Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

The Gloucester City Charters

Thursday 21st March saw members of The Friends of Gloucestershire Archives and a number of visitors gather in the Dunrossil Centre to hear Julie Courtenay and Rachael Wales from Gloucestershire Archives talk about the Charters granted to Gloucester City that are stored in the strongrooms at The Heritage Hub. The charters stored there range from the first surviving one from 1155 up to Local Government reorganisation in 1974.

Julie gave us a gallop through the history of the charters and the rights and responsibilities that they bestowed on the city. The current systems of Mayor and Alderman and the setting up of Quarter sessions are just some of the rights together with acknowledging that the residents of Gloucester are entitled to the same rights and privileges as the residents of London!!

Rachael, wearing her conservation hat, spoke about how the charters had been stored in the past; the effect that this had had on their condition and the work being undertaken to ensure no further deterioration takes place. The charters had been stored, in not ideal conditions, at Gloucester museum, apart from the one which had been missing for years and then discovered in The Dean’s Office at Gloucester Cathedral. Brought together at The Archives whilst building work was taking place at the museum it was realised that storage facilities were preferable there and so the arrangement became permanent.

The charters vary in size, with some being small, as seen above, and others which take two people to handle. Whilst most charters are single sided one page documents, one of them is seven pages long and another an incredible eleven pages. The charters had been mounted on non archival card, again as seen above, folded multiple times, folded to allow some portions to fade because of the light, had their seals folded over the documents, had their seals damaged or missing and generally not stored in the best possible way in a large old oak cabinet.

Fundraising, including help from Gloucester City Council and The Friends, has allowed individually designed and made storage boxes to be made by a packaging arm of The Bodleian Library, Oxford and a new storage drawer cabinet to be purchased, as illustrated below.


Following the talk and some quick refreshments, members were taken to the strongrooms to look at the charters at close quarters and the new storage facilities.

The picture below shows the Elizabeth the Second Charter dating from 1974 in its new storage box.

The talk took place on the last working day for Julie Courtenay and The Friends were pleased to present her with a bouquet of flowers as a token of thanks for the work she has done over an incredible 40 years working at Gloucestershire Archives.

John Williams

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