Pocket Britain
Britain > Cheshire > Chester

A beautiful city, full of history from Roman to Victorian

Listen to this article
Chester is a city of around 80,000 inhabitants perched on the banks of the River Dee. This quaint English settlement can be found south of Liverpool and close to the Welsh boarder. It has a long and varied history and as a result a wealth of architecture and sites of interest.
Although only granted city status in 1541, Chester was founded around 70 AD by the Romans. The 2nd Rescuer Legion established a Roman fort on the site and birthed a settlement that went on to become what we know today as Chester. The fort contained not only a barracks but also granaries, baths, military headquarters and an a unique elliptical building that may have been the British Governor's headquarters. This impressive array of buildings suggests that the Romans may have intended the settlement to become their capital. If the Romans had remained in England for much longer, Chester not London, may have emerged as the political centre of this great nation. The fort soon became a major Roman settlement and the city's four main roads of today; Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge, all originate from that early AD era.
The Grosvenor Museum which includes a wonderful collection of Roman artefacts offers a gateway into Chester's history. The Dewa Roman Experience, associated with the museum, provides a hands on exhibit and tours of the city with a real life Roman guide! Chester will long be proud of its Roman roots and remains can still be found across the city, including the amphitheatre just outside the city walls, currently undergoing archaeological investigation.
The Romans left in the 5th century and the Saxons went on to fortify the town against the marauding Danes. This legacy of protection is ever present in Chester's history. It was one of the last towns to fall to the Norman invasion of 1066. Chester became home to the impressive Chester Castle, built by William the Conqueror himself. Although the Agricola Tower is an important surviving part of its medieval structure, the castle has been mainly replaced with a neoclassical county court.
The city walls are one of Chester's crowning glories and are the most complete surrounding any settlement in Britain. The full circuit measures almost 3km and is only broken by the County Hall. The walls incorporate a number of beautiful towers and gates including Phoenix Tower, Bonewaldersthorne's Tower and Eastgate. The clock of Eastgate is said to be the second most photographed clock in England after Big Ben.
Chester is also home to the 'rows'. These are unique to Britain and consist of shops or dwellings on the lowest two storeys; a ground floor lower than the street level, sometimes with a crypt like vault, and then a first floor dwelling too. This unusual style of street structure makes for a fascinating stroll and the beauty of Chester's medieval architecture is clear to see. In addition, the city has many Victorian buildings. These are often black and white and led to the term the 'black and white revival'.
After an age of medieval prosperity, substantial expansion was seen. Chester has never competed though with its northern rivals of Liverpool and Manchester in terms of industrial prowess but has rather developed a culture of tourism and leisure.
The city centre is also home to Norman cathedral and the striking gothic Town Hall which opened in 1869. Other highlights of Chester include a trip down the Dee with Chester Boat and a visit to Chester Zoo, one of the best outside London. Both offer a great alternative to the history soaked streets of this northern settlement.
Chester is a beautiful English City, full of history from Roman to Victorian, it is considered by many to be the UK's medieval city par excellence. Small enough to walk around with ease, but big enough to meet all your needs, Chester has no need to feel inferior its northern counterparts. It might not have the nightlife of Liverpool or the impressive magnitude of Manchester, but it boasts a quaint, lovable atmosphere not often seen.
Visitor Information
Chester Tourist Information Centre, Town Hall Square, Northgate Street, Chester, CH1 2HJ. Tel: 0845 647 7868
Chester Cathedral is open Monday to Saturdays, 9am to 5pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm. Entry costs around £5 for adults, £2.50 children. 12 Abbey Square, Chester, CH1 2HU. Tel: 01244 324756
Grosvenor Museum is open Monday to Saturdays, 10.30am to 5pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm. Entry is FREE. 27 Grosvenor Street, Chester, CH1 2DD. Tel: 01244 402033
Chester Zoo is open daily, 10am to 5pm (4pm in winter). Entry costs around £14 for adults, £10 children. Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1EU. Tel: 01244 380280

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy