Berkeley shown within Gloucestershire
|Population||1,865 (in 2001)|
|OS grid reference|
|– London||120 mi (190 km) E|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Berkeley // (Burklee to older locals) is a town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England. It lies in the Vale of Berkeley between the east bank of the River Severn and the M5 motorway within the Stroud administrative district. The town is noted for Berkeley Castle where the imprisoned Edward II was murdered.
Berkeley is located mid-way between Bristol and Gloucester. It is built on a small hill in the Vale of Berkeley. The town is on the Little Avon River, which flows into the Severn at Berkeley Pill. The Little Avon was tidal, and so navigable, for some distance inland (as far as Berkeley itself and the Sea Mills at Ham) until a 'tidal reservoir' was implemented at Berkeley Pill in the late 1960s.
Berkeley was first recorded in 824 as Berclea, from the Old English for "birch-tree wood or clearing".
Berkeley was a significant place in medieval times. It was a port and market-town, and the meeting place of the hundred of Berkeley. The parish of Berkeley was the largest in Gloucestershire. It is believed that the translator John Trevisa became vicar of Berkeley in 1374.
The parish included the tithings of Alkington, Breadstone, Ham, Hamfellow and Hinton, and the chapelry of Stone, which became a separate parish in 1797. Hinton became a separate civil parish, and the separate ecclesiastical parish of Sharpness with Purton, in the 20th century.
Berkeley was also the site of Berkeley nuclear power station, which has two Magnox nuclear reactors. This power station, the first commercial British reactor to enter operation, has since been decommissioned and all that remains are the two reactors encased in concrete. The administrative centre adjacent to the station is still active however – the centre was founded as Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories in the early 1960s and was one of the three principal research laboratories of the CEGB.
A local legend tells that the town was once home to the Witch of Berkeley, who sold her soul to the Devil in exchange for wealth. It is said that, despite taking refuge in the church, the Devil carried her off on a black horse covered with spikes.
From 1876 to 1964 the town had a railway station, originally on a branch from a junction at Berkeley Road on the Bristol and Gloucester Railway. From 1879 the branch became a through-route to Lydney when the Severn Railway Bridge was opened. However, the bridge was damaged beyond repair by a ship collision in 1960. Nearest station is now Cam and Dursley (5 miles). There are also several bus services running to and from the town.
Berkeley has a small primary school. The Vale of Berkeley College, the town's secondary school closed in 2011.
Berkeley was the birthplace of Edward Jenner, the originator of vaccination. After studying medicine in London he returned home to work as the local doctor, and in 1796, realising that milkmaids didn't catch smallpox, he performed a pioneering experiment by inoculating his gardener's son James Phipps with cowpox, thus preventing infection from smallpox. The Chantry, Jenner's home in Berkeley for 38 years, is now a museum. Jenner also inoculated Local people, free of charge, in a one-room hut in the garden, which he called the “Temple of Vaccinia”. The hut is considered to be "the birth-place of public health".
- Mills, A.D. and Room, A. A Dictionary of British Place-Names
- A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848)
- Ronald Waldron, ‘Trevisa, John (b. c.1342, d. in or before 1402)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- St Mary's, Berkeley website
- Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. p. 307. ISBN 9780340165973.
- The Edward Jenner Museum & Old Cyder House Conference Centre
- Berkeley Castle
- St. Mary's 13th Century Church, Berkeley
- BBC archive film of Berkeley from 1983