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Right Royal County


Gloucestershire has had interactions with the Kings & Queens of our nation for almost 1500 years.  This exhibition is a brief look at some of these interactions for which we have archive material in Gloucestershire Archives.  It is a wonderfully eclectic mix that includes maps, charters, accounts, minute books, letters, official programmes, a quotation, committee circular and a royal visit or two, all with a Royal link for this year’s platinum jubilee of Elizabeth II.

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Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – Battle of Dyrham AD 577

There were no kings during the Roman period, but they emerged soon afterwards - the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records a battle at Deorham (Dyrham in South Gloucestershire) in 577 where two Saxon kings, Cuthwine and Ceawlin, fought and defeated three Roman-British kings Coinmail, Condidan and Farinmail.  It is thought that Coinmail may have been the king of the district around Gloucester.  This image shows the entry in the Chronicle that records this event:

An.d.Lxxvii       Here Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought against the Britons, and they killed three kings, Coinmail and Condidan and Farinmail, in the place which is called Deorham, and took three cities: Gloucester and Cirencester and Bath.

Reference: The Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge’, ‘CCCC MS 173, fol. 6v’


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Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – It was Leof, with the dagger, in the great hall …

In 946 Gloucestershire saw its first Royal murder, which took place in the royal hunting lodge at Pucklechurch!  The event was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the victim was King Edmund, who was stabbed by an outlaw called Leof.

A.D. 946. This year King Edmund died, on St. Augustine's mass day. That was widely known, how he ended his days: - that Leof stabbed him at Pucklechurch.  And Ethelfleda of Damerham, daughter of Alderman Elgar, was then his queen. And he reigned six years and a half: and then succeeded to the kingdom Edred Atheling his brother, who soon after reduced all the land of the Northumbrians to his dominion; and the Scots gave him oaths, that they would do all that he desired.

Reference: The Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge’, ‘DCCCCXLVI MS 173’

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Cranford Farm, Pucklechurch

The location of the hunting lodge where King Edmund was killed is thought to be on the site of Cranford Farm in Pucklechurch.  The site is within an Iron Age enclosure on a rectangular platform which stands up to 0.6m high.  In the past the lodge was interpreted as a royal palace owned by the Bishops of Bath and Wells, thanks largely to the antiquary Leyland, who described it as a 'a parke and a goodly lordshipe'.  Although a track now runs through the site, six rectangular hollows, interpreted as buildings or rooms, can be made out.  Historians have long debated the definition of this site as a 'palace' and today it is thought more likely to have been a vocal mutation of the name 'place', although the area has long been called 'King Edmund's Palace' locally.

Reference: Cranford Farm, site of ‘King Edmund’s Palace’, Pucklechurch, Know Your Place – South Gloucestershire

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Charter of Liberties from Henry II, 1155

Gloucester was granted its first charter of liberties by Henry II – probably because he felt well disposed towards the town as it had demonstrated good support of his mother, Empress Maud in the struggle against King Stephen, during the civil war known as ‘The Anarchy’.  The charter granted the burgesses of Gloucester ‘the same customs and liberties throughout all my land of toll and of all other things as the better citizens of London and Winchester had at any time in the time of King Henry my grandfather’.  The charter was signed at Westminster and was witnessed by Reginald, Earl of Cornwall; Manasser Biset, Steward; Warin, son of Gerald, Chamberlain and Hugh of Longchamp.  Although the charter is undated, research has shown that Reginald Earl of Cornwall died in 1175, Manasser Biset does not appear after 1166 and Warin doesn’t appear after 1158.  This gives a terminus post quem of 1158.  Further to this it is also known that Henry II was at Westminster in 1155 in March and December when he held councils, strongly suggesting it was written then.

Reference: GBR/I/1/1

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Charter of Richard I, 1194

Ever mindful of needing cash for crusading, Richard I’s charter of 1194, reaffirmed the liberties of the previous royal charters issued by Henry II, but demanded an annual £55 fee-farm for the privilege plus a £10 increment direct to the Exchequer.  In this instance, the fee-farm was a legal feudal arrangement whereby the crown granted the town’s burgesses ownership of the crown’s property if they paid the annual rent.  Any money made from renting or sub-letting properties would then go to the burgesses rather than the crown.

Reference: GBR/I/1/2

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Gloucester castle accounts roll, 1226

Gloucestershire was very prominent in the Second Barons War - when Simon de Montfort and allies rebelled against Henry III.  Gloucester Castle exchanged hands several times – until Prince Edward captured it for the crown for good.  Gloucestershire Archives holds an accounts roll from the castle for this period - it records expenditure on the castle by the constable, Roger de Clifford, after Prince Edward ordered improvements and repairs after he had captured it.  The roll contains detailed information on repairs and improvements to the castle, it’s defences and weaponry, as well as details of the garrison.

