English Civil War Weekend to revive past glories

The English Civil War Society is holding a whole weekend’s worth of activities to commemorate the city of Gloucester’s involvement in the war on Saturday 23 and 24 March. There will be parades with Cavaliers and Roundheads in full costume, fun and interesting talks at Gloucester City Museum, demonstrations at Gloucester Folk Museum and cannon firing at the Historic Docks.

English Civil War Weekend – full schedule of parades and events

What is the origin of Gloucester‘s strong ties with the English Civil War? The city was besieged by Charles I’s Royalist forces from 3 August until the arrival of the Earl of Essex’s Parliamentarian army on 5 September 1643. After a summer of Royalist victories, Gloucester was one of the few remaining Parliamentarian strongholds left in the West. Charles wished to consolidate his power in the South West and felt that Gloucester’s small garrison would provide little resistance. Colonel Edward Massey led the defence of the city, withstanding cannon attacks and surviving an attempt to undermine the walls at the East Gate (thanks to a spell of bad weather). By the time the Earl of Essex relieved the city, Massey only had three barrels of gunpowder remaining.

Several legends came out of the Siege of Gloucester, one of which was the pig that saved the city. It is said that a pig was carried around inside the city walls during the siege. The poor little pig was tormented into making an almighty racket, hopefully giving off the impression to the Royalists that there were plenty of pigs and that there was no chance of a food running out in Gloucester. For more about Gloucester’s affinity with our porcine friends visit the Centenary of the Gloucestershire Old Spot Exhibition at the Gloucester Folk Museum.

The Mystery of Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty was said to be the name of an unprecedentedly large mortar imported from Holland. It was mounted on the walls of Llanthony Secunda Priory where the Royalist forces were encamped during the Siege of Gloucester. It was apparently named (disparagingly) after a famously rotund MP of the day. As the artillerymen trained their sights on Gloucester’s cathedral, the cannon misfired. Another assertion was that Humpty Dumpty was a ‘tortoise’ siege engine that featured a series of covered bridges to enable King Charles I’s men to cross the defensive ditch and scale the city walls. This second theory was put forward by Professor David Daube in The Oxford Magazine in 1956, but like many other origin theories of the nursery rhyme, it was a case of fitting square pegs into round holes.

Gloucester Day
Celebrated annually for hundreds of years following the lifting of the Siege of Gloucester on 5 September 1643, the event died out in the nineteenth century. However the celebration was revitalised by town crier Alan Myatt and the Gloucester Civic Trust in 2009 and forms an integral part of the Gloucester History Festival.

Mock Mayor of Barton
During the Restoration of Charles II, the king settled scores and penalised Gloucester’s impertinence during the Civil War by knocking down the once unbreachable walls and reducing the city boundaries. This left Barton outside the city limits and without a mayor to defer to. The residents of Barton ‘elected’ a mock mayor (usually a man who had made the biggest fool of themselves in the previous year) to thumb their noses in defiance at the city of Gloucester’s authority.

The Spirit of Gloucester
Perhaps the Siege of Gloucester is seen as a prime example of the defiance of the fiercely proud inhabitants of this small city. This spirit has been documented since the days when Gloucester (or Glevum) was a Roman colonia – the highest status afforded to a provincial town in the Roman Empire. It was a small colonia, but it had colonia status nonetheless. Today, Gloucester revels in its reputation of passion and pride – just ask the fans at Kingsholm (officially the most passionate fans in the Aviva Premiership). If Gloucester is succesful in being named as one of the venues for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 despite it being the smallest (and only club) ground on the shortlist, it will be down to indomitable spirit of its people.

Worldwide event hopes to illuminate issue of dwindling lighthouses and lightships

The International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW) is an annual event and the SULA Lightship in Gloucester is participating for the second successive year. The event was started in 1998 by a Scottish HAM Radio Amateur and has grown into a massive global event with almost 400 participating lighthouses and lightships.

The basic objective of the event is to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, and at the same time to promote amateur radio and to foster International goodwill.

Lighthouses are fast becoming an endangered species with the introduction of Global Positioning Systems and Satellite Navigation and the automation of the light source to solar power which has resulted in the withdrawal of management personnel (Keepers). In the UK, Trinity House, who manages the lighthouses, have started a program to extinguish lighthouses and sell them. It is hoped that this ILLW weekend event will highlight this situation and help prevent further desecration of these magnificent structures all around the world.

This year the event takes place on 18-19 August.

The Sula Lightship will be open to the public on both days from 10am till 5pm. There will be an opportunity to learn about lightships and small groups can climb up into the light-tower. Presentations will be held during both days.

