Gloucester’s the place of Beatrix Potter – and Harry Potter

23 May 2013

Today, we visited the city of Gloucester, which lies on the River Severn, close to the Welsh border, and a bit north-east of Bristol. If you remember, Bristol is where we visited that big ship that the famous Brunel had built – the SS Great Britain.

I was surprised to learn how impressively old Gloucester is: it was founded by the Romans in AD 97! And, although the city is situated quite far inland, it is actually a port. It is linked to the Severn Estuary by a canal, and the river itself is navigable even further northwards and inland.

Morton, who really seems to like harbours and ships, and trains and railways, was very keen to visit the historic docks. So we made our way down to the Victoria Basin. There isn’t much commercial traffic at the docks anymore now, but all kinds of leisure crafts are moored here.

This is the Victoria Basin, which is surrounded by old warehouses
This is the Victoria Basin, which is surrounded by old warehouses

Here you can see a cluster of narrowboats moored at the docks – and look, there I am!

The historic Gloucester docks on the Severn River
The historic Gloucester docks on the Severn River

There are also sailing boats moored here.

“Would you like to sail around the world on a boat, Flat Kathy?” asked Paula, noticing that I was looking around with much interest.

“Well, to be honest, although I think that living on a boat and sailing all over the world must be rather romantic, and fabulously adventurous and daring too, I don’t think it’s quite my thing,” I confessed.

Paula looked at me understandingly, “Yes, I don’t think you’d do do too well on water, Flat Kathy – or in water, come to think of it.”

I suppose she has a point. And yet, there is something quite appealing about those boats, don’t you think? Can you imagine sailing off into the sunset like this?

Sailboats
Sailboats

In a nearby street, Paula and Morton paused in front of another shop, right next to a coffee shop.

“Look up there,” said Morton, pointing at a group of colourful life-size figures clustered together above the shop window. Above them, a beautiful old clock hung from a decorative protruding bracket. “That is an automaton clock, Flat Kathy. It’s very special and quite unique. The five figures strike those bells on the hours and quarter hours.”

Don’t you think it looks extraordinary?

Paula explained that the woman in green represented Ireland, while the man next to her – John Bull – was representing England. On the right is a Scotsman playing the pipes, and next to him is a Welsh woman. The bearded figure in the centre was Old Father Time.

An unusual automaton clock in Gloucester
An unusual automaton clock in Gloucester

Gloucester also has a beautiful cathedral, which was being renovated at the time. It dates back to around 678 AD, which makes it incredibly old.

During our visit, we learned that it had been used to film some of the scenes of the Harry Potter movies! Isn’t that exciting? I wish I could have been an extra in one of those movies; I thought they were simply marvelous. I think I would’ve fitted right into that magical world, don’t you? (You can read more here.)

Beautiful Gloucester Cathedral - location for scenes from the Harry Potter movies - is being renovated at the moment
Beautiful Gloucester Cathedral – the location for a couple of scenes from the Harry Potter movies – is being renovated at the moment

“Flat Kathy, I know that you are familiar with all the Harry Potter books,” said Paula, and I nodded eagerly, “Yes, I’ve read all of them. Reggie had them on her bookshelf, so I read the whole series while I was staying with her.”

“Well, have you heard of Beatrix Potter?” she asked.

“No,” I shook my head, “I don’t think so. She wasn’t in those books, was she?”

“No!” exclaimed Paula, laughing, “Beatrix Potter wasn’t a character in a book – she was a writer. She wrote children’s stories, usually featuring animals and life in the country. The first one – and probably the best known – was ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, which was followed by ‘The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin’. She was very artistic too, and drew all the illustrations for her books. For most of her adult life, she lived in the very pretty Lake District.”

Just around the corner from the Cathedral, we came across a delightfully quaint little museum and shop, known as The House of the Tailor of Gloucester.

“Beatrix Potter liked to use many real locations as the settings for her books and as the basis of her illustrations. This particular house was the setting of her book ‘The Tailor of Gloucester‘, her third published book,” indicated Paula, as we stopped in front of the shop window to take some photographs.

Paula takes me to the Beatrix Potter Shop, the setting of the famous story of the tailor of Gloucester who was helped by some mice to sew a waistcoat (!)
Paula takes me to the Beatrix Potter Shop, the setting of the famous story of the tailor of Gloucester who was helped by some mice to sew a waistcoat (!)

“The book is about a tailor who is busy making a waistcoat, when he runs out of a particular colour of twist, and then falls ill without being able to complete the work. When he later returns to his workshop, he discovers that his work has been finished by a couple of grateful mice that he has rescued from his cat. It’s based on a real incident, when a local tailor fell ill and, overnight, his assistants secretly finished a waistcoat he had been working on, pretending that it had been the work of fairies. Beatrix liked the story, so she made up her own version involving a cat and mice!”

Well, friends, there you have it – Gloucester is the place of Beatrix Potter – and Harry Potter! – and of course, a most unusual automaton clock.


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