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Chester ( ) is a city in Cheshiremarker, Englandmarker. Lying on the River Dee, close to the border with Walesmarker, it is home to 77,040 inhabitants, and is the largest and most populous settlement of the wider unitary authority area of Cheshire West and Chestermarker, which had a population of 328,100 according to the 2001 Census. Chester was granted city status in 1541.

Chester was founded as a "castrum" or Roman fort with the name Deva Victrixmarker in the year 79 by the Roman Legio II Adiutrix. Chester's four main roads, Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge, follow routes laid out at this time – almost 2,000 years ago. One of the three main Roman army bases, Deva later became a major settlement in the Roman province of Britannia. After the Romans left in the 5th century, the Saxons fortified the town against the Danesmarker and gave Chester its name. The patron saint of Chester, Werburgh, is buried in Chester Cathedralmarker.

Chester was one of the last towns in England to fall to the Normans in the Norman conquest of England. William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a castle, to dominate the town and the nearby Welsh border. In 1071 he created Hugh d'Avranches, the 1st Earl of Chester.

Chester has the reputation of being the "English medieval city par excellence", but many of its buildings are from the Victorian era. Along with Derrymarker, Chester makes a claim for being one of the best preserved complete walled cities in the British Isles It has the most complete city walls in Great Britain, and most sections of the walls are listed Grade I. The Industrial Revolution brought railways, canals, and new roads to the city, which saw substantial expansion and development – Chester Town Hallmarker and the Grosvenor Museummarker are examples of Victorian architecture from this period.



The Romans founded Chester as Deva Victrix in the 70s AD in the land of the Celtic Cornovii, according to ancient cartographer Ptolemy, as a fortress during the Roman expansion northward. It was named Deva either after the goddess of the Dee, or directly from the British name for the river. The 'victrix' part of the name was taken from the title of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix which was based at Deva. A civilian settlement grew around the military base, probably originating from trade with the fortress. The fortress was 20% larger than other fortresses in Britannia built around the same time at Yorkmarker (Eboracummarker) and Caerleonmarker (Isca Augustamarker); this has led to the suggestion that the fortress, rather than London (Londiniummarker), was intended to become the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Superior. The civilian amphitheatremarker, which was built in the 1st century, could seat between 8,000 and 10,000 people. It is the largest known military amphitheatre in Britain, and is also a Scheduled Monument. The Minerva Shrinemarker in the Roman quarry is the only rock cut Roman shrine still in situ in Britain. The fortress was garrisoned by the legion until at least the late 4th century. Although the army had abandoned the fortress by 410 when the Romans retreated from Britannia, the civilian settlement continued (probably with some Roman veterans staying behind with their wives and children) and its occupants probably continued to use the fortress and its defences as protection from raiders from the Irish Seamarker.


Deverdoeu was still one of two Welsh language names for Chester in the late 12th century; its other and more enduring Welsh name was 'Caerlleon', literally "the fortress-city of the legions", a name identical with that of the Roman fortress at the other end of the Welsh Marches at Caerleonmarker in Monmouthshire, namely Isca Augustamarker. The colloquial modern Welsh name is the shortened form, Caer. The early Old English speaking Anglo Saxon settlers used a name which had the same meaning, Legacæstir, which was current until the 11th century, when, in a further parallel with Welsh usage, the first element fell out of use and the simplex name Chester emerged. From the 14th century to the 18th the city's prominent position in North West England meant that it was commonly also known as Westchester. This name was used by Celia Fiennes when she visited the city in 1698.

Industrial history

Chester played a significant part in the Industrial Revolution which began in the North West of England in the latter part of the 18th century. The city village of Newtown, located north east of the city and bounded by the Shropshire Union Canalmarker was at the very heart of this industryThe large Chester Cattle Market and the two Chester railway stations, Chester Generalmarker and Chester Northgate Stationmarker, meant that Newtownmarker with its cattle market and canal, and Hoolemarker with its railways were responsible for providing the vast majority of workers and in turn, the vast amount of Chester's wealth production throughout the Industrial Revolution.


Between 14 May 2007 and 6 July 2007, excavations were carried out in Grosvenor Park. The main aim was to find Cholmondeley's lost mansion, which was demolished in 1867.

A number of finds have come to light including:
  • Plaster work from the mansion ceiling.
  • Civil War musket balls
  • Clay tobacco pipes (17th-18th century)
  • Clay tobacco pipe waster clay from manufacture
  • A base of a small Roman statue of Venus
  • A Roman votive offering in the form of a lead axe head.

