's West prospect of Gloucester, c. 1725, emphasises the causeway and bridges traversing the water meadows of the floodplain.
The origins of the name Gloucester are related to Caerloyw, its name in modern Welsh. The name 'caerloyw' is composed of two parts: caer (meaning fort, stronghold or castle, and whose cognate is the suffix "cester", both deriving from the Latin castrum) and 'loyw', a linguistic mutation of 'gloyw', meaning bright or shining. The name Gloucester thus means roughly "bright fort". There are various appellations of the city's name in history, such as Caer Glow, Gleawecastre, Gleucestre as an early British settlement is not confirmed by direct evidence. However, Gloucester was the Roman municipality of Colonia Nervia Glevensium, or Glevum, built in the reign of Nerva. Parts of the walls can be traced, and a number of remains and coins have been found, though inscriptions are scarce. In Historia Brittonum, a fabled account of the early rulers of Britain, Vortigern's grandfather, Gloiu (Gloyw Wallt Hir in Welsh, meaning "Gloiu Long-hair"), is given as the founder of Gloucester. Part of the foundations of Roman Gloucester can be seen today in Eastgate Street (near Boots), while Roman tombstones and a range of other Roman artefacts can be seen in Gloucester City Museum.
After the withdrawal on the Roman Empire in the late 4th Century the town returned to the control of Celtic Dubonni tribe.Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Gloucester is shown as part of Wessex from the Battle of Deorham in 577. At some point after this battle, along with the rest of Gloucestershire excluding the Forest of Dean, Gloucester was part of the minor kingdom of the Hwicce. In 628, as a result of the Battle of Cirencester, the kingdom of the Hwicce became a client or sub-kingdom of Mercia. From about 780, the Hwicce region was no longer a kingdom in it's own right and was under full Mercian control until, along with the rest of Mercia, it submitted to Alfred the Great in about 877-883. The name Gloucester derives from the Anglo-Saxon for fort (Old English ceaster) preceded by Celtic name, which derived from the Roman stem Glev- (pronounced glaiw). Claudia Castra is mentioned in the 18th Century as possible Latin name related to the city.
Gloucester was captured by the Saxons in 577. Its situation on a navigable river, and the foundation in 681 of the abbey of St Peter by Æthelred, favoured the growth of the town; and before the Norman Conquest of England, Gloucester was a borough governed by a portreeve, with a castle which was frequently a royal residence, and a mint. In the early 10th century the remains of Saint Oswald were brought to a small church in Gloucester, bringing many pilgrims to the town. The core street layout is thought to date back to the reign of Ethelfleda in late Saxon times.
In 1051 Edward the Confessor held court at Gloucester and was threatened there by an army led by Godwin, Earl of Wessex, but the incident resulted in a standoff rather than a battle. A unique coin, dated to 1077–80, was discovered, just north of the city, in November 2011. It features the name of the moneyer Silacwine and its place of minting. The Portable Antiquities Scheme said that, until the coin was discovered, there had been no known examples of William I coins minted in Gloucester in this period.
After the Norman Conquest, William Rufus made Robert Fitzhamon the first baron or overlord of Gloucester. Fitzhamon had a military base at Cardiff Castle, and for the succeeding years the history of Gloucester was closely linked to that of Cardiff. During the Anarchy, Gloucester was a centre of support for the Empress Matilda who was supported in her claim to the throne by her half-brother, Fitzhamon's grandson, Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester (also known as Robert of Gloucester). After this period of strife ended with the ascent of her son Henry to the throne Henry II of England, Henry granted Robert possession of Cardiff Castle, and it later passed to Mathilda's son Robert Curthose and his son, William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester. The story of the Anarchy is vividly told in a series of nineteenth-century paintings by William Burges at the Castle.
King Henry II granted Gloucester its first charter in 1155, which gave the burgesses the same liberties as the citizens of London and Winchester. A a second charter of Henry II gave them freedom of passage on the River Severn. The first charter was confirmed in 1194 by King Richard I. The privileges of the borough were greatly extended by the charter of King John (1200), which gave freedom from toll throughout the kingdom and from pleading outside the borough.
