We are gathered here...
Hopefully, many of you will have seen the wonderful display in the Heritage Hub foyer during December and January, which tells the stories of a number of former residents of Westgate Street.
The display showcases a project which the Gloucestershire Family History Society (GFHS) was involved with over the past year or more, emanating from the work of the Cathedral Quarter High Street Heritage Action zone (CQHAZ). The CQHAZ 's remit included renovating a number of properties in Westgate Street. GFHS took an interest in this, particularly the former occupants of the buildings being restored, and a few of our volunteers set about looking into who had lived in, worked at or were associated with those properties. Fascinating stories started to emerge, and the history of the street began to come to life, not just in the sympathetic physical reconstruction of some of the buildings, but also in the knowledge that built up relating to the street and its former occupants.
Initially, it wasn’t clear how all the research conducted could be marshalled to ‘tell the tale’ and help celebrate the history of Westgate Street, but a fruitful partnership came into being when Gloucester Civic Trust (GCT), who manage the historic buildings which now form the Folk of Gloucester, and the Churches Conservation Trust, who are responsible for St Nicholas’ church opposite the Folk, came on board.
GFHS put in a successful bid for a grant from Voices Gloucester and wooden silhouette cut outs, from the waist up, were commissioned (supplied by Nick’s Timber). Claire from CQHAZ made contact with Gloucestershire College, and A’ level art students from the college were set the task of ‘interpreting’ the stories of the inhabitants. They did this by decorating the fronts of the cut-outs, each one representing an individual from the past, who had lived/worked or was associated with Westgate Street. The backs of the silhouettes named the individual depicted, and a ‘seating plan’ was produced, which gave further information about the members of the congregation.
Here are a couple of examples of the students’ work:
Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875), as depicted by Rowan Timms and Anwen Eddington. Charles was a scientist and engineer from 52-54 Westgate Street, whose inventions included the stereoscope
John Thurston, as depicted by Yuna Ward. John had an ironmongery business at 93 Westgate Street in the 1850s
St Nicholas’ church hosted the completed artworks in its pews, and volunteers from GCT and GFHS stewarded an exhibition, "We are gathered here...." . which ran in the church in October. The exhibition was a great success and attracted many visitors. Plans are afoot to make further use of the silhouettes and the information gathered later this year, so watch this space!
The ‘congregation’ in St Nicholas’ Church, Westgate Street