Sometimes when visiting a new area it is fun and interesting to know some of the lesser-known facts that are not usually mentioned in the tourist guides. You may even be compelled to visit some of these lesser-known places for something a little different. Gloucestershire has its fair share of hidden gems and history, so we hope you enjoy these little nuggets of information.
In 2004, Filton airfield opened its gates to allow the public to view a very special aircraft – Concorde. This feat of aeronautical engineering was made on assembly lines in Filton and Toulouse, France. Concorde 216 flew its first ever flight from Filton on 20th April 1979 and on 26th November 2003 it made its final and homeward journey to Filton where it has been on display since. In all, twenty Concorde aircraft were built with fourteen entering passenger service seven with British Airways and seven with Air France. This was the new age of supersonic air travel, which few could afford. Nevertheless, this joint project between Great Britain and France remains an outstanding example of engineering.
Gloucestershire is home to Great Britain’s only Tudor castle that is open as a hotel. Thornbury Castle began in 1511 for the third Duke of Buckingham, Edward Stafford. The castle has few of the usual defences associated with castles. The Duke was unfortunately beheaded on the orders of King Henry for treason so he never saw the completed building. The building fell into disrepair during the English Civil War but was renovated in 1824. Thornbury Castle has the oldest Tudor gardens in England and has a 500-year-old vineyard within the castle walls, which produce Thornbury wine to this day. If you want to recreate a Tudor experience, you can stay in the bedchamber where King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn slept.
Queen Elizabeth II
On the 13th December 1981 while travelling through the Cotswolds, a blizzard struck and Queen Elizabeth II was forced to take refuge at The Cross Hands Hotel, Old Sodbury. The hotel dates from the fourteenth century and is an old posting house. In the 1680s the cellars were used to house convicted criminals sentenced to death by ‘bloody’ Judge Jefferies.
The Cock Road Gang
The Cock Road Gang consisted mostly of members of the Caines family and were notorious thieves, ruffians, and highwaymen. Although they mainly operated in the Kingswood and Oldland areas then Royal forests and now part of the eastern suburbs of Bristol, they committed crimes as far away as London and Birmingham. Cock Road is located high up and provided a good vantage point to see anyone approaching; nowadays it still provides a good view over the city of Bristol. A chapel now stands on the site the gang used as their lookout point. The gang committed their crimes for around 150 years until 1834 when George Caines was transported for life to New South Wales, Australia. He was arrested after burgling various silver and gold items from Dyrham Park mansion. Several other members of the family were transported and others were hung in Gloucester.
The Longest River in Great Britain
This accolade goes to the River Severn. Two large bridges cross the River Severn from South Gloucestershire. The first, a suspension bridge was opened in 1966 and takes the M48 motorway from Aust across to Beachley in Wales. Thirty years later a second crossing opened which stretches from Severn Beach to Subrook. This cable stay bridge carries the M4 motorway. The tidal range of the river Severn is the second highest in the world, exceeded only by the Bay of Fundy in Canada. At certain times of the year, a large surge wave called the Severn Bore sweeps up the river. The shape of the Severn estuary causes the water to be funnelled into a narrowing channel as the tide rises, which forms the large wave.