The Historic Gloucester Docks is one of the jewels in the crown of the city and has an interesting history. It is not far to walk to from the town centre or the other major attraction, The Cathedral. A new addition in recent years in the Quays outlet shopping centre which has many great shops and more options for eateries.
The many Victorian warehouses that make up the docks are listed buildings. The docks formed when the Canal from Sharpness was opened in 1827 and allowed boats to bypass a particularly treacherous part of the River Severn.
This is the most inland port in the UK, historically the Docks would have been busy with the hustle and bustle of narrowboats, sailing ships, steamships and barges.
Nowadays it is primarily used for leisure purposes as well as having a dockyard for boat repairs. The preserved dock and warehouse area has been used as a movie set and featured in some great films including Alice Through the Looking Glass and Amazing Grace.
Lock & Bridges
Gloucester Lock links the Main Basin to the River Severn, the lock was formally opened for the use of barges in October 1812. This enabled boats to travel upstream of Gloucester towards, Tewkesbury, Worcester and beyond. The lock was built in the 1790s before the canal was completed, digging had got as far as Hardwicke. The lock keeper typically lived in The Lockhouse, nowadays this is used as a holiday rental.
Llanthony Bridge is a crossing point over the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal at Gloucester Docks. The bridge was named after the nearby 12-century Priory. the current structure is an electric bridge made of steel, the bridge keeper operates opening the bridge from 9 am until 6 pm. There were 2 other bridges at this site, the earliest being constructed in 1794. The earlier bridge was a manually operated double-leaf swing bridge.
The area is made up of Victorian warehouses that surround the 2 basins of the docks, many of these are listed buildings.
The North Warehouse at the northern end on the main basin was the first of all of the warehouses in the area. It was built in 1826-27 to ensure there was storage for cargo one the canal was completed.
The three warehouses in a row on the west side of the smaller Victoria Dock were all built for local iron merchant William Partridge. This comprises of the Victoria, Albert and Britannia warehouses, all commonly referred to as Mr Partridge’s Warehouses.
The Victoria Warehouse was built in 1849 and was predominantly used in the supply and storage of grains. The building is currently used by the NHS as office space. The Albert Warehouse was completed in 1851, this has been used as a corn merchant then as a flour mill until 1979. The Britania Warehouse was mainly used in the corn and grain business after its construction in 1861.
The Lock Warehouse is located alongside the lock that joins the canal with the river. This one was built in 1834 and a neighbouring Pillar Warehouse was built the year after which was subsequently destroyed by fire. The Lock Warehouse was again used by corn merchants.
Llanthony Warehouse was constructed in 1873, it was constructed with bricks topped off with a slate roof. Inside it had wooden floors and cast-iron columns. The building’s main purpose was to store grain. Winches located in the roof and loading doors on each floor meant the grain sacks could be lifted easily in or out of this storage facility. The building currently houses The National Waterways Museum.
There are many other buildings in the docks as well as those that sadly no longer exist. A full map can be found here.
There are a few historic cranes on display in the area. The Midland Railway Crane in the Victoria Dock, which is burgundy and cream in colour. The crane came from the Midland Railway goods yard at New Mills station in Cheshire. The crane dates from 1902 and was capable of lifting 5 tons.
There is also a black Steam Crane on the North Quay of the main dock. The 7½ ton steam crane on is a standard Leeds type built-in 1944 by Joseph Booth & Brothers of Rodley. After working for many years at the South Shields Ship Repair Yard, it was brought to Gloucester in 1994 as a reminder of the steam cranes that used to work in the area in its heyday
Restaurants & Pubs
There are many options to eat out in the historic docks area including many at the quays. There are further options to eat out in Gloucester if you fancy something else.
One of the popular options in the area, The Med is a Mediterranean restaurant located on the waterfront. they are known for serving great food including fish, vegetarian and fish options. It is located in the former Vinings Warehouse and is very vibrantly decorated.
Greek on the Docks
Greek on the Docks is a top-notch Greek eatery with outdoor seating on the dockside. They serve some very high-quality food and wine from Greece in a pleasant environment.
Located on Llanthony Road near to the Quays is Tank, a top place to enjoy a craft beer with stonebaked pizza. Primarily Tank serves the wares of Gloucester Brewery alongside some top-notch guest beers with tasty pizza. Tank Pub has a great vibe inside with big wooden tables and is spacious.
The staff here are very knowledgable about the beers they serve and is an ideal drinking hole for beer connoisseurs. Notable house brews include the strong GB American Pale Ale or the session IPA. For lager drinkers, the brewery produces an English craft lager, that also happens to be vegan.
The Portivo Lounge is a nice bar that is quite trendy and has a great menu that includes, breakfasts and tapas plates. The bar has a great atmosphere and a mixture of seating types including outside and some soft furnishing.
There are many events and things to see in the docks, the premier event in the calendar is the famous Tall Ships Festival. This takes place in may every two years where visitors flock to the docks to see the boats and other historical themed events.
There is plenty to see on a normal day in Gloucester docks for tourists and locals alike.
Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum
The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum is located at the edge of the docks that has many exhibits. The main theme of the museum is the history of the regiments of the county.
The Mariners Church in Gloucester Docks opened in 1849, this eye-catching Church of England chapel was frequented by seamen from many countries. It is located near to the Reynolds and Vinings Warehouses and a stone’s throw from The Med restaurant.
The Mariners was built predominantly for the workers in the dockyard and crews of boats that had moored nearby. It has always welcomed all residents of Gloucester. Today, it is still a draw to people who come from far and wide to visit while exploring the historic docks.
English Holiday Cruises are a local company that provide river cruises on the River Severn and canal. You typically board one of their boats in Gloucester, then relax for a unique touring holiday through the glorious English countryside of the Cotswolds Severn Vale.
Enjoy a short boat trip on Queen Boadicea along the canal and be treated to an educating tour of the area. The trip typically runs for 45 minutes with a commentary of the sights on the way. Queen Boadicea was involved in the Dunkirk evacuations during the second world war. Tickets can be booked at the National Waterways Museum.
There are now many options for bars, pubs and restaurants in the dock and Quays area and is becoming more and more vibrant. The area is pretty special at night, ideal for fun-seekers or photographers.