Happy Birthday Gloucestershire – that’s a lot of candles to blow out

Gloucestershire 1000 will celebrate with a variety of local and countywide events to highlight the history, culture and economy of the county. The celebrations will run until spring 2008 and will feature a range of events run by communities, museums, arts organisations and music groups in Gloucestershire.

The purpose of Gloucestershire’s Millennium Year is to raise understanding of the history and international significance of the story of Gloucestershire and of it’s people.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester is Patron of Gloucestershire 1000 and the Lord-Lieutenant Henry Elwes is President of the project.

As part of this raising of awareness, a new competition has been launched – Write Around Gloucestershire – celebrating the tradition of the written word in Gloucestershire by inviting anyone who lives, works or studies in the County to try their hand at writing.

It can be a story, poem, anecdote, play, essay, traditional tale, speech or article upto a maximum of 1000 words and must relate to Gloucestershire.

The competition runs until 25th November 2007.

The History of Gloucestershire’s “Birth”

The year 2007 has been recognised as the 1000th birthday of the county of Gloucestershire. Various historians believe 1007 to be the year that the territory of Mercia was divided into shires and the county of Gloucestershire came into existence.

Did You Know?
The word ‘shire’ means something which has been shorn off, or separated. The district of Gloucester was shorn off from the great territory of the Mercians, and became Gloucestershire.

In a paper by C. S. Taylor, first published in 1898, he notes that none of the Mercian shires were mentioned in historical documents before the year 1000. They begin to appear in documents during the last years of the reign of King Ethelred II, aka ‘Ethelred the Unready’ (978-1016). This narrows Gloucestershire’s birth date down to some time between the years 1000 and 1016.

Did You Know?
Mercia was originally an Anglo-Saxon kingdom centred on the valley of the River Trent in what is now the Midlands. By 1007 it was a province of Saxon England.

The year 1007 seems most likely. It was during this year that King Ethelred appointed his son-in-law as ealdorman of Mercia. England was being invaded by Danish armies, and cash was needed to fund a navy and crew to defend Mercia. Eadric ‘the greedy’ Streona divided the old kingdom into counties in order to tighten his grip on the taxation system. This has become the basis for the theory of the origins of Gloucestershire (as with all the other counties of Mercia including, for example, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire).

Towards the end of the 11th century, the boundaries were expanded to include the forest district between the Wye and the Severn was added to Gloucestershire. Winchcombeshire had become part of Gloucestershire by 1017 at the latest and might have been in it from 1007.

Did You Know?
The nickname ‘Unready’ is derived from the word ‘un-raed’ which meant ‘lack of council’ or ‘ill-advised’. It seems that ‘King Ethelred the Unready’ was either easily persuaded or made bad decisions, or both!

Though inspired by a sense of history, the millennium celebrations will also encourage thinking about the next 1000 years: what challenges must be faced now if we are to sustain all that we value for future generations.

Source: H P R Finberg in Gloucestershire Studies, Leicester University Press 1957