The accounts roll also contains references to royal forces leaving Gloucester to join with Prince Edward prior to the Battle of Evesham – where Simon de Montfort was killed and King Henry restored to the throne:

            “On Saturday in the Feast of Saint James the Apostle Sir William de Cheny came with another knight and with 8 other equipped horses and remained in the castle until the next Monday after the Feast of Saint Peter’s Chains on which day they set out for the battle of Evesham, that is to say nine days in full.”

            “On the third day that is to say on Monday next after the Feast of Saint Peter’s Chains the aforesaid Sir Hugh de Troia with two other furnished horses and two other unfurnished horses set out on a journey towards the battle of Evesham and the remainder of the garrison remained in full.”

Reference: D4431/2/56/1

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Charter of Richard III

Richard III’s main influence on the county was a charter of 1483.  This granted Gloucester the right to elect a Mayor ‘from amongst themselves on Monday next after the feast of St. Michael (29th September)’ and it incorporated the burgesses by the name of 'the Mayor and Burgesses of the town of Gloucester' with usual corporate powers.  The charter also expanded the town creating the ‘In-Shire’ from the hundreds of Dudston and King’s Barton, which together with the town was to be known as ‘the County of the town of Gloucester’.  This gave the borough the right to hold its own Quarter Sessions courts with the Bailiffs becoming Sheriffs in said County.  The Mayor and Burgesses could also elect a county Coroner, rather than having one appointed by the Crown.  It also defined the powers of the Mayor and Aldermen making provision for them to elect of four Sergeants at Mace.  These were low-ranking officials charged with keeping order at council meetings, and their maces were originally weapons to help enforce this.  The charter is the only one of the borough charters that is Illuminated, and it includes arms of Richard III.

Reference: GBR/I/1/22


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Prestbury Churchwardens Accounts

King James I was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley and was the first king to rule over Scotland and England.  Apart from introducing his Authorised Version of the Bible, his main link with the county was as a result of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot – after Guy Fawkes and his Catholic friends were caught while trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament, annual celebrations were ordered, typified by this payment to ringers on 5 November 1685 in Prestbury for bellringers and 100 faggots for a bonfire.

Reference: P254/CW2

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Gloucester Borough Common Council minute book, 1632-1656

Charles I’s reign was marked by rapid deterioration between the Crown and Parliament in the country and it was no different in the county.  This entry in the Gloucester Borough common minute book records the mayor meeting with the High Sheriff of the county at Cheltenham on Christmas Eve 1639 to discuss the Charles’ demand for ‘ship money’.  It wasn’t until December 1642, three months after Charles I had effectively declared war on Parliament by raising the Royal Standard at Nottingham that a Parliamentary committee was established to manage the Parliamentarian war effort in the county.

Reference: GBR/B3/2

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Map of City of Gloucester and the In-Shire

At the Restoration, Charles II made Gloucester suffer – not only for revenge but also because it was thought the town might become a focus for future parliamentary uprisings.  In 1662 the town walls were demolished by Lord Herbert, the county’s Lord lieutenant.  He had tried to take Gloucester with a Welsh army in March 1643 but had been defeated at the Battle of Highnam by the combined forces of Edward Massey and William Waller.  The council also lost control of the In-Shire, which had been granted to it by the charter of Richard III.  In 1664 a new royal charter reaffirmed this and gave the king power to control the appointment of the council’s recorder and town clerk, therefore giving him a firmer grip over the borough.

Reference: GBR/acc. 7380

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Old King’s Well on Cheltenham and Alstone - official inclosure map

Cheltenham’s first royal interaction with ‘Farmer George’ was thanks to retired Bristol privateer Captain Henry Skillicorne, who recognised the potential of a mineral spring at Bayshill that was owned by his late father-in-law, William Mason.  Skillicorne improved the spring by adding a brick building over it, installing a pump, and marketing its medicinal properties, encouraging visitors to ‘take the waters’.  After he died in 1763, ownership of the spa passed to his son William, who continued its development and before long, gentry and nobility were commonplace visitors.  In 1788, George III, his wife Queen Catherine and his three eldest daughters came for a 5-week stay in Cheltenham, purposely for the King to take the waters for his health.  This set the seal on the town's reputation as a fashionable resort and gentry and nobility began to flock to the spa town.  Later visitors include Queen Victoria (then a princess) and the Duke of Wellington.

Reference: Q/RI/41

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The Rapid Effects of the Cheltenham Water (or tis NECESSARY to quicken your motions after the second glass)

One very useful amenity that the Skillicornes had added for their spa users were public conveniences… as the waters exercised a purgative effect on the body!  Caricaturists were not slow to pick up on this effect!  The author of this caricature, S. W. Fores, has made a rude pun on the name of Cheltenham.  In Domesday Book, it is referred to as Chintenha[m] and later it is named Chittenham so Fores has the man in the blue frock coat saying “Never was so gripe in all my life – dese Shitten-ham vaters are very operatif”!

