What makes Gloucester an interesting case study?

Gloucester Docks at night

Whilst writing about the regeneration of Gloucester for a GeoActive article recently, I was encouraged to reflect on what makes this city an interesting case study. As my school is in the Gloucester, the question of accessibility and personal knowledge/experience accounts for the choice from a pragmatic point of view but to be useful to geography teachers and students more widely the case study had to be relevant and interesting.


First and foremost the city’s long history and development over time means it shows the “boom and bust” common to many large settlements that have experienced decline after years of thriving industry and trade. The case study therefore has a temporal as well as spatial dimension and this helps students appreciate how cities grow and develop.


Gloucester is a small, compact city and therefore perhaps of a more “manageable” size. With a population of just over 121 700 (according to the 2011 Census) much of the city is within 15 minutes’ walk of the centre. It is therefore easy for a student to see the link between the CBD and the Docks and how redevelopment of one area may bring about positive change to another urban zone. This contrasts with the conurbations of Manchester and London, parts of which are often used as regeneration case studies.

Contemporary issues

Recent studies of urban geography have included discussions of a “re-imagining” of the traditional high street or CBD. The Portas Pilot schemes were launched in 2012 after the Government hired the retail guru Mary Portas as a consultant in an attempt to help reverse the decline of town and city centres all over the UK. Gloucester put forward a bid for funding and, despite not being awarded a main pilot grant, it did receive over £130 000 as a result. It is clear that Gloucester is a city engaged with current thinking on urban planning and policy and therefore it is an excellent contemporary case study.

The future

Gloucester has a bright future: in January 2015 the city was awarded over £4 million of further investment. This will be put towards continued redevelopment of the “Magnificent Seven” (the key sites identified by the Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Corporation of which they Docks was one).

Two key events should also mean that the status of Gloucester is given a boost and the public, including geography students, will be more aware of it as a noteworthy city. Firstly, a number of the 2015 Rugby World Cup matches are to take place at Kingsholm stadium (a stone’s throw from the city centre) and secondly, Gloucester Cathedral is applying for UNESCO World Heritage status (which will hopefully be awarded in 2019). This means the city is likely to increase its appeal to tourists both from within the UK and beyond.

Links to popular culture

Finally, Gloucester has strong links to popular culture meaning it is more likely to resonate with students and therefore may be more interesting and memorable for them. The stunning cathedral has been used as a location for the filming of three of the Harry Potter movies as well as the BBC series Sherlock, Wolf Hall and Dr. Who. The Gloucester Docks (which is where the most successful recent regeneration at the Gloucester has taken place) were where part of the filming took place of Tim Burton’s Alice Through the Looking Glass (to be released in 2016).

Read more about Gloucester’s attempts at urban regeneration in Rebecca’s case study ‘Urban regeneration in Gloucester, UK’, available on GeoActive. It’s number 525 and was published in the September 2014 issue.

Image: Gloucester docks at night – By Saffron Blaze (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rebecca Veals

Rebecca VealsRebecca Veals undertook her PGCE at the Institute of Education, and went on to her first job at Eltham College in London, where she spent four years. She is now Head of Geography at The King’s School, in Gloucester, a position which she has held since 2010.