Members from the Cheltenham Amateur Radio Association and the Gloucester Amateur Radio and Electronics Society will be manning the Radio room on board and will talking to other stations around the world. The general public will be able to see them in action and listen-in to those signals and conversation from exotic and remote locations. The station will operate HF radios for long-distance calls and VHF/UHF radios for more local contacts.

Weather permitting, people can enjoy coffee and teas on deck of the historic lightship, enjoying a perfect view of the Gloucester-Sharpness canal.

The SULA Lightship is the home of Lightship Therapies, Gloucester’s Holistic Centre. During the weekend, various taster treatments and demonstrations will be available. For those who are not too interested in ships and radios, a pampering treatment is a relaxing alternative.

SULA also hosts the Gloucester Buddhist Centre and information about Buddhism is available. Why not have a look at the only Shinghon Buddhist temple in the UK?

With lots of activities over the weekend, this is a perfect family day out with something for everybody!
Please call SULA on 01452-527566 for more details.

Gloucester Cathedral doubles as the Palace of Westminster for Shakespeare’s Henry IV

BBC’s Shakespearean Hollow Crown saga continues tomorrow night with Henry IV Part 1 – starring Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddlestone. Shot on location within the atmospheric bowels Gloucester Cathedral, back in February we managed to speak to acclaimed screen and stage director Sir Richard Eyre about filming in our fair city.

Read about the Hollow Crown programmes on the BBC website.

Robert Raikes Remembered

Today marks the 201st anniversary of the death of Robert Raikes. A truly great man of Gloucester, Raikes helped usher in social reforms which were adopted nationwide.

Robert Raikes Statue

Robert Raikes statue in Gloucester Park - courtesy Gloucester Civic Trust

Robert Raikes (1736- 1811) was the editor and proprietor of the Gloucestershire Journal and was able to use his position to publicise the plight of working class children. As an Anglican layman, he was concerned that children who worked in factories or were chimney sweeps Monday to Saturday were up to mischief on their only day off and were receiving little or nothing in the way of education. He established a Sunday school in 1780 and within a couple of years; several more had opened in Gloucester. By 1831, 1.25 million children were being educated in Sunday Schools across Britain, paving the way for the state school system.

Raikes was recently featured on the BBC’s ‘Britain’s First Photo Album’ documentary. In the programme, presenter John Sergeant, visits towns and cities featured in the Victorian Francis Frith’s photographic project in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  John Sergeant was keen to highlight the importance of Raikes (he described him as was “one of the first campaigning journalists”) and recreated a photograph of the Robert Raikes’ House pub on Southgate Street.

Here’s a link to the preview of Britain’s First Photo Album.

Find out more about Robert Raikes at Wikipedia.



Back Badge Day: Gloucester remembers

The 28th

Back to back with the The 28th

Two hundred and eleven years ago on 21 March the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment of Foot wrote themselves into the annals of history when they received the orders “Front rank stay as you are, rear rank about turn”.

It was 1801, and while France was in political turmoil at home, the French military forces defended their fledgling republic against a coalition of enemies in the French Revolutionary Wars. The British expeditionary forces under the command of Sir Ralph Abercrombie were marching on the Egyptian port of Alexandria and rested near the ruins of Nicopolis on 20 March. The next morning at 3.30am, the French columns attacked the encampment, with the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment of Foot bearing the brunt. The first attack was repulsed but in the ensuing darkness and confusion, the French managed to drive a wedge between two British regiments.

What came next became the stuff of legend as the 28th received their immortal orders “Front rank stay as you are, rear rank about turn”.

The rear ranks turned and with exemplary discipline waited until the French cavalry were a few horse lengths away. They then fired one devastating volley, causing heavy casualties amongst the cavalry and forcing them to withdraw.

Not for the last time, the 28th fought a famous defence, their noble conduct recognised with the distinction of being the only regiment to be allowed to wear their badges on the front and rear of their head dress.

Following the battle, the British reached Alexandria and besieged the ancient city before the French garrison surrendered on 2 September 1801.

The 28ths reputation continued to flourish in the Peninsular War in the Battles of Quatre-Bras and Waterloo, with the Duke of Wellington mentioning them in dispatches. After the 28th merged with the 61st South Gloucestershire Regiment in 1881, the newly-formed Gloucestershire Regiment (nicknamed the Glorious Glosters) went on to carry the most battle honours on their regimental colours than any other line regiment in the British Army.

Back Badge Day is now celebrated by veterans and citizens of Gloucester every year on 21 March. Find out more about the 28th, Back Badge Day and more true tales of heroism at The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum at the historic Gloucester Docks.

The Museum also has an online exclusive 2 for 1 offer if you sign up for the email newsletter.

Plus, you can also upgrade to an annual ticket for an affordable price.