Reference: SR6Postcards/65.208GS

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Letter from Queen Victoria to ‘Lady Fanny’

Little is known about this letter which was written by Queen Victoria to a ‘Lady Fanny’, who resided in Cheltenham.  The letter offered tickets for ‘Mr Benedict’s Concert’, but we do not know where this concert was to be held or when as the letter is undated.  ‘Mr Benedict’ is probably Sir Julius Benedict (27 November 1804 – 5 June 1885), a German-born composer and conductor, who was resident in England for most of his career.  He was a known royal favourite, who had the patronage of the Queen, Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales, Benedict wrote a march for the wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and Alexandra of Denmark in 1863.

Reference: D3893/11/5

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Official Programme for the Visit of Prince of Wales to Cheltenham, 1897

On 13th May 1897, the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) visited Cheltenham as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.  The Borough put on a large procession from the Midland Railway Station at Lansdown to the Pittville Pump Room, where the Prince reviewed the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars.  This was followed by bands, sports and in the evening fireworks.  The Queen’s Day Celebration Committee had arranged for food tickets worth 2s (£8 today) to be given to everyone over the age of 60 and 6d per head (£2 today) was to be spent on entertaining the town’s schoolchildren.

Reference: CBR/C/3/3/6/1/2/8

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Quotation for hire of 1st Gloucestershire Royal Engineers (Volunteers), 1902

For the coronation of Edward VII, Cheltenham Borough Council wanted a band to play concerts.  They received this quotation from F. Rowland, the Bandmaster of the 1st Gloucestershire Royal Engineers (Volunteers) – who wanted £25 for a day or £45 for two days (£1,900 or £3,500 today) for 24 performers in military dress.  In a nice touch of self-promotion, Mr Rowland told the council that he had ‘refused several good offers’ already…

Reference: CBR/C3/3/6/2

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Central Coronation Bonfires Committee Circular, 1911

For the Coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911, a Central Coronation Bonfire Committee was established to coordinate the lighting of bonfires and beacons.  These were all to be lit at 10pm (10.30 in Scotland) and this would be heralded at 9:55pm by a magnesium signal rocket to draw attention, followed by red, white and blue fires in 5lb tins.  The committee advised that Messrs James Pain & Sons were able to supply pyrotechnics at a 25% discount….

Reference: Hyett E13/24/38GS

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Diagrams of Peat Bonfire, 1911

The Central Coronation Bonfire Committee recommended that peat bonfires were to be adopted rather than timber and faggots as peat burnt well and lasted for a good time.  The committee provided the following diagram for the proper construction of a peat bonfires – complete with flue, air channels and correct stacking.  It suggested that local Boy Scouts were to build it. It also recommended that the bonfire be saturated with petrol, paraffin, or creosote to ensure it would fire when lit.  It also belatedly suggested that people should not gather closer than 150 feet downwind upon lighting….

Reference: Hyett E13/24/38GS

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Proclamation of King George V, Gloucester Guildhall, 1910

This was the scene at the Gloucester Guildhall upon the proclamation of the reign of King George V in May 1910.  Quite how the crowds knew to gather is unknown – unless the town crier broadcast it beforehand.

Reference: SRPrints/GL72/27aGS

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Queen Mary’s visit to Sudeley Castle, 1922

Royal visits still took place – but were more modest engagements such as this visit of Queen Mary to Sudeley Castle on 4th August 1922 where she lunched with the Dent-Brocklehursts. She arrived at Cheltenham on the train and then travelled by motor car to Winchcombe – with the occasion being recorded by the Cheltenham Chronicle.

Reference: Cheltenham Chronicle & Gloucestershire Graphic, August 1922

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Proclamation of King Edward VIII, 1936

A modest crowd gathered outside the Guildhall on a rainy 22nd January 1936 to hear the proclamation of King Edward VIII.  Little did they know that within 11 months, there new king would have abdicated amidst a constitutional crisis.

Reference: SRPrints/GL72/28GS

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Coronation Decorations for George VI, 1937

For the coronation celebrations of King George VI – which of course came relatively quickly after the proclamation and abdication of Edward VIII – Gloucester Borough Council wanted to decorate the city streets of the old Roman town area in style and so arranged a public meeting of shop owners and businesses at the Guildhall to discuss it.  Initially the traders were very enthusiastic … until the council estimated notified them that the cost to each trader would be around 5s-10s a foot per shop!   When this figure became known so many traders dropped out that the idea was cancelled…. Leaving the city to foot the bill for much reduced scheme of decoration!  This letter from the Mayor those who had attended the earlier meeting makes clear the disappointment of the Coronation Decorations Sub-Committee.

Reference: GBR-L6/23/B1976

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Charter & Seal of Elizabeth II, 1974

Gloucester became a district under the Local Government Act of 1972.  This royal charter granted on 1 April 1974 provides that the district of Gloucester will have the status of borough with the power to appoint local offices of dignity as exercised before 1 April 1974 by the county borough.  Letters Patent permit the continued use by the borough of the style and title "city“.

Reference: GBR/I/1/43

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