It seems us Americans have a difficult time pronouncing those annoying little “-cesters” that crop up in British place names from time to time. Whether it’s Leicester (“Lester”), Worcester (“Wusster”) or Gloucester (above). I admit I struggled with this throughout the past couple decades and am one of the many culprits who pronounce Worcestershire Sauce as either “Worch-ester” or “Wor-sesster”. When I told a Britain upon arrival in the U.K. that I was headed to Gloucester they must have been shocked that someone with my across-the-pond accent was able to say it right.
Anyway, Gloucester started up a busy day two in the U.K. We were headquartered in tiny Dumbleton the night before on the edge of Gloucestershire (think Gloucester County). Our mission in Gloucester that morning? Well, a trip to the Gloucester Cathedral of Harry Potter fame (author J.K. Rowling is from Yate, in Southern Gloucestershire).
For those that have already read my little piece on driving in Britain, well, by the second day I was fully rested and certainly felt more comfortable with the main throughways. That said, Gloucester (the town) presented some challenges, not the least of which were narrow streets, one-way passages and strange lane merges. It doesn’t help when you’re a complete foreigner looking for a parking lot (which we eventually found). Getting out of Dodge led us on a strange road which literally seemed to go up to a rooftop access road of some shoehorned-in warehouse in the middle of town.
Once your parked, your golden. Three pounds got us two hours and we were within walking distance of the town center and the church. We did get lost finding our way back to the parking spot, however, and made it to the car with two minutes to spare!
All that out-of-the-way, the city of Gloucester is a fantastic little place lined with various shops, restaurants and the typical old buildings you’ll see anywhere in England (and especially near or around the Cotswolds). It’s easily walkable (with some streets being closed off to all but maintenance vehicles) and there are plenty of nice little photo ops. We spent some time at a local grocer and got a few kicks out of the “American Pizza” (uh, Pepperoni) and the prepackaged glasses of wine.
The Cathedral really is the central focus of Gloucester and stands tall over a city of just over 100,000 people. The church, as it stands now, has been around for about 700 years or so – but work on the Cathedral began many years before that. It’s a stunning example of period architecture and its uniquely picturesque qualities is befitting of its role in the Harry Potter movies.
Oh, I should probably state that I’ve never seen one Harry Potter film (though, of all things, I’ve played the first LEGO Harry Potter game to completion – so I have some background knowledge to go on). That said, it’s easy to recognize the areas of the church used in filming, such as the cloisters, and the uncanny resemblance of the Hall of Hogwarts (shared with Christ Church in Oxford, which is claimed as the main inspiration).
A few other non-Harry Potter factoids to be noted: There is a memorial to John Stafford Smith, the composer of “To Anacreon in Heaven”, the tune in which Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to. Affixed to the memorial are flags for both Britain and the U.S. Nearby is a ceremonial staff used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. According to Wikipedia, there are some of the oldest depictions of golf and a football-type sport in the stained glass windows. I wasn’t aware of that before my visit, so I didn’t look out for these images, but they appear to be on the large stained glass window of the main building.
A few more photos: