Visit Chester and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Chester, Cheshire. A combination of Roman and medieval relics, as well as many fine timber-framed buildings, makes Chester, the city of Deva, one of England's most interesting old cities. It also contains the architecturally important work of Thomas Harrison, who rebuilt the castle and constructed a single-span bridge here in the early 19th century, as well as some excellent examples of Victorian black-and-white buildings. It has been chosen for government conservation studies, which will perhaps ensure the survival of its historic monuments.
Roman occupation in the later 15th century made Chester an important military point, with a fortress on a sandstone hill at the head of the estuary. During most of the Roman occupation it was the headquarters of one of the three Roman legions of Britain. The first defences were turf ramparts with wooden gates. After the 1st century there was a stone wall with four stone gates and 26 stone towers, and on the north and east sides of the city, from St Martin's Gate to Newgate, the present city wall follows the line of the Roman wall, incorporating parts of it. The west and south sides of the old stone wall were later destroyed and the walls extended over a wider area, including that of the castle. It is not certain whether the extension was made by Romans or Anglo-Saxons, and it could even have been as late as the 12th or early 13th century. Roman remains were found in the Eastgate when it was rebuilt in 1769. Near steps leading down to Frodsham Street are the lower parts of the Roman wall and the foundation of a l3th-century drum tower. Between King Charles' Tower and Northgate are two stretches of Roman wall as much as 17 ft high. The foundations of the Roman gate were found when Northgate was rebuilt in 1808. The open space of the Roodee is where the Romans had a harbour and a large section of their quay wall stands on the race-course below the city walls. The south-east angle of the Roman wall meets the medieval wall near the Wolfe Gate with the lower Roman courses visible. The most important Roman area is the amphitheatre East of Newgate. It is the largest Roman amphitheatre so far discovered in Britain, built of stone, covering an area of 314 ft by 286 ft. with an arena 190 ft by 162 ft. The street plan of the city originated with the Romans, and inside the walls the four main streets today follow their plan: Eastgate Street, Watergate Street, Bridge Street and upper North-gate Street. There were Roman roads to London and York below Lower Bridge Street and Fore-gate Street.
The Roman legion probably abandoned Chester before the early 5th century and the fortress was then deserted for hundreds of years. By late Anglo-Saxon times the city was important enough to produce coins at its own mint, and it was four years after the Conquest before the city gave way to Norman rule. The 13th and early 14th centuries were a period of great importance, when the port had become prominent and traded with Ireland, Scotland and parts of the Continent. Like York, Chester had medieval mystery plays, presented at Abbey Square, then the outer court of the Abbey of St Werburgh and in the streets in the 15th century the city had a military quarrel with the Welsh, but a greater problem was the silting-up of the River Dee, which choked the trade of the port, whereas in Roman times the tower at the north-west corner had stood in the water. This impoverished the city as did the siege in the Civil War which interrupted commerce on land that was never subsequently regained.
The remarkably well-preserved walls, with their medieval reconstruction, provide an interesting walk and cover a circuit of 2 miles. There was further re-fortification of the walls in the Tudor and Civil War periods, from which some of the present towers date. The Eastgate with a large 1897 clock is the main entrance. King Charles' Tower (North East) is said to be where Charles I watched the defeat of his forces by the Parliamentarians after the city had been more or less besieged for two years. The tower has a Civil War exhibition. West of Northgate tower is Morgan's Mount, which was violently bombarded during the Civil War. St Martin's Gate, further West, was built in 1966 to allow the ring road to breach the walls. The Goblin Tower dates from 1702 and 1894. Bonewaldsthorne's Tower is at the north-west corner, connected to the Water Tower which the recession of the Dee left high and dry. The Water Tower built in 1322 is substantially unaltered and contains an exhibition of medieval Chester with dioramas. Watergate, on the west side, was once controlled by the Earls of Derby who charged a toll on goods taken through. Their kinsmen, the Alderley Stanleys, owned Stanley Palace (1591), a fine half-timbered building. By the 16th century the city was a well-known centre of drama with Whitsuntide and midsummer festivals; some researchers have suggested that Shakespeare lived in Chester, or even that the author of his plays was not Shakespeare but William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby. William was brother to the 5th Earl, Ferdinando, who was a patron of actors, including Shakespeare. Bridge-gate (South) is l8th-century and replaces a medieval gate. Newgate is modern (1938), built to give more space than the old Wolfe Gate nearby.
The Rows, a unique feature of the city, can be found in Watergate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street. You can inspect modern shops in the appropriate stretches of these streets, take the first flight of steps you find between shops and find yourself walking on the roofs of the shops beside another row of shops set further back; an interesting form of “pedestrian precinct” that surpasses the modern type.
The Cathedral was designed as an abbey church and the buildings round the cloisters were the monks' living-quarters. On this site there was a church or minster founded in the 10th century to hold the body of St Werburgh. In 1092, Hugh Lupus, the Norman Earl of Chester, made it an abbey of Benedictine monks, and for five centuries this monastery was powerful and owned much land. After the Dissolution the abbey became a cathedral and bishopric. The consistory court has woodwork and a screen of the 17th century. The nave was begun in the 14th century but not completed until the 16th. In the north aisle of the choir parts of the l2th-century abbey church were incorporated in the foundations built some two centuries later. There are remarkable late 14th-century carvings on the choir stalls, including a Tree of Jesse with the genealogy of Christ. The south transept is l4th-century and was once the Parish Church of St Oswald. There is a fine stone pulpit in the refectory, and the chapter house has early MSS. and printed books.
Nearby towns: Ellesmere Port, Flint, Malpas, Nantwich, Northwich, Tarporley, Wrexham
Nearby villages: Aldford, Balderton, Beechwood, Belgrave, Bridge Trafford, Bromborough, Broxton, Bunbury, Childer Thornton, Christleton, Coddington, Delamere, Duddon, Dunham, Eccleston, Farndon, Frodsham, Great Barrow, Great Sutton, Handley, Helsby, Heswall, Kingsley, Ledsham, Little Neston, Little Sutton, Mickle Trafford, Moston, Mouldsworth, Northop, Picton, Poulton, Puddington, Ridley, Rossett, Rowton, Runcorn, Saughall, Shotton, Sutton Weaver, Tarvin, Waverton, Whitby
Have you decided to visit Chester or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Chester bed and breakfast (a Chester B&B or Chester b and b)
- a Chester guesthouse
- a Chester hotel (or motel)
- a Chester self-catering establishment, or
- other Chester accommodation