Gloucestershire is a ceremonial and administrative county in southwest England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire of the Forest of Dean.
The county town is Gloucester, and other principle towns include Cheltenham, Stroud, Cirencester, and Tewkesbury. Present-day Gloucestershire borders the preserved county of Gwent in Wales, and in England the ceremonial counties of Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, and Wiltshire (including Swindon). The official postal abbreviation is "Glos.", rather than the frequently used but erroneous "Gloucs." or "Glouc.".
Historically, Gloucestershire has also included Bristol, but this has not been considered part of Gloucestershire since 1373. The area of South Gloucestershire was made part of the County of Avon in 1974. Upon the abolition of Avon in 1996, it became a unitary authority, and returned to Gloucestershire for ceremonial purposes.
Towns and villages
Antiquities and Other Places of interest
The cathedrals of Gloucester and Bristol, the magnificent abbey church of Tewkesbury, and the church of Cirencester with its great perpendicular porch, are described under their separate headings. Of the abbey of Hayles near Winchcomb, founded by Richard, earl of Cornwall, in 1246, little more than the foundations are left, but these have been excavated with great care, and interesting fragments have been brought to light.
Most of the old market towns have fine parish churches. At Deerhurst near Tewkesbury, and Cleeve near Cheltenham, there are churches of special interest on account of the pre-Norman work they retain. The Perpendicular church at Lechlade is unusually perfect; and that at Fairford was built (c. 1500), according to tradition, to contain the remarkable series of stained-glass windows which are said to have been brought from the Netherlands. These are, however, adjudged to be of English workmanship, and are one of the finest series in the country.
The great Decorated Calcot Barn is an interesting relic of the monastery of Kingswood near Tetbury. Thornbury Castle, in the same district, is a fine Tudor ruin, the pretensions of which evoked the jealousy of Cardinal Wolsey against its builder, Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham, who was beheaded in 1521. Near Cheltenham is the fine 15th-century mansion of Southam de la Bere, of timber and stone. Memorials of the de la Bere family appear in the church at Cleeve. The mansion contains a tiled floor from Hayles Abbey. At Great Badminton is the mansion and vast domain of the Beauforts (formerly of the Botelers and others), on the south-eastern boundary of the county.
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