Click on the map to see a larger, more detailed map of Gloucestershire (19,520 bytes)
It is very roughly rectangular in shape, with the longest sides running from south-west to north-east. It is about 55 miles long by 33 miles wide.
It consists of four distinct geographical areas. The western part is largely occupied by the hilly Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, the eastern half by the limestone Cotswold Hills, with the very fertile Severn Valley in between. In the extreme south-west a small area is effectively a suburb or dormitory area for the city of Bristol. Bristol itself has at various times and for various purposes been considered to be a part of Gloucestershire, a part of Somerset, shared between the two, a part of the short-lived count of Avon and (as now) completely independent. For the purpose of this page I do not consider it to be a part of Gloucestershire.
The county has a small coalfield in the Forest of Dean, but this has not led to major urban growth in that area, which remains largely woodland with a few small towns. The last mine closed some years ago, leaving forestry, tourism and sheep rearing as the main activities. The Severn valley is ideal cattle country, while on the Cotswolds arable farming has largely replaced the traditional sheep rearing. Many of the Cotswold towns had their prosperity based on woollen manufactures from the local sheep, but now rely on a combination of small-scale light industry and continuing operation as market towns serving their immediate locality.
The biggest urban centre in Gloucestershire is the cathedral city of Gloucester, but even that is hardly a large city. Its population in the 1921 census was 51,330, while the second town of the county, nearby Cheltenham was home to 48,444.
Places with over 4,000 population in the 1931 census (as listed in AA Handbook 1946), omitting Bristol and its satellites, were:
Cheltenham about 50,000
As with most counties, a local newspaper site gives news, history and other information about the county.
The Cotswold Hyper-Guide gives a useful illustrated guide to many small towns in and near the county.
As with all counties, the first port of call for genealogists should be the relevant GENUKI web pages, which give a far more comprehensive guide to genealogical resources for the county than I am able to give here.
Gloucestershire Record Office is located at Clarence Row, Alvin Street, GLOUCESTER, GL1 3DW, Tel: (+44) (0) 1452 425295
There are two genealogy mailing lists covering Gloucestershire, WESSEX-PLUS, which also includes all south-west England as far east as Oxfordshire and Hampshire, and GLOUCESTER, which is confined to the one county. In each case, you can subscribe (free) by sending an email message to NAMEemail@example.com (where NAME is replaced by either WESSEX-PLUS or GLOUCESTER) with just the single word
in the body of the message with no other text and no signature file.
Stuart Flight's GlosGen site is a mine of useful information for genealogists interested in Gloucestershire.
In 1786 Ralph Bigland published a set of 4 huge volumes of his transcriptions of monumental inscriptions from churches, etc. in Gloucestershire. Many of the items described no longer exist, so this is an important and unique source of this information. The volumes, entitled "Historical, Monumental and Genealogical Collections Relative to the County of Gloucester" can be inspected in the Gloucester Record Office, or can be purchased (as an excellent quality facsimile) on CD from Archive CD Books (the not-for-profit service for genealogists and historians).
Another excellent Cotswolds site has been created by Allan Taylor. This includes some original records, major surnames interests lists (add your own!) and much other information.
I haven't yet visited, but the Genealogy Links pages are also recommended by those who have.
Free resource look-ups can be obtained from the Gloucestershire Lookup Exchange, who will also welcome any offers of help from resources you may have access to.
Graham Thomas's South Cotswolds Genealogical and Local History Guide is also well worth consulting if your interests are in that part of the county.
However, for completeness sake, if the place meets the first criterion but fails on one or more of the others, then it will at least appear here as a heading, so the reader will have some idea which places may "get the treatment" at some time in the future.
The location of each of the places listed here is shown in red on the accompanying map of Gloucestershire (19,520 bytes).
Cirencester was an important town in Roman times, at the junction of two major roads (the Fosse Way from Bath to Lincoln and the Ermin Way from Gloucester to Silchester). Under the Romans it was for a time the second biggest city in the country after London.
C.R.J Currie and C.P.Lewis A Guide to English County Histories (Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1994), ISBN 0-7509-1505-6.
A. Room: Dictionary of British Place Names (1988), ISBN 1 85605 1775.
A.D. Mills: A Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford University Press, 1991, revised 1995), ISBN 0-19-869156-4.
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