Genealogical and historical information and links for anyone researching their ancestors in England and the British Isles

 Home ==> County Links ==> Gloucestershire


 <== Essex


Themes Explorers and Adventurers Nobel Prize Winners
Actors/Actresses and Directors Famous People Places of Interest
Anglo-Saxons and Danes Historic Events Prime Ministers
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Inventors and Scientists Royal Consorts and Heirs
Artists and Architects Monarchs World Heritage Sites
Composers National Parks Writers and Poets

Gloucestershire lies in south-western England and borders Wales to the west. In 1974 the south of the county together with part of Somerset formed the new county of Avon. Avon has since been broken up into smaller authorities.

Towns include the county seat of Gloucester and the major port of Bristol.

In 1938 the Forest of Dean was designated the first National Forest Park.

Actors/Actresses and Directors
The stage and film actor Ralph Richardson was born in Cheltenham in 1902. He acted in many productions at London's famous Old Vic theatre during the 1930s and '40s and was able to transfer his success there to the cinema with a film career spanning half a century from his debut in 1933 to shortly before his death in 1983.

Ralph Richardson

The Hollywood actor Cary Grant was born as Archibald Alexander Leach in Horfield, now part of Bristol, in 1904. He arrived in the USA in 1920 and after working in theatre moved to Hollywood where he made his film debut in 1932. He appeared in many classic comedies opposite Hollywood's leading actresses, also working with Sir Alfred Hitchcock in some of his most successful films. In 1970 he was awarded an honorary Academy Award.

Anglo-Saxons and Danes

Anglo-Saxon Kings
The small kingdom of the Hwicce lay between the kingdoms of Mercia to the north and that of the West Saxons (Wessex) to the south. The area later became part of Mercia and Gloucester its capital.

In 939 Athelstan the first King of all England and grandson of Alfred the Great died at Gloucester. In 924 he had united the kingdom of Wessex with Mercia and in 927 with Northumbria, effectively creating England. He was buried in Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire.

King Athelstan

Athelstan was succeeded by his half-brother Edmund I who was murdered in 946 by an outlaw while holding a banquet at Pucklechurch. He was buried at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset.

Edmund I's son Edwy died in 959 in Gloucester having ruled since 955. He was buried in Winchester in Hampshire.

King Edwy
Monarchs buried at Winchester

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Malvern Hills form a ridge running from north to south providing spectacular uninterrupted views west into Wales and east over the Cotswolds. The relatively small AONB is spread over three counties, with its southern end lying in Gloucestershire. It includes a mixture landscapes and it was this variety which was the main reason for its designation as an AONB in 1959.

The Cotswolds stretch over six counties, with the majority of their area lying in Gloucestershire. They became the country's largest AONB on its creation in 1966. The area is distinctive due to the underlying limestone rock which has created a unique landscape and habitat for plants and animals.

The limestone gorges, woodlands and meadows of the Wye Valley stretch from Hereford in the north to near Chepstow Castle in the south and were designated an AONB in 1971. The northern part of the AONB lies in Herefordshire with the southern half split between Gloucestershire in the east and Wales in the west.

Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Down Ampney in 1872. On his death in 1958 his ashes were interred at Westminster Abbey.

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams Society

Williams' friend Gustav Holst was born as Gustav Theodore von Holst in Cheltenham in 1874. He became most famous for the suite The Planets.

Gustav Holst
Birthplace museum, Cheltenham
Gustav Holst website
Gustav Holst Society

Famous People
The preacher George Whitefield was born at the Bell Inn in Gloucester in 1714. While studying at Oxford he became involved with John Wesley and his brother Charles, who in 1729 had set up a religious group called the "Oxford Methodists". This was the beginnings of Methodism which Whitefield and the Wesley brothers would later found. Originally a movement within the Church of England, the Methodists were eventually forced to separate and form their own church.

George Whitefield

The social reformer Beatrice Webb was born as Martha Beatrice Potter in Gloucester in 1858. An early member of the Fabian Society, in 1892 she married another social reformer, Sidney Webb, and together they dedicated themselves to promoting Socialist values. In 1895 they established the world-renowned London School of Economics and Political Science.

Beatrice Webb

Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the USA, was born in Bristol in 1821. She emigrated with her family to America in 1832 but returned to England in 1868.

Historic Events

Major Battles
In 1471 the Yorkist Edward IV defeated the Lancastrian army under the Duke of Somerset at the Battle of Tewkesbury. The conflict was part of the Wars of the Roses, a series of battles for the throne from 1455-85 between the two dynastic Houses. After the battle the Lancastrian cause lay in tatters: Henry VI's only son and heir Prince Edward was dead, the king's wife Margaret of Anjou was imprisoned in the Tower of London and the Duke of Somerset was executed. Edward IV reclaimed the crown he had lost the previous year, deposing Henry VI for the second time. Henry himself was imprisoned again in the Tower of London where he was murdered.

Edward IV

Landings and Departures
Born in Italy in 1450 the navigator Giovanni Caboto settled in Bristol under the Anglicised name of John Cabot. In 1497 he set out from the port in search of a route to Asia - via the Northwest Passage round Canada - but instead discovered North America becoming the first European since the Vikings to set foot on the continent and "claiming" the land for his patron, Henry VII of England. Returning to England he set out again on a second voyage in 1498 but never returned, dying somewhere at sea.

Inventors and Scientists
It was at Berkeley where Edward Jenner discovered the smallpox vaccine. He was born at the vicarage in 1749 and buried in the village in 1823.

Edward Jenner
Smallpox: eradicating the scourge


House of Plantagenet
House of Plantagenet
In 1216 Henry III was crowned at the age of nine in Gloucester Cathedral as London was deemed to be unsafe due to rebellious barons controlling the east of England. He was later crowned, as all other monarchs were, at Westminster Abbey and ruled until his death in 1272.

Henry III

Edward II was murdered at Berkeley Castle in 1327, shortly after being forced to abdicate at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire by his wife Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer who had led an invading army the year before. Edward was buried at Gloucester Cathedral and it was his fifteen-year-old son Edward III who succeeded him.

Edward II

Nobel Prize Winners

The biochemist Frederick Sanger was born in Rendcombe in 1918. He was the first scientist to win a Nobel Prize for Chemistry twice. In 1958 he was awarded the prize for his research into insulin and in 1980 he shared the prize again with the Americans Paul Berg and Walter Gilbert for his DNA related research.

Frederick Sanger

The economist John R. Hicks died in Blockley in 1989. In 1972 he had become the first Englishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics which he shared with the American Kenneth J. Arrow.


The mathematician and physicist Paul A.M. Dirac was born as Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac in Bristol in 1902. In 1933 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with the Austrian Erwin Schrödinger for their work in quantum theory.

Paul A.M. Dirac

Physiology or Medicine
The physiologist Archibald V. Hill was born as Archibald Vivian Hill in Bristol in 1886. In 1922 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with the German Otto Meyerhof for his research into heat production in muscles.

Archibald V. Hill

The scientist Martin J. Evans was born in the county in Stroud in 1941. In 2007 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with two American citizens: the Italian-born Mario R. Capecchi and the British-born Oliver Smithies. The award was for developing the technology of gene targeting.

Places of Interest

Berkeley Castle

Sudeley Castle

Cathedrals and Abbeys
Bristol Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral

Tewkesbury Abbey

The University of Bristol received its Royal Charter in 1909, having developed out of University College Bristol which had been founded in 1876. It was one of the six civic universities founded in the country's new industrial centres which also included Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. This new generation of "redbrick" universities (to be followed by more throughout the 20th century) were the first to be founded in England after those at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London.

Prime Ministers

Prime Ministers

Prime Minister from 1812-27, Robert Jenkinson, the Earl of Liverpool, was buried in 1828 at St Mary's in Hawkesbury, the village where the Jenkinson family home was once situated.

Earl of Liverpool

Royal Consorts and Heirs

House of Normandy
Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy was buried at Gloucester Cathedral in 1134. He was the eldest son of William the Conqueror but it was his younger brothers William and Henry who succeeded to the throne. In 1106 he was captured by his brother Henry I's invading army at the Battle of Tinchebrai in Normandy and spent the rest of his life imprisoned in England, eventually dying at Cardiff Castle in Wales.

House of Lancaster
Killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 Edward, Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne of his father Henry VI, was buried at Tewkesbury Abbey.

House of Tudor
Henry VIII's sixth and last wife Katherine Parr died in childbirth at Sudeley Castle in 1548 and was also buried there. She had married Henry in 1543 and remained Queen until his death in 1547.

Katherine Parr

Writers and Poets
The poet Robert Southey was born in Bristol in 1774. He succeeded Henry James Pye as poet laureate in 1813 and when he died in 1843 his friend William Wordsworth succeeded him. Southey and his colleague Samuel Taylor Coleridge were brothers-in-law having married sisters.

Robert Southey
Poets laureate

She has made me in love with a cold climate, and frost and snow, with a northern moonlight.

(Letter, 1797)

The writer and poet Laurie Lee was born as Laurence Edward Alan Lee in Stroud in 1914. He was best known for Cider with Rosie in which he recounted his rural childhood in the nearby village of Slad where his family had moved to when he was three. The book depicted a century-old way of village life, which he saw vanishing during his lifetime, slowly eroded by the arrival of the modern world in the form of the car and the spread of the town.

In 1934 Lee left the village of his youth and set out for London on foot. After a year in the capital he travelled to Spain, where his experiences before and during the Civil War would provide the material for later books.

In the 1960s he returned to live in Slad. He died in the village in 1997 and is buried there.

Laurie Lee

Such a morning it is when love
leans through geranium windows
and calls with a cockerel's tongue.

When red-haired girls scamper like roses
over the rain-green grass,
and the sun drips honey.

Days of these Days (1947)

County Links Genealogy in England

Genealogy Links

Births, Marriages
and Deaths (BMD)
Family History Societies
Bristol & Avon
Record Offices
and Archives
Avon Local History and Archaeology
Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society
Record Society
Gloucestershire Local History
Forest of Dean Family History