Dursley

Gazette Series: Dursley Dursley

Dursley sits above the Vale of Berkeley and the River Severn on the south-west edge of the Cotswold Hills. It gained borough status in 1471 when King Edward IV granted the town a Charter.

It was once an important wool centre and market town for the Vale of Berkeley. The second largest town of the District of Stroud, it is said that William Shakespeare once lived in the town.

The Market House is a distinctive feature of the town. Built by the Estcourt family in 1738, it's ground floor opens out to the street through arches mounted on pillars.

Amongst its other features are it's bell turret and the statue of Queen Anne,inset into the wall of the east face. The turret houses a fire bell, dated 1747 and bearing the inscription "Come away without delay." The South face bears the coat of arms of the Estcourt family. Restored in the last century, it now serves as the Town Hall.

Through the arches of the Market House, the parish church of St James the Great can be seen. It dates from the thirteenth century but was extended in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The steeple collapsed in the seventeenth century and was never rebuilt. Sadly, whilst the bells were rung to celebrate completion of repairs to the church roof, the tower fell in on January 7th 1699. The church bells still chime every three hours at nine o'clock each morning and playing a different hymn each day of the week.

Behind the church in Broadwell, the oldest part of the town; a natural spring rises at the bottom of Silver Street. The stream was once the town's water supply.

The library, next to the bus station, offers a guide to Dursley with the "Town Trail" booklet. Featuring a one-hour walk, it explains Dursley's mention in the Doomsday book, for example. Whilst strolling around the town, you can see more than 250 years of history.

One of the town's claims to fame is as the home to the famous 'Dursley Pedersen' bicycle. Michael Pedersen, a Danish inventor, started building his unusual cycles at the end of the nineteenth century. Their distinctive form has inspired devotion from cycling enthusiasts all over the world. The Gazette, reported on his remarkable machine at the time; 'Mr. M. Pedersen of Dursley, with that ingenuity for which he is known, has recently constructed a safety bicycle of remarkable character. It's weight is only nineteen pounds and the maker has tested the strength in an extraordinary way, he having ridden it up Whiteway (a very steep hill) in Dursley.' 21st October 1893.

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