Gloucester Heritage Open Days
Published: 12 August 2013
Heritage Open Days are a fabulous way to enjoy our local history - it's when lots of places not normally open to the public, allow us inside to see their hidden heritage. These are just some of the places in Gloucester which have been open for the Heritage Open Days in the past and are well worth a visit.
The rarely seen timber-framed exterior of 26 Westgate Street
Winfields, 26 Westgate Street, Gloucester
Although not obvious from the street with its Georgian frontage, this building is said to be the finest example in Britain of a timber framed town house, and as such is a Grade I listed building. Dating back to 1560, it was once the hall of the Grocer’s Guild, the mansion house of a Mayor of Gloucester and in the 19th century a lodging for assize judges. It was alleged to have been the headquarters of Colonel Edward Massie during the Siege of Gloucester in 1643, when he held the city against the King. This, however, may not be true.
The original leaded glass windows and iron handles
From 1886 it was altered and extended to accommodate Winfield’s Seed Merchants. Winfields closed in 1989 and it was then home to Bookends book shop until 2010.
In the Maverdine Passage to the side of the building you can glimpse the overhanging 16th century windows supported by ornately carved scroll brackets. Also visible are the builders marks used in the construction of the building.
The interior contains fittings from throughout its long history, barleysugar balusters on the staircase, fabulous acanthus moulded ceiling rose, the original wrought-iron windows with rare leadlight glazing and iron catches. In the cellar of this four-storey building can be seen Roman masonry.
The 12th Century Undercroft, Westgate Street
Heritage Open Days are the only opportunity to view this historically important hidden gem so don’t miss out! Tours need to be pre-booked.
The Undercroft at the Fleece Hotel, Westgate Street, Gloucester
This is a 12th century tunnel vaulted undercroft, which is believed to be the best example in Europe of a rich merchant’s warehouse.
It is known locally as the ‘Monk’s Retreat’ and was a lively bar in days gone by. Local legend claims that there was a secret passage from the Cathedral to the undercroft, but that seems to be a myth.
The access is via steep and ancient steps.
The notable scissor roof at Blackfriars Priory
Blackfriars Priory, Ladybellgate Street, Gloucester
Gloucester proudly boasts Britain’s most complete Dominican Priory, founded in 1239. After the Dissolution of the monasteries it was acquired in 1539 by Thomas Bell, a cloth maker, who converted the church to use as his residence and the monastic buildings as workshops for his business. Surviving buildings include the church, library (or ‘Scriptorium’), buttery and infirmary.
There is also the impressive scissor-braced dormitory roof. Much of the oak for the church roof came from the Royal Forest of Dean. Look out for the monk’s graffiti of a lady, possibly a nun, on one of the window reveals!
Roman gatehouse at the Eastgate Viewing Chamber
Eastgate Viewing Chamber, by Boots, Eastgate Street, Gloucester
Below the present-day street level, you will discover the remains of the Roman Eastgate Fort, including the gatehouse. See the stone-lined section of the moat known as the horsepool, which was filled with water from the River Twyver and where animals were washed before entering the town. Wooden carts and wagons were also driven through it in dry weather to be soaked to prevent the wood from shrinking.
Gloucester Furniture Exhibition Centre, Southgate Street, Gloucester
Inside the store is an historic Roman wall. The lower part of the wall is part of a Roman Colonia dating back to 97AD and at street level it is a medieval building.
Robert Raikes's House, Gloucester
Robert Raikes's House, 36-38 Southgate Street, Gloucester
Step back in time and visit this 16th century timber-framed merchant’s house, which was lovingly restored by The Oak Frame Carpentry Co Ltd on behalf of Samuel Smith’s Brewery. The restoration began in 2007, took two and a half years and was reputed to cost around £4.5m. Robert Raikes, The owner and editor of the Gloucester Journal and co-founder of the Sunday school movement lived here in the late 18th century.
The threes sugar loaves suspended from a cast Iron bracket outside the pub, is a sign that it used to be a grocer’s shop.
If you get the opportunity we would recommend the Robert Raikes guided walk, run by the Civic Trust. You will learn about Robert Raikes the newspaper owner, prison reformer and promoter of the Sunday School movement and see some of the buildings associated with him in the City of Gloucester.
The Parliament Room, Gloucester
Parliament Suite, 2 College Green, Gloucester
Situated in Church House, the old Deanery for Gloucester Cathedral, take a look round three historic rooms dating back to the 12th century. The Parliament Room, the Henry Room and the Laud Room.
The Parliament room was the Great Hall and used by Richard II for his parliament in 1378.
The Henry Room is where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed in 1535, and has a large stone Tudor fireplace and exposed timber roof.
The Laud Room is named after the William Laud, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral 1616-21, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was accused of treason and beheaded on Tower Hill. The 16th-17th century wood panelling in the Laud Room is absolutely stunning.
Hedley's Tea Shop
Hedley's Tea Shop, 66 Westgate Street, Gloucester
This 15th century timber-framed building was once a merchant’s house. For many years it was used as a tea shop, and during the 1980s and 1990s was known as Tea Pots. It gradually fell into decline and in a dangerous state of repair, it stood empty for a number of years before a three-year restoration c2008. Now home to Hedley’s Tea Shop, it oozes character from its wooden beams. The ground floor windows are examples of mid-Victorian plate glass using technology gained in building the Crystal Palace, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition. Although you can visit the Tea Shop any time, the Heritage Open Days are a great time to call in and have a cuppa and homemade cakes.
Some of these venues may not open every year. Please check the current Gloucester History Festival website for this year's programme for Gloucester City venues and the Heritage Open Days website for details of other venues in Gloucestershire which are opening this year and whether booking is required.
Be quick as some tours get booked up very quickly!
© The Gloucestershire Oracle August 2013