What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word “heritage”?
Heritage is Honey. Take a little and often. The taste is enhanced if you know a bit about it – where it comes from and how its varieties are made, and you can spread it lightly on lots of things. Honey has been part of life for ever: we just need to look after bees, keep making it, thinking of new ways of enjoying it – and treasuring it. Just like Heritage.
What’s your favourite heritage in Gloucester?
All the streets and buildings and people with stories. I like the less easy questions: where was Aethelflaed buried, what is left of Whitefriars, was Col. Massey a hero or a turncoat, were the remains of Llanthony Priory smashed up for the canal, why exactly did the Wagon Works and Dowty collapse? And always – what can we learn from the past that might help the future?
Why is your constituency historically important?
Because it was the nearest crossing of the River Severn to Wales and so of strategic and trading importance. Geography determined destiny. Gloucester was the third greatest city in England and we’re still finding things that reflect that. The industrial re-invention of the city is every bit as interesting too – from the Docks to the Gloster Aircraft Co.
Is there a fact about Gloucester that not many people know?
Many that none of us know, except perhaps Phil Moss. But start with the spelling of the Aircraft Co.: which was simplified to make it easier to sell aircraft to the Japanese between the wars.
What’s your favourite heritage within in the UK?
Anglican choral music, cricket, our great forests, a feast of great buildings large and small from yester year and a number of semi mad happenings like the cheese rolling that no-one can kill off. We value our heritage enough to laugh at it. Look at the Mock Mayor of Barton.
Who is your favourite historical figure, and why?
My heart says James Graham, Montrose, the romantic Scotsman who won impossible victories and ‘dared to put unto the touch to win or lose it all’ – he did lose it all, including his head.
But my head says Brunel. In a lifetime of genius the Clifton suspension bridge Temple Meads station and the line that snakes through our county to Gloucester all stand out as technically brilliant and stunningly beautiful.
Do you have a favorite bit of parliamentary heritage or history?
The story of Westminster Hall alone, and how it has evolved, is the story of our nation – the ambitions of kings, the work of great craftsmen, the trials of great men, the bombs of WWII: and the new window to a great Queen. Look no further for our Island Story.
Where was the last heritage attraction you visited?
Dromana, a home built on a Norman keep high above the River Blackwater in Cork, Ireland. You reach it across a bridge and through a gatehouse modelled crudely on the domed Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Only in Ireland.
Describe a few of the heritage highlights for visitors to Gloucester.
Our shining jewel is the Cathedral. Inside look for William the Conqueror’s son, Edward II, the medieval golfer in the East Window, the cloisters that Harry Potter and every film maker love, the cross Col. Carne VC carved in captivity, the Stars and Stripes by the composer of the U.S. National Anthem and Thomas Denny’s stained glass brilliance. And that’s just the start of it. Then go to evensong when the choir is on duty. Angels voices can still be heard.
But think too about St. Oswalds and the role of Aethelflaed as nation builder and drink under the wisteria clad galleries of the (very old) New Inn. For a treat, go to the alley beside 26 Westgate when the Antiques Centre is open: and just look up. It’s a metaphor for Gloucester – behind unpretentious openings lie great surprises…