Modern era

A considerable amount of land in Chester is owned by the Duke of Westminster who owns an estate, Eaton Hallmarker, near the village of Ecclestonmarker. He also has Londonmarker properties in Mayfairmarker.

Grosvenor is the Duke's family name, which explains such features in the City such as the Grosvenor Bridgemarker, the Grosvenor Hotelmarker, and Grosvenor Park. Much of Chester's architecture dates from the Victorian era, many of the buildings being modelled on the Jacobean half-timbered style and designed by John Douglas, who was employed by the Duke as his principal architect. He had a trademark of twisted chimney stacks, many of which can be seen on the buildings in the city centre.

Douglas designed amongst other buildings the Grosvenor Hotel and the City Baths. In 1911, Douglas' protégé and city architect James Strong designed the then active fire station on the west side of Northgate Street. Another feature of all buildings belonging to the estate of Westminster is the 'Grey Diamonds' – a weaving pattern of grey bricks in the red brickwork laid out in a diamond formation.

Towards the end of WWII, a lack of affordable housing meant many problems for Chester. Large areas of farmland on the outskirts of the city were developed as residential areas in the 1950s and early 1960s producing, for instance, the suburb of Blaconmarker.In 1964, a bypass was built through and around the town centre to combat traffic congestion.

These new developments caused local concern as the physicality and therefore the feel of the city was being dramatically altered. In 1968, a report by Donald Insall in collaboration with authorities and government recommended that historic buildings be preserved in Chester. Consequently, the buildings were used in new and different ways instead of being flattened.

In 1969 the City Conservation Area was designated. Over the next 20 years the emphasis was placed on saving historic buildings, such as The Falcon Innmarker, Dutch Houses and Kings Buildings.

On 13 January 2002, Chester was granted Fairtrade City status. This status was renewed by the Fairtrade Foundation on 20 August 2003.


The weir on the River Dee, Chester (2002)
In 2007 Chester Council announced a 10-year plan to see Chester become a "must see European destination". At a cost of £1.3 billion it has been nicknamed Chester Renaissance. A website was launched by the Renaissance team, so that interested parties could monitor progress on all the projects.

There are overall, seven developments ongoing in Chester.

The Northgate Development project began in 2007 with the demolition of St. Martin's House on the city's ring road. At a cost of £460 million, Chester City Council and developers ING hope to create a new quarter for Chester. The development will see the demolition of the market hall, bus station, theatre and NCP car park. In its place will be a new multi-storey car park, bus exchange, performing arts centre, library, homes, retail space and a department store which will be anchored by House of Fraser.

On October 31, 2008, it was revealed that Chester's much heralded Northgate development was to be put on hold until 2012 due to the ongoing credit crunch. However a number of Chester's other Renaissance projects continue at pace. The current active projects are; The Delamere Street development and The £60million HQ development.


Chester is an unparished area within the unitary authority of Cheshire West and Chestermarker as of 1 April 2009 replacing the old Chester City Council and the local ward is the City ward electing 3 councillors. A small area around Chester Castlemarker remains a civil parish of Chester Castlemarker. The Council was elected in May 2008 and the current councillors for the City Ward are Max E A Drury, Richard Lowe, and Tom Parry, all three representing the Conservative Party. The Member of Parliament for the City of Chester is Christine Russell

Twin towns

Chester is twinned with


Chester lies at the southern end of a Triassic sandstone ridge that rises to a height of 42 m within a natural S-bend in the River Dee (before the course was altered in the 18th century).The bedrock, which is also known as the Chester Pebble Beds, is noticeable because of the many small stones trapped within its strata. Retreating glacial sheet ice also deposited quantities of sand and marl across the area where boulder clay was absent.

The eastern and northern part of Chester consisted of heathland and forest. The western side towards the Dee Estuarymarker was marsh and wetland habitats.


As with most of the United Kingdom, Chester has an oceanic climate.

Divisions and suburbs

Bachemarker, Blaconmarker, Boughtonmarker, Curzon Parkmarker, Great Boughtonmarker, Handbridgemarker, Hoolemarker, Huntingtonmarker, Lachemarker, Mollington,marker Newtonmarker, Newtownmarker, Saltneymarker, Saughallmarker, Uptonmarker, Vicars Crossmarker, Westminster Parkmarker


There are 77,040 living within the Greater Chester urban area (65% of the total of Chester District). This population is forecast to grow by 5% in the period 2005 to 2021. The resident population for Chester District in the 2001 Census was 118,210. This represents 17.5% of the Cheshire County total (1.8% of the North West population).