In 1216 King Henry III, aged only ten years, was crowned with a gilded iron ring in the Chapter House of Gloucester Cathedral.
Gloucester's significance in the Middle Ages is underlined by the fact that it had a number of monastic establishments, including St Peter's Abbey founded in 679 (later Gloucester Cathedral), the nearby St Oswald's Priory, Gloucester founded in the 880s or 890s, Llanthony Secunda Priory, founded 1136 as a retreat for a community of Welsh monks (now near the western bypass), the Franciscan Greyfriars community founded in 1231 (near Eastgate Shopping Centre), and the Dominican Blackfriars community founded in 1239 (Ladybellegate Street). It also has some very early churches including St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester near the Cathedral and the Norman St Mary de Crypt Church, Gloucester in Southgate Street. Additionally, there is evidence of a Jewish community Gloucester as early as 1158-1159, who lived around present day East Gate Street and had a synagogue on the north side.
In the Middle Ages the main export was wool which came from the Cotswolds and was processed in Gloucester; other exports included leather and iron (tools and weapons). Gloucester also had a large fishing industry at that time. In 1223 thatched roofs were banned after a massive fire that destroyed a part of Gloucester.
One of the most significant periods in Gloucester's history began in 1378 when Richard II of England convened Parliament in the city. Parliaments were held there until 1406 under Henry IV of England. The Parliament Rooms at the Cathedral remain testimony to this important time.
Gloucester was incorporated by King Richard III in 1483, the town being made a county in itself. This charter was confirmed in 1489 and 1510, and other charters of incorporation were received by Gloucester from Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Gloucester was the site of the execution by burning of John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester in the time of Queen Mary in 1555. In 1580, Gloucester was awarded the status of a port by Queen Elizabeth I. The Siege of Gloucester in 1643 was a battle of the English Civil War in which the besieged parliamentarians emerged victorious.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the foundation of two of Gloucester's grammar schools: the Crypt School in 1539 and Sir Thomas Rich's School in 1666. Both still flourish as grammar schools today, along with Ribston Hall and the High School for Girls, Gloucester (Denmark Road).
Gloucester's most important citizens include Robert Raikes (founder of the Sunday School movement) who is still commemorated by the name of a pub in Southgate Street. Its most infamous citizen was Fred West.
In July 2007, Gloucester was hit badly by a flood that struck Gloucestershire and its surrounding areas. Hundreds of homes were flooded, but the event was most memorable because of its wider impact – about 40,000 people were without power for 24 hours, and the entire city (plus surrounding areas) was without piped water for 17 days.
In 2009, Gloucester Day was revived as an annual day of celebration of Gloucester's history and culture. The day originally dates from the lifting of the Siege of Gloucester in 1643, during which the city held out against Royalist forces during the First English Civil War.
Coat of arms
Left: the arms of the Clare family; centre: the arms of the Bishop of Worcester; right: the arms of the city of Gloucester
Gloucester is one of few cities in England with the distinction of having two coats of arms. The first consists of three chevrons surrounded by ten roundels. The chevrons come from the arms of the Clare family, who were earls of Gloucester from the 12th to the 14th centuries, while the roundels come from the arms of the Bishop of Worcester, whose bishopric historically encompassed Gloucester. This coat is the older of the two, though it is usually termed the "Commonwealth coat", as it was not officially granted to the city until 1652, during the Commonwealth period. The crest and supporters (lions bearing broadswords and trowels) were also adopted at this time, along with the motto Fides Invicta Triumphat ("unconquered faith triumphs", in reference to the royalist siege withstood by the city in 1643).
The second coat, termed the "Tudor coat", was granted in 1538. It features the roses of York and Lancaster, the boar's head of Richard III, a ceremonial sword and cap, and two horseshoes surrounded by nails, to represent Gloucester's historical association with ironworking.
Though grants made by Commonwealth heralds were nullified after the restoration, the Commonwealth coat continued to be used by the city rather than the Tudor coat. The Commonwealth coat, along with the crest and supporters, was legally granted to the city by letters patent dated 16 April 1945. This was reconfirmed in 1974 following the local government changes of that year.