LUCKY me last week got the chance to step beneath the streets of Gloucester and back into time.
I was given a private tour of the King’s Bastion chamber, where the remains of the Roman walls of Glevum are sitting untouched underneath the King’s Walk shopping centre.
What an absolute feast for the eyes.
As I returned to the surface, the door to this other world was closed behind me and it was then that I realised that it will, at best, only perhaps open on one or two special occasions over the coming year.
What an absolute waste of our city’s heritage.
Cities like York and Chester boast impressive walls above ground – but we were on the ‘wrong’ side and ours lay beneath the city.
But we’ve already seen a tantalising glimpse of their potential to be a tourist attraction. People are always fascinated by the Eastgate Chamber outside Boots and now there is huge interest in the King’s Bastion. But they are one and the same thing – and by connecting the two under Eastgate Street you have yourself a subterranean museum which can be accessed through the City Museum.
Is it too ambitious for our city to aspire to creating one of the UK’s most fascinating subterranean experiences?
Sadly I fear it may be. In 2011, Gloucester Civic Trust fought to have a Roman wall on the Greyfriars Quarter development site exposed as a feature of the site – but the idea was quickly poopooed. Chris Oldershaw, of the now defunct Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company, said: “The advice is not to expose it.”
Try telling that to the city of Rome where they quite rightly show off 2,000 years of history next to modern developments.
Why not create a new below-ground museum? York might have an above ground attraction, but the appeal of going down below to step back in time is even more exciting.
Gloucester City Council could look to the Roman Baths in Bath for inspiration. They are run by Bath and North East Somerset Council and actually make a huge profit of some £3million per year – almost the same amount by which our council cut its budget last month.
Now I have planted the seed, it will be up to city councillors to take the vision forward. Who will do it?
There is already a great feeling that Gloucester is on the up at the moment, but perhaps we can reach even higher by going down?
THANK you to everyone who has congratulated me on the Reporter of the Year accolade which I picked up in Bristol at the weekend.
I’m passionate about Gloucester and with this award I will continue with a renewed sense of enthusiasm in championing our city.