The city's central shopping area includes its unique Rowsmarker or galleries (two levels of shops) which date from medieval times and are believed to include the oldest shop front in England. The city has many chain stores, both in the centre and in retail parks to the west, and also features an indoor market, a department store (Browns of Chester, now absorbed by the Debenhams chain), and two main indoor shopping centres: The Grosvenor Mall and the Forum (a reference to the City's Roman past). The Forum, which houses stores and the Chester Market, will be demolished in the Northgate Development scheme to make way for new shopping streets, a new indoor market, an enlarged library, a car park and bus station, and a performing arts centre.

Chester's main industries are now the service industries, comprising retail, tourism and financial services. Chester's main employer is Bank of America, formerly MBNA Europe. There are also several large financial firms including HBOS plc and M&S Money. At Ellesmere Portmarker is a large Shell oil refinery. Just over the Welsh border to the west, near the village of Broughtonmarker, there is an Airbus UK factory (formerly British Aerospace), where the wings of Airbus aircraft, including the Airbus A380 are manufactured, and there are food processing plants to the north and west. The Iceland frozen food company is based in nearby Deeside.

Chester has its own university, the University of Chestermarker, and a major hospital, the Countess of Chester Hospitalmarker, named after Diana, Princess of Wales and Countess of Chester.



From about 1794 to the late 1950s, when the canal-side flour mills were closed, narrowboats carried cargo such as coal, slate, gypsum or lead ore as well as finished lead (for roofing, water pipes and sewerage) from the leadworks in Egerton Street (Newtown). Grain from Cheshire was stored in granaries on the banks of the canal at Newtown and Boughton and salt for preserving food arrived from Northwichmarker.

The Chester Canal had locks down to the River Dee. Canal boats could enter the river at high tide to load goods directly onto seagoing vessels. The port facilities at Crane Wharf, by Chester racecourse, made an important contribution to the commercial development of the north-west region .

The original Chester Canal was constructed to run from the River Dee near Sealand Roadmarker, to Nantwichmarker in south Cheshire, and opened in 1774. In 1805, the Wirral section of the Ellesmere Canalmarker was opened, which ran from Netherpool (now known as Ellesmere Portmarker) to meet the Chester Canal at Chester canal basin. Later, those two canal branches became part of the Shropshire Union Canalmarker network. This canal, which runs beneath the northern section of the city walls of Chester, is navigable and remains in use today.

Proposed canal

The original plan to complete the Ellesmere Canal was to connect Chester directly to the Wrexham coalfields by building a broad-gauge waterway that stretched from the River Dee at Holtmarker to the Llangollen Canalmarker at Trevor Basin, near Wrexham. However with the advent of railways and high land prices, the plan was eventually abandoned in the mid 19th century. If the waterway had been built, canal traffic would have crossed the Pontcysyllte Aqueductmarker heading north to the River Dee. Boats would then have sailed on to Chester rejoining the Shropshire Union Canal through a purpose-built lock flight at Boughton.

As the route was never completed, the short length of canal north of Trevor was infilled. The Llangollen Canal, although designed to be primarily a water source from the River Dee, became a cruising waterway despite its inherent narrow nature.

It would be rail that was to bring Welsh coal to Chester.


Chester formerly had two railway stations. Chester Generalmarker railway station remains in use but Chester Northgatemarker closed in 1969 as a result of the Beeching Axe. Chester Northgate, which was located North East of the city centre, opened in 1875 as a terminus for the Cheshire Lines Committee. Trains travelled via Northwichmarker to Manchester Centralmarker. Later services also went to Wrexham Generalmarker via Shotton Stationmarker. It was demolished in the 1970s; the site is part of the Northgate Arena leisure centremarker.

Chester General, which opened in 1848, was designed with an Italianate frontage. It now has seven designated platforms but once had more. The station lost its original roof in the 1972 Chester General rail crashmarker. In September 2007 extensive renovations took place to improve pedestrian access, and parking. The present station has manned ticket offices and barriers, waiting rooms, toilets, shops and a pedestrian bridge with lifts. Chester General also had a large marshalling yard and engine sheds, most of which has now been replaced with housing.

