Gloucester was founded in AD 48 by the Romans as Glevum, and was granted its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II. Economically, the city is dominated by the service industries, and has a strong financial and business sector, being home to the bank Cheltenham & Gloucester and historically was prominent in the aerospace industry.
It is located on the eastern bank of the River Severn, west north west of London. It is sheltered by the Cotswolds to the east, while the Forest of Dean and the Malvern Hills rise prominently to the west and north west, respectively.
Gloucester is a port, linked via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal to the Severn Estuary, allowing larger ships to reach the docks than would be possible on the tidal reaches of the river itself. The wharfs, warehouses and the docks themselves fell into considerable disrepair until their renovation in the 1980s. They now form a public open space. Some warehouses now house the National Waterways Museum, others were converted into luxury residential apartments, shops and bars. Additionally, the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum is located in the Custom House. The port still houses the most inland RNLI lifeboat in the UK.
The traditional existence of a British settlement at Gloucester (Caer Glow, Gleawecastre, Gleucestre) is not confirmed by any direct evidence, but Gloucester was the Roman municipality of Colonia Nervia Glevensium, or Glevum, founded in the reign of Nerva. Parts of the walls can be traced, and many remains and coins have been found, though inscriptions are scarce. Evidence for some civic life after the end of Roman Britain includes the mention in the Historia Brittonum that Vortigern's grandfather ruled Gloucester. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Gloucester passed briefly to Wessex from the Battle of Deorham in 577 until 584, when it came under the control of Mercia.
The core street layout dates back to Ethelfleda in late Saxon times.
The first Earl of Gloucester, Earl Godwine, was succeeded nearly a century later by Robert of Gloucester. King Henry II granted the first charter in 1155, which gave the burgesses the same liberties as the citizens of London and Winchester, and a second charter of Henry II gave them freedom of passage on the River Severn. The first charter was confirmed in 1194 by Richard I of England. 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.
The spring of 1994 saw the arrest of Fred West and his wife Rose West for the murder of 12 women and girls who went missing between 1967 and 1987 - including two of their daughters. Their home, 25 Cromwell Street, where the remains of many of the victims were buried, was later demolished and a public walkway laid in its place. To deter souvenir-hunters, the rubble was reduced to dust before disposal. One of the victims was found buried at a house in nearby Midland Road, which by then was occupied by a new resident, and is still lived in to this day.
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 water for 10-14 days.
Gloucester Cathedral, in the north of the city near the river, originates in the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter in 681. It is the burial place of King Edward II of England and Walter de Lacy. The Cathedral was used for scenes in the films Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the unreleased film, , Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
In the neighbourhood around St Mary de Crypt there are slight remains of Greyfriars and Blackfriars monasteries, and also of the city wall. Under the Fleece and Saracen's Head inns early vaulted cellars still remain.
During the construction of the Boots store on the corner of Brunswick Road and Eastgate Street in 1974, Roman remains were found. These can be seen through a glass case on the street. At the back of the Gloucester Furniture Exhibition Centre part of the city's south gate can be seen.
King's Square is at the heart of the city centre and occupies what was once a cattle market and bus station. Officially opened in 1972, it was the centrepiece of a radical redesign of the city, The Jellicoe Plan, which was first proposed in 1961. It stands beside the Debenham's (formerly Bon Marche) store built in the early 1960s. Many of the features of the redevelopment have since been dismantled; the brutalist concrete fountains in the middle of the square have gone and the overhead roadways which linked three multi storey car parks around the centre have been either closed or dismantled. The present main bus station received a Civic Trust Award in 1963 but is now tatty and unwelcoming. An indoor market opened in Eastgate Street in 1968, followed by the Eastgate Shopping Centre in 1974. The corner of Eastgate Street and Brunswick Road was redeveloped around this time; Roman remains unearthed below street level in 1974 may be seen through a glass observation panel outside the Boots building, which opened in 1980. The HSBC building on the Cross was renovated and a modern extension added to the Westgate Street aspect in 1972 which received a Civic Trust Award. Sainsbury's opened a supermarket in Northgate Street in 1970; it retains its original interior. Opposite, Tesco opened a large two-storey supermarket in 1974 on the site of a demolished chapel. This is now occupied by Wilkinsons after Tesco moved to Quedgeley in 1984
Gloucester Leisure Centre opened on the corner of Eastgate Street and Bruton Way in September 1974 and was redeveloped around 2003. A new railway station opened in Bruton Way in 1977 on the site of the former GWR station, replacing Eastgate station (former Midland Railway) which had stood on another site further east along the same road. Opposite the station stands one of the city's largest office blocks, Twyver House, opened in 1968, which houses the regional Land Registry. The main shopping streets were pedestrianised in the late 1980s.
There are few tall buildings in Gloucester, Gloucester Cathedral being the most obvious. The tower of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, started in 1970 and completed in August 1975, can be seen from miles around. In Brunswick Road, a brown concrete tower, which housed classrooms at the Gloucestershire College of Arts and Technology (now moved to a site near Llanthony Bridge). The tower was added incongruously to the existing 1930s Technical College buildings in 1971 and is due to be demolished. Clapham Court, a tall block of flats, stands in Columbia Close, between London Road and Kingsholm Road. It was built in 1972 and stands on what was once Columbia Street in a small district formerly known as Clapham.
Public transport in the city is run by Stagecoach, operating from its depot on London Road. The regional office for Stagecoach is also in the city at 65 London Road. Gloucester was formerly linked to Ledbury and Hereford by the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal. This canal is now being restored, and the restored canal basin in the Gloucester suburb of Over is already a local attraction.
Until the construction of the Severn Bridge in 1966, Gloucester was the lowest bridging point on the river and hence was an important settlement on the route between London and South Wales. The Severn is split into two branches at this point, so the road crosses first onto Alney Island and then onto the western bank. A road bridge on this western side at Over, built by Thomas Telford in 1829, still stands, notable for its very flat arch construction, but its fragility and narrow width means it is no longer used for traffic, and since 1974 has been paralleled by a modern road bridge. There is a rail crossing, also across Alney Island, which was the lowest on the river until the opening of the Severn Tunnel in 1886.
The city is served by Gloucester railway station.
Gloucester was the site of the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company railway works, which have now closed.
Gloucester is served by the M5 motorway, which runs to the east of the city. Junction 12 serves south Gloucester and Quedgeley. Junction 11a serves central Gloucester and junction 11 serves North Gloucester. The A38 runs north-south through Gloucester connecting the city with Tewkesbury and Bristol. The A40 runs west to east, connecting Gloucester with Cheltenham to the east (via a dual carriageway section known as The Golden Valley Bypass) and the Forest of Dean to the West. The A46 links Gloucester and Stroud, and the A417 links Gloucester with Cirencester in the south east and Ledbury in the north west.
The Three Choirs Festival, originating in the eighteenth century and one of the oldest music festivals in Europe, is held in Gloucester every third year, the other venues being Hereford and Worcester. Gloucester hosted the festival in 2007, and it's next due in the city in 2010.
The city's main theatre and cultural venue is the Guildhall. The Guildhall hosts a huge amount of entertainment, including live music, dance sessions, a cinema, bar, café, art gallery and much more. The Leisure Centre, GL1, occasionally hosts concerts and has a larger capacity than the Guildhall.
Gloucester hosts a variety of festivals and events, which run at both local, national and international level.
A Medieval Fayre is held in Westgate Street each year during the summer.