The Historic Gloucester Docks is one jewel in the city’s crown and has an interesting history. It is not far to walk to from the town centre or the other major attraction, The Cathedral. A recent addition is the Gloucester Quays outlet shopping centre, which has many great shops and more options for eateries.
There are many Victorian warehouses that make up the docks. Some of the Victorian warehouses are listed buildings. The docks formed when the Canal from Sharpness opened in 1827. This canal allowed boats to bypass a 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 narrow boats, sailing ships, steamships and barges. Nowadays, its primary use is for leisure purposes and having a dockyard for boat repairs. The preserved docks and warehouses have been 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. They formally opened the lock for the use of barges in October 1812. This enabled boats to travel upstream of Gloucester towards Tewkesbury, Worcester and beyond. They built the lock in the 1790s before they completed the canal. The digging had got as far as Hardwicke. The lock keeper typically lived in The Lock House, nowadays this is a holiday rental.
Llanthony Bridge is a crossing point over the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal at Gloucester Docks. They named the bridge after the nearby 12-century Llanthony 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.
Warehouses in Gloucester Docks
The docks area consists of Victorian warehouses with 2 basins on the docks.
The North Warehouse at the northern end of the main basin was the first of the warehouses in the area. They built it in 1826-27 to ensure there was storage for cargo once they completed the canal.
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 consists of the Victoria, Albert and Britannia warehouses, all commonly referred to as Mr Partridge’s Warehouses.
The Victoria Warehouse built in 1849. They predominantly used it in the supply and storage of grains. The NHS currently uses the building as office space. They completed the Albert Warehouse in 1851. The warehouse was a corn merchant then used as a flour mill until 1979. They mainly used the Britania Warehouse 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. They built this in 1834 and they built a neighbouring Pillar Warehouse the year after. However, Pillar Warehouse was destroyed by fire. Corn merchants again used the Lock Warehouse.
They constructed the Llanthony Warehouse in 1873. They built it with bricks topped off with a slate roof. Inside, it had wooden floors and cast-iron columns. The building’s primary purpose was to store grain. Winches on 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 Gloucester docks and those that sadly no longer exist. Find a full map here.
There are a few historic cranes on display in the area. Firstly, the Midland Railway Crane in the Victoria Dock, which is burgundy and cream. The crane came from the Midland Railway goods yard at New Mills station in Cheshire. The crane dates from 1902 and could lift 5 tons.
There is also a black Steam Crane on the North Quay of the main dock. The 7½ ton steam crane 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. They then brought it to Gloucester in 1994 as a reminder of the steam cranes that used to work in the area in its heyday.
Restaurants & Pubs in Gloucester Docks
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.
Greek on the Docks restaurant
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.
Tank a Nice Pub near Gloucester Docks
On Llanthony Road near to the Quays is Tank, a top place to enjoy a craft beer with stone baked pizza. Primarily, Tank serves the wares of Gloucester Brewery alongside some top-notch guest beers. Tank Pub has a great vibe inside with big wooden tables and is spacious.
The staff here are very knowledgeable about the beers they serve. Thus, it 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 is vegan.
Cote at Gloucester Quays
Cote is a lovely French restaurant in Gloucester Quays. This restaurant has a lovely dining room and some outdoor seating to enjoy on a summer’s day. They serve a variety of French cuisine and are cooked to a very high standard. To complement your meal, they also serve some good French wines. A highlight of their menu is the chateaubriand, which is ideal for sharing. This is a delicious steak cooked to perfection. Other delicious items from their menu include French onion soup, fish stew and some tasty cheese dishes. Cote is a great place to dine out for a special occasion or date night.
Portivo Lounge a pleasant bar
Portivo Lounge in Gloucester Docks is a great daytime or evening destination with seating inside and also outside. The Portivo Lounge is part of a chain of venues called “The Lounges”. You can find these in many towns across the county. The bars have mixed seating in an eclectic style and have tables, comfy chairs and sofas for you to relax in.
The lounges are great for a drink and also some very interesting, reasonable value food. This includes their sharing tapas plates, which are great for a relaxed lunch. The Portivo Lounge in Gloucester Quays is dog friendly and pets are very welcome in their bars. They have a fantastic menu include small plates, breakfasts and some interesting snacks like a pulled pork panini. Ive enjoyed a few meals out or drinks at Portivo Lounge and find it great.
Events in Gloucester Docks
There are many events and things to see at the docks. However, 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.
In late august each year, the area hosts a classic car and retro festival called Gloucester Goes Retro. This is a fantastic event and the entire city, including the docks, comes to life. They have live entertainment, people in period costumes and lots of vehicles for you to peruse.
Tourist Attractions in Gloucester Docks
There is plenty to see on a normal day in Gloucester docks for tourists and locals alike.
See the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum
The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum is at the edge of the docks that have many exhibits. The theme of the museum is the history of the regiments of the county.
Visit Mariners Church
The Mariners Church in Gloucester Docks opened in 1849. Sailors from many countries frequented this eye-catching Church. It is near to the Reynolds and Vinings Warehouses.
They built the Mariners Church 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 for people who come from far and wide to visit while exploring the historic docks.
Go on a boat trip from Gloucester Docks
English Holiday Cruises is a local company that provides 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 boat trip typically runs for 45 minutes, which includes a commentary of the sights on the way. Queen Boadicea was part of the Dunkirk evacuations during the second world war. You can book tickets at the National Waterways Museum.
See the National Waterways Museum
The National Waterways Museum is one of the key tourist attractions in Gloucester Docks. It is an interesting place to visit to learn about the waterways of the UK, including the local canals.
The museum’s collection of exhibits tells the story of Britain’s canals and navigable rivers. This is a 300 year history of the waterways of the UK. Their collection has over 12000 objects. These include including 68 historic boats and a dredger.
Enjoy the Nightlife
There are now many options for bars, pubs and restaurants in the dock and Quays area. However, it is becoming more and more vibrant as they develop it. The area is pretty special at night, ideal for fun-seekers and also photographers.
Hire a Boat
When in the docks, you can also hire an electric motorboat to have a mooch around on the canal and dockland area. These can accommodate up to 8 people and cost £50 for an hour of fun on the water. These are a fun thing to do and offer a unique experience. You can find out more on the Gloucester Boat Hire website.