The Folk of Gloucester
The Folk of Gloucester occupies three listed sites on lower Westgate Street, opposite the Church of St. Nicholas. Nos. 99 & 101 Westgate Street (grade II*, list #1245071) are a timber-framed property originally built c.1500 as a merchant's house. It is reputedly where Bishop Hooper, the former Bishop of Gloucester, spent his last night before being burned at the stake in 1555, and is also known as Bishop Hooper's Lodging. Set back from the road on the east side is the pin factory annex (grade II, list #1245073). Originally built in the mid-16th century as a timber-framed barn, the annex was remodelled in brick in the 17th century and converted to a pin factory in the late 18th century by the addition of a third floor. Next door, the part timber-framed No. 103 (grade II*, list #1245075) was originally built c.1645 as a townhouse for a local surgeon's daughter.
In 1933 Nos. 99 & 101 were restored by the city council as part of a conversion to the Folk Museum. No. 103 served as the Museum of the Gloucestershire Regiment (now the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum in the Docks), during which time the property was restored by the city council and after which it became part of the folk museum. To the rear of the site, a garden is flanked by modern annexes.
The council closed the museum a few years ago, and management of the site is currently in a protracted process of being transferred to the Gloucester Civic Trust under the name of the Folk of Gloucester Museum, with plans to restore the site as a fully operational museum and cultural venue.
The photos in this article were taken September 2020, when the museum was briefly open to the public as part of both the Heritage Open Days festival and the Gloucester History Festival. A few exhibits left over from the council museum days were still on display, most completely on the top floor of the pin factory annex. In a reconstruction of a kitchen on the ground floor, the original timber gates of the south gate, removed from Southgate Street c.1781 when the ancient gate was dismantled to improve traffic flow, were wrapped in plastic as a precaution against wood-eating pests.
Even in its current transitory state, though, the fabric of the museum alone is an absolute gem, a fascinating piece of historic Gloucester in all its unevenly floored, intricately roof-beamed glory. Of particular interest is the view from a top-floor room, walls criss-crossed by timber framing, looking out the window at a five-century view – from the 15th-century tower on top of the 11th-century cathedral, through the 12th/13th-century Church of St. Nicholas and back to the 15th-century of Dick Whittington's – that has, with the possible exception of the 18th-century brick re-fronting of the originally timber-framed Whittington's, changed very little over the last five centuries.