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Pictures of Gloucester Docks

a Museum in the town of Gloucester, in the county of Gloucestershire

About Gloucester Docks

Today Gloucester Docks bristles with excitement for everyone, for this is a lavish landscape where care has been taken to preserve the wonderful atmosphere of by-gone days, yet meet with modern day expectations.

The docks were originally created because during the Middle Ages the great port of Gloucester was taken over by the development of Bristol Port. By the time of the 18th-century, the City's fortunes were sorely in need of a boost. The decision was taken to build artificial docks and a canal connecting them to the mouth of the River Severn. The project was begun late in the 18th-century with the intent of accommodating ships up to 1,000 tons, this was achieved and the Gloucester and Sharpness canal was opened in 1827.

It was always a lively scene, tall ships queued up for miles to unload cargoes, merchants waited on the quayside for goods ordered, or to seek a bargain, and smaller vessels lined up to take cargoes up the canal to newly industrialised Birmingham. Gloucester was rejuvenated, she and her people prospered once again. Little did anyone guess that the boom of the 19th-century would be destroyed by the advancement of the 20th-century which introduced new road networks and a mass of heavy vehicles to match. With this, and the fact that vessels where now being built on a much larger scale, suited only for docking at the countries sea ports, Gloucester docks declined and entered a period of wilderness years.

Since the 1980's the docks have been renovated. Fifteen former Victorian warehouses have been fully restored to their former glory and both they and the canal are a place for leisure and pleasure. Here there is always something going on in the way of entertainment, and over the last few years the docks have become Gloucester's most popular tourist attraction with visitors numbering over one million folk from all parts of the country, Europe and the World.

One of the first buildings you notice on arrival at the docks is the National Waterways Museum. In its newly refurbished Victorian warehouse the museum charts the fascinating history of the countries canals right from when they were built and whole families toiled from dawn to dusk hauling coal from north to south, to the present day. Here through the aid of modern technology you will enjoy many canal experiences, see 'hands on' displays and marvel at the superb boat collection which includes - narrowboats, river barges, a steam powered dredger, river and canal boats. This remarkable award winning exhibition is a must, it has something for every member of the family.

Another interesting visit is Gloucester Antique Centre found close to the entrance to the lock. Here over several floors in authentic Victorian surroundings, over 140 antique dealers gather to display and sell their wares. These range from collectible comics to fine furniture, silver, paintings and porcelain. There is a restaurant on the first floor, and opposite the entrance of the building there is another smaller antique centre which concentrates mostly on decorative arts in the French style.

It is though the "Boats" that everyone comes to see. And what a variety there is. A wander around reveals boats in dry dock, passenger ferries, narrow boats, sailing craft and even small model boats belonging to members of the Gloucester and District Small Model Boat Club, who gather at Victoria Dock each Monday evening to sail their vessels. You can still see romantic tall masted craft alongside today's more modern motor cruiser, and the elegant Oliver Cromwell and Edward Elgar both of which offer comfortable five day river cruises are based at Bakers Quay. Long and short leisure trips leave from Victoria dock. Gloucester Yacht Club is also sited at Victoria dock, the members are friendly and offer visiting boaters a warm welcome on Friday and Saturday evenings.

At the Merchants Quay there are shops, bars and cafe's to suit everyone. This is located at the side of Victoria dock, and here visitors are spoilt for choice with over 40 tempting shops to explore! There is an Edinburgh Woollen shop in Philpot's Warehouse, and in Kimberley Warehouse there is a bar and restaurant. Craft fairs are held here, often with demonstrations.

Across from the docks is the Old Customs House. In here visitors can almost inspect soldiers on parade, for this is the home of the Soldiers of Gloucester Museum where you are entertained with 300 years of regimental history of the Gloucestershire Hussars
and the Gloucestershire Regiment.

At the heart of the dockland lies the Mariners Chapel. This was consecrated in 1849 and was built to encourage the men who worked in the docks to attend church. At this time over 1,000 men were employed here and formerly the docks had closed on a Sunday for the men and their families to attend their place of worship. When it was realised that this was not happening, the chapel was built for them. It remains a peaceful place for contemplation and is open daily to visitors and the people of the city.

Annual events held at the docks include a lively water festival, vintage vehicle rally and an exciting firework display, Morris dancing, and much more. Interestingly, the first ever canal festival on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal took place at Hempsted in June 1974. Of further interest is the fact that the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens visited here, in his writings he mentions the docks with pride referring to the vista of buildings, vessels and all that he saw around him appearing "as if in a dream". Today, the dream of these historic docks as a place for pleasure, is a dream come true.

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