Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.

For some reason that little ditty was recited endlessly in our house when I was young.  It must have been an indication of how much it rained in Cardiff.  No rain today though, a pleasant sunny winter’s day. I travelled for an hour by CrossCountry train from Cardiff to Gloucester, along the bank of the Severn Estuary. This used to be the main London to South Wales line until the Severn Tunnel was opened in 1886.

Gloucester raillway station

I planned to spend the day exploring the town, docks and cathedral areas.  The first thing that caught my eye was an equestrienne statue.  It was the Roman Emperor Nerva and the plaque said ‘after whom Gloucester was named’.  Obviously one or both of them has had a name change since.  If of course he’s been called Emperor Gloucester it would have made more sense and the nursery rhyme could have gone ‘Emperor Gloucester went to Gloucester ……’, and would have been much more fun.

Roman Emperor Nerva statue, Gloucester

Candle sculpture, Gloucester - Wolfgang ButtressGloucester Docks is now a gentrified old Victorian Dock where some of the old buildings have been saved and converted into accommodation, museums and shops.  It was the most inland port in the country apparently. It is home of the Inland Waterways Museum. There’s a Victorian Pillar Box outside the museum which I got all excited about until later reading it is a replica.  How disappointing.

The giant 21m tall Candle sculpture did impress me however, as did the name of the sculptor, Wolfgang Buttress.  I stood and admired it whilst at the same time trying to figure out how it had been made.  Laser cut out of steel apparently.  That’s one heck of a laser cutter I thought.

From the docks I made my way to the cathedral, and wow, what a structure it is.  I spent a couple of hours exploring it and the surrounding medieval religious buildings.  Cathedrals evoke a whole range of thoughts and feelings in me.  I naturally admire the architecture and the phenomenal effort it must have taken to design and build, the years of man-hours those stone masons must have spent carving.  But then I think about who paid for it, the common people living in their poor living conditions staring at the religious edifice being created in their midst. I always wonder how they felt about it all.

Jenner statue, Gloucester AbbeyThere’s quite a historical link between Gloucester and Cardiff – I see it every time I go into the centre of Cardiff.  It’s Cardiff Castle, built by Robert Fitzhamon, Baron of Gloucester.  I was reminded of that link when I went into the cathedral and saw the tomb of Robert of Normandy, William the Conqueror’s eldest son. He had a rocky relationship with his father and brothers and never became king. In fact he was captured by his younger brother, Henry I, and sent to prison in Cardiff Castle, where he died. I wonder why they bought his body back to Gloucester to be buried in the Cathedral if they didn’t think much of him.

The other thing that caught my eye in the cathedral was the giant marble statue of Edward Jenner. He was a doctor in nearby Berkeley and through his observations of milkmaids appearing to be immune to smallpox he developed the first vaccination, subsequently saving the lives of many people.  There’s another Cardiff connection here – there is a carving of Jenner of the Cardiff University building on Newport Road.

There was just enough time left to have another wander around the centre of town including the Baker jewellery shop on Southgate Street. Under the actual clock there are five bells in a display that are used to signal the quarter hours and hours of the clock. Each figure has a bell to strike with the centre bell being hit by a hammer attached to a cord pulled by Old Father Time in the centre of the tableau. The other bell chiming characters are represent the nations of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales respectively.

Baker clock, Gloucester

And so home to Cardiff on another CrossCountry train.  With the dark evenings it wasn’t possible to admire the scenery so I was left to contemplate which station I was going to visit on my next day out – one beginning with H.

Date of visit: 16 February 2019

See progress to date: A-Z of Railway Stations

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