The New Inn is old! It was built around 1430 to shelter pilgrims, and was the building in which Lady Jane Grey was staying when she was proclaimed Queen of England (a title she held for only 17 days). This is a hotel which has character, to say the least. From the street, close to the center of Gloucester, we saw a striking black and white The New Inn Courtyard facade. We entered the courtyard occupied by a pub and a tea room and fully surrounded by a mediaeval gallery, and found the hotel entrance where we climbed a couple of flights of stairs to our room. It was one of the stops on Gloucester's Heritage Days celebration, so we trucked our suitcases past a tour group to climb up the narrow stairs. During our stay we found several different staircases, and were amused by all the corridors and walls, none of which met at right angles. Our room was quite comfortable, however. We're happy to recommend the New Inn.
We spent our first afternoon exploring parts of Gloucester. The shop of Beatrix Potter's Tailor of Gloucester was just off one of the main streets. The glorious cathedral can be seen from many parts of the city.
On Sunday, our first full day in Gloucester, we found the laundry we would visit first thing Monday, then continued toward the Severn River and the Gloucester Docks. This was our introduction to narrowboats, which we would find on canals and rivers throughout England. We watched a couple of boats lock through near the Docks. Just as in Canada, the rules for boating seem to be that the man handles the wheel while the woman scrambles around with all the Tailor of Gloucester lines.
The Docks are being gentrified. The old warehouses are being remodeled, some for living, some for shops, and the parking lot is being expanded. This makes the shopkeepers cross, because in years past the tall ships would visit, but "Health and Safety" had forbidden it this year because of the construction work. However, the large marina was almost full, and sightseers and shoppers were happily wandering about.
Suddenly a group of morris dancers appeared (Heritage Days again). Three musicians and two dance groups entertained us on the central plaza. Each one had white trousers, an elaborately decorated hat, and a band of bells strapped around each leg just below the knee. The leaders wore top hats and bright-colored jackets. Some of the dances involved waving white handkerchiefs, others required sticks which were tapped and thrust. They resemble our square dances. Music was supplied by a trio of drum, concertina and recorder or flute. At one point one of the men put on a horse's head and nibbled at the others, and at members of the audience. Its name was Crumpet, but it looked vaguely Shakespearean. Morris dancers
The Waterways Museum was fascinating. Several exhibits explained the presence of the narrowboats. Until recently, working the canals was a big part of the economy. The first canals were constructed in the 16th C. There are dozens of canals criss-crossing England and Ireland, east to west. Sometimes canals go high on aqueducts, sometimes low through tunnels, sometimes crossing other canals. The canal builders had a ball, because the technology is really quite simple - the water at the higher level flows down filling the lock and floating the boat(s) higher, then they can exit at the higher level. All you have to do (and you really do have to do it) is keep the canal system fully supplied with water. For this purpose, you need pumps. This was the first time we learned about the Dutch engineers who worked on British canals; we would see more evidence in Norfolk. Narrowboat
A family lived a simple, almost primitive life on board a canal boat, cramped into tight quarters. They kept the boat brightly painted, had specific kitchen and sleeping equipment designed for the canal boats. It was a family affair, with jobs for all.
Nowadays there is little commercial canal traffic - it stopped around 1970. But a lot of canal boats are still owned or rented and used for boating holidays - inexpensive and relaxing.
After a sandwich in a cafe on the Docks, we called Marjorie to confirm time and place for our Monday meeting, then left the Docks for St.-Mary-de-Crypt church for the last Heritage Days event, a concert of 18th century music by soprano, spinet and recorder (the recorder player used soprano, tenor and base recorders). We decided we had been very fortunate timing our visit to include these Open Days.