GLOUCESTERSHIRE, England - History and Description, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]
"GLOUCESTERSHIRE, an inland shire county on the basin of the Severn, is bounded on the E. by Oxfordshire, N. by Warwickshire and Worcestershire, W. by Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, and S. by Somersetshire and Wiltshire. Its greatest length is 64 miles, and greatest breadth 43. The area is about 1,258 square miles, or 805,102 acres, with a population in 1861 of 485,770, having increased 16,143 in the decennial period since 1851.

The earliest inhabitants of this county were called by the name of Dobuni, and were subject to their neighbours, the Catteuchlani, before they were conquered by the Romans in 45. Under the Saxon dynasty Gloucestershire formed part of the Mercian kingdom, and was subsequently much troubled by invasions of the Danes. In the civil wars between Queen Maud and Stephen it was greatly disturbed. In the reign of Henry II. the Welsh made numerous incursions, but were repulsed. This county took a prominent part both in the Wars of the Roses, and in the civil wars of the 17th century between the crown and the parliament.

Nature has divided Gloucestershire into three distinct districts - the Hill, formed by a range of high land running through the county from N. to S., called the Cotswold hills; the Vale, which lies between the hills and the Severn, and is in extent 25 miles long by 4 broad; the Forest, chiefly occupied by the Forest of Dean.

The principal rivers are - the Severn, entering the county near Tewkesbury, where it is joined by the Upper Avon, and then winds S.W. through Gloucester, passes near Berkeley, and at length becomes a broad estuary; the Wye, forming the boundary between Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire; the Lower Avon, forming the boundary between Gloucestershire and Somersetshire, and which empties itself into the estuary of the Severn; the Upper Avon, the North Frome, the Ledden, the Stroud, the Windrush, the Colne, and the Thames. There are four canals - the Thames and Severn canal, the Stroudwater canal, the Hereford canal, and the Gloucester and Berkeley canal.

The railways that traverse the county are the Great Western, passing by the S. to Bristol, Exeter, and Plymouth, and at Swindon sending off a northerly branch, which crosses the Severn at Gloucester and joins the South Wales line; and a branch of the Midland railway connects Cheltenham with the Bristol and Birmingham line.

The climate of Gloucestershire is favourable to cultivation, the Cotswolds affording good pasture land for sheep, and bearing tolerable crops of oats and barley, while in the Vale the soil produces great crops of wheat and beans. Improvements as regards tillage of the land have been lately introduced with very beneficial results. Wheat, rye, barley, and other ordinary crops are raised. Potatoes and turnips are produced in great quantities. The chief product, however, of the county is butter and cheese, of which great quantities are made, and sold throughout the kingdom.

Cows and sheep are the chief cattle which are bred with any success. The breed of the Gloucestershire cows, and that of the Cotswold and Ryeland sheep, stand almost unrivalled. There are some fine orchards here, for the manufacture of perry and cider.

Gloucestershire is divided into 28 hundreds, containing 351 parishes, 1 city and part of another, and 28 market towns. It is governed by a lord-lieutenant and custos, with about 60 deputy-lieutenants, and 390 magistrates. It is in the Oxford circuit, and constitutes 2 archdeaconries in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol, forming part of the province of Canterbury. Previous to the Reform Bill the county was represented by two members in parliament; it is now formed into two divisions, eastern and western, each of which sends two members. The boroughs of Gloucester, Stroud, Cirencester, and Tewkesbury each return two members, and that of Cheltenham one.

As regards the manufactories they are numerous and important; cloth, hat, felt, stockings, lace making, &c., are the principal. At Bristol are several manufactories for brass, iron, glass, floorcloth, &c. There are many traces of the Roman occupation, as the Fosse Way, Ermine Street, Icknield Street, and the Via Julia; also the quadrangle of a Roman camp near the village of Bourton-on-the Water, where numerous coins and other antiquities have been dug up.

Near Sydney Park are traces of two ancient camps. At Uley is an ancient Roman work called Uley Bury Camp, where various coins have been found, as also at Chedworth, Combs End, Cirencester, and Woodchester.

The chief seats of the county are, Badminton House, of the Duke of Beaufort; Oakley House, of Earl Bathurst; Berkely Castle, of Earl Fitzhardinge; Southam, of the Earl of Ellenborough; Barrington-Park, of Lord Dynover; Sherborne, of Lord Sherborne; Batsford, of Lord Redesdale; Toddington, of Lord Sudeley, &c. There is excellent hunting in the neighbourhood with the Beaufort, Berkeley, Cheltenham, and several other packs of hounds."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]

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