltenham, 1844; Marshall's Rural Economy of Glouces-tershire, 1789; H. G. Nicholl's Forest of Dean, 1858; and MS. Floras of Gloucestershire, by Messrs Harker and Boulger.

Its great local importance consists in providing a communication from South Wales and Dean Forest and their coal-fields to the Berkeley new docks and the south of England, and is evidenced by the various competing schemes introduced in the same session of 1872 for bridges having the same object. The great iron bridge itself consists of girders constructed on a modification of the bow-string principle, and rests on piers composed of cast iron cylinders sunk down in the rock and filled with concrete. Commencing with the Lydney shore, the spans are as follows :—one of 134 feet, two of 327, nve of 171 feet, thirteen of 134, and one of 196 feet (inclusive of swing bridge over canal), making in all 22. The width of the river is 1186 yards, and the total length of the bridge, including the masonry viaduct and swing span, 1387 yards. While the main object of this stupendous undertaking is the transit of coal, arrange-ments are also contemplated for passenger traffic across the river.

Another canal, once of great importance to the commerce of Gloucestershire, is the Thames and Severn canal, connecting the navigation of these two great rivers, the first of which rises at the back of Leckhampton Hill, at Seven Springs. The Thames and Severn canal begins at Lechlade on the former river, and joining the Stroudwater canal, which crosses the Gloucester and Berkeley, enters the Severn at Framilode. But this canal, though of con-siderable engineering skill, is now but little used, the Great Western railway having almost entirely superseded it; and it is the same with another canal running from the Severn at Gloucester to Newent and Ledbury.

Manufactures.—Gloucestershire is also an important manufacturing county. In the time of Edward III. the manufacture of woollen cloth was introduced into its hill country by the Flemings, attracted probably by the facilities offered for felting by the numerous streams of water flowing from the Coteswolds. The manufacture gradually increased in spite of vexatious legislation, enacted with the view of encouraging native industry, but really tending to hamper the trade. Cirencester is mentioned as its seat in Henry IV.'s reign, and Stroud in 1553. The raw material for the manufacture was long obtained from the produce of English flocks, but afterwards a better description of wool was imported from Spain, and towards the close of the last century a still finer quality was got from Germany. The main supply is now obtained from the British colonies in the southern hemisphere. The description of cloth for which Gloucestershire and the west of England have been and still are most famous is broad-cloth, dressed with teazles to produce a short close nap on the face, and made of all shades of colour, but chiefly black, blue, and scarlet. The most prosperous time of the Gloucestershire woollen trade was from 1800 to 1820, during which period the water-power of the various streams was keenly utilized, and a very large pro-portion of the population was engaged early and late on the several processes, either in their cottages or at the mills. The commercial crisis of 1825 very seriously crippled the trade; and though it afterwards recovered, it is probable that fewer persons have since been employed in it. The further introduction of machinery, enabling manufacturers to dispense with much manual labour, the passing of the factory laws, and the increased facilities of obtaining education, have greatly imjiroved the social habits of the manu-facturing population.

History.—Gloucestershire has not been unnoted in the annals of England. At Gloucester Henry III. was crowned; at Berkeley Castle Edward II. was murdered ; the Wars of the Roses were ended at the battle of Tewkesbury, where in May 1471 Queen Margaret and Prince Edward were taken prisoners ; the repulse which Charles I. sustained at Gloucester, when the earl of Essex compelled him to raise the siege, was the climax of his fortunes. The county is strewn with relics of antiquity. Four Roman roads intersect it; Roman pavements and vestiges are found at Ciren-cester, Gloucester, Woodchester, and Lydney, and camps—British, Saxon, Danish, and Roman—in numerous places, with many interesting relics of the Middle Ages. Among these are the restored castle of Sudeley, near Winehcombe, a manor house before the Conquest, a baronial castle in the days of Stephen, and the home in succession of the Botelers, Seymours, Queen Katherine Parr, and the Chandos family ; Thornbury Castle, an interesting ruin instead of a castellated palace, as it would have been had not its pretensions provoked the jealousy of Wolsey against its builder, Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham, who was beheaded in 1521 ; St Briavel's Castle, to the south of the Forest of Dean, an ancient seat of the Norman kings, if not the Saxon, which became the residence of the chief officer of the Forest, and retains in its ruined state a decorated chimney shaft surmounted by a horn, the warder's badge. Berkeley Castle, built prior to Henry II., is an almost unique speci-men of a feudal residence in the actual occupation of a descendant of its founder, Baron Fitzharding. Edward II. was murdered in a detached upper chamber of the square tower. The chief mansions of the county are Badminton House (Duke of Beaufort); Oakley Park, Stroud (Earl Bathurst) ; Tortworth Park, with a chestnut measuring 52 feet, a boundary tree in King Stephen's reign (Earl Ducie) ; Sherborne Park, Northleach (Lord Sherborne); Clearwell Court, Coleford (Earl of Dunraven); Highnam Court (T. Gambier Parry) ; Sudeley Castle (J. Coucher Dent); Southam House, the oldest residential house in the county, built in the time of Henry VII., a timber and stone mansion of two stories (Earl of Ellen-borough) ; and Prinknash Park, a 15th century residence of the abbots of Gloucester (B. St John Ackers). Besides these there are various other seats of somewhat lesser size. Among the eminent persons born in the county are the chronicler Robert of Gloucester, Sebastian Cabot, William Cartwright the poet, Thomas Chatterton, Robert Southey, the Rev. John Eagles, and George Whitfield.

Education.—According to the parliamentary returns of public elementary schools for the year ending 31st August 1876, there were in Gloucestershire 408 day schools, 34 of which were also used as night schools. Of these schools 314 were in connexion with the Church of England, or the National Society or parochial; 15 were board schools, 9 Roman Catholic, 36 British and Foreign, and 13 Wesleyan Methodist Conference schools.

See Atkyns's Gloucestershire, 1769; Rudder's Gloucestershire, a republication of Atkyns, with additions, 1779; Fosbrooke's Abstract of Records and Manuscripts respecting the County of Gloucester, 1807, 2 yols. 4to; The Forest of Dean, an Historical and Descriptive Account, by H. G. Nicholls, M.A., 1858. (J. DA.)


Authorities.—Geology of East Somerset and Gloucester Coal-fields, H. B. Woodward, F.G.S.; Memoirs of Geol. Survey, London, 1876 ; "Geology of Country round Cheltenham," E. Hull, A.B., F.G.S., in Memoirs of Geol. Survey, 1857; "Geology of Parts of Wilts and Gloucester," ib., 1852; The Coteswold Hills, John Lycett, London, 1857; papers by Mr Lycett in Quart. Journ. of Geol. Soc., vol. iv., and by Dr Wright in vols. xh. and xvi

The Forest is locally governed by two crown-appointed deputy gavellers to superintend the woods and mines, and four verderers elected by the freeholders, whose office, since the extermination of the deer in 1850, is almost purely honorary. From time immemorial all persons born in the hundred of St Briavel's, who have worked a year and a day in a coal mine, become " free miners," and may work coal in any part of the Forest not previously occupied. At the present time the Forest laws are administered at thu Speech-House by the
queen's officers sard the free miners.

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