The market at Gloucester’s heart
Idon’t talk about buses much in the pages of Cotswold Life. Apart from writing about the occasional Busman’s Holiday when I simply can’t resist visiting a rare breeds centre or an agricultural show when I should be relaxing on a beach with the family. But some recent news about public transport has caught my attention.
If you’ve been in Gloucester during the past couple of months you can’t fail to have seen the city’s impressive new bus station. The old drab and gloomy 1960s eyesore on Bruton Way has gone, replaced by a modern airy glass-fronted landmark with lights powered by solar panels and digital information boards. Now the buses almost glide in to the shiny white bays at the front of the £7 million building which even has a futuristic new name; The Gloucester Transport Hub. It’s the first project to be completed in a long-awaited and muchneeded plan to revitalise the historic city centre.
But if all that’s not impressive enough, the developers have managed to rescue and preserve one really important piece of the old bus station, and they’ve given it pride of place in the new one. It’s a commemorative plaque that was erected nearly 60 years ago to mark the site’s previous life as Gloucester’s main cattle market. Long before livestock sales moved to the edge of town and then more recently to Voyce Pullin’s Cirencester market, it was this spot in the very heart of Gloucester that buzzed with the excitement of weekly auctions held in the open air. The formal wording on the big brass square can barely begin to capture the atmosphere: The livestock section of the ancient city charter market (now established at St. Oswald’s Road) was by Act of Parliament of 1821 transferred to this site.
For sixty years G.N. Bruton, J.P., a Sheriff of this city, was associated with the market and this section of the inner ring road is named in his memory. It’s hard to imagine now but these were the days when drovers would herd cattle, sheep and pigs through the ancient city streets as they brought the animals to market from their overnight pasture on the outskirts of Gloucester, or away after the sale to waiting railway wagons. It wasn’t unusual for a stray sheep or a hopeful pig to make a bid for freedom, sending passers-by running in all directions as it ran bleating or squealing through the lanes being chased by its angry owner.
For the last couple of years the old plaque has been stored away for safekeeping in the office of the Council Leader, Cllr Paul James. Now he’s had the memorial cleaned up, repaired and it’s been given a prominent position inside the entrance to the new bus station. The local dignitary immortalised in brass letters was the man everyone knew simply as Norman Bruton. He was a local councillor and a partner with one of the two firms of auctioneers who ran the market and whose names are seared in to the collective memory of farming families all over Gloucestershire; J. Pearce Pope & Sons and Bruton Knowles. Norman was a remarkable character. During the Second World War, the first German bomb to be dropped on Gloucester was a direct hit on his home. By sheer fluke the detonator jammed, stopping the bomb from exploding when it embedded itself in the ceiling just a few inches from where Norman was laying sound asleep. But he wasn’t going to let Hitler disrupt his plans for the day. So in the morning, still wearing his pyjamas and dressing gown, he cycled to a menswear shop in Westgate Street and bought a new suit in time to conduct the 11am pig auction at the market. That’s the bulldog spirit in action! I don’t know what the old boy would make of the city’s sparkling new Transport Hub, but I’m pretty sure he’d approve of the way his modern day counterparts are keeping his memory alive and I’m certain he’d applaud their permanent tribute to our farming heritage. N
The commemorative plaque in Gloucester Transport Hub