The Dee Bridge disaster in May 1847
Normal scheduled departures from Chester Station are: multiple services on the North Wales Coast Line; Virgin Trains to London Eustonmarker via Crewemarker; Arriva Trains Wales to Manchester Piccadillymarker via Warrington Bank Quaymarker and Cardiff Centralmarker via Wrexham Generalmarker; Northern Rail to Manchester Piccadilly via Northwichmarker; Merseyrail to Liverpoolmarker on the Wirral Line.

In late 1847 the Dee bridge disastermarker occurred when a bridge span collapsed as a train passed over the River Dee by the Roodeemarker. Five people were killed in the accident. The bridge had been designed and built by famed-railway engineer Robert Stephenson for the Chester and Holyhead Railway. A Royal Commission inquiry found that the trusses were made of cast iron beams that had inadequate strength for their purpose. A national scandal ensued many new bridges of similar design were either taken down or heavily altered.


Chester had an extensive tram network during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It covered an area as far west as Saltney, on the Welsh border, to Chester General station, Tarvin Road and Great Boughton in the northwest. The network featured the narrowest gauge trams (3' 6") in mainland Britain, due to an act of Parliament which deemed that they must be the least obstructive possible.

The tramway was established in 1871 by Chester Tramways Corporation. It was horse-drawn until its electrification by overhead cables in 1903. The tramway was closed, like most others in the UK, in February 1930. All that remains are small areas of uncovered track inside the bus depot, and a few tram-wire supports attached to buildings on Eastgate/Foregate Street, although substantial sections of the track remain buried beneath the current road surface.


The city is a hub for major roads, including the M53 motorway towards the Wirral Peninsulamarker and Liverpoolmarker and the M56 motorway towards Manchestermarker. The A55 road runs along the North Wales coast to Holyheadmarker and the A483 links the city to nearby Wrexhammarker and Swanseamarker to the far south.

Bus transport in the city is provided by First Group and Arriva, the council owned and operated ChesterBus (formerly Chester City Transport) having been sold to First Group in mid-2007. There are plans to build a new bus exchange in the city as well as a new coach station.

Cycling Demonstration Town

On June 19, 2008, then Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly named Chester as a Cycling Demonstration Town. This initiative allows for substantial financial support to improve cycling facilities in the city, and a number of schemes are planned or already in development.

Potential schemes include a new pedestrian and cycling bridge across the River Dee, linking the Meadows with Huntington and Great Boughton, an access route between Curzon Parkmarker and the Roodeemarker, an extension to the existing greenway route from Hoolemarker to Guilden Suttonmarker and Mickle Traffordmarker, and an access route between the Millennium cycle route and Deva Link.

Landmarks and tourist attractions

See also Grade I listed buildings in Chester
The more unusual landmarks in the city are the city walls, the Rowsmarker and the black-and-white architecture. The walls encircle the bounds of the medieval city and constitute the most complete city walls in Britain, the full circuit measuring nearly . The only break in the circuit is in the southwest section in front of County Hall. A footpath runs along the top of the walls, crossing roads by bridges over Eastgate, Northgatemarker, St Martin's Gate, Watergatemarker, Bridgegatemarker, Newgate, and the Wolf Gate, and passing a series of structures, namely Phoenix Tower (or King Charles' Tower), Morgan's Mount, the Goblin Tower (or Pemberton's Parlour), and Bonewaldesthorne's Towermarker with a spur leading to the Water Towermarker, and Thimbleby's Tower. On Eastgate is Eastgate Clockmarker which is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Benmarker.
Black-and-white architecture at 29-31 Northgate
The Rows are unique in Britain. They consist of buildings with shops or dwellings on the lowest two storeys. The shops or dwellings on the ground floor are often lower than the street and are entered by steps, which sometimes lead to a crypt-like vault. Those on the first floor are entered behind a continuous walkway, often with a sloping shelf between the walkway and the railings overlooking the street. Much of the architecture of central Chester looks medieval and some of it is. But by far the greatest part of it, including most of the black-and-white buildings, is Victorian, a result of what Pevsner termed the "black-and-white revival".

The most prominent buildings in the city centre are the town hallmarker and the cathedralmarker. The town hall was opened in 1869. It is in Gothic Revival style and has a tower and a short spire. The cathedral was formerly the church of St Werburgh's Abbeymarker. Its architecture dates back to the Norman era, with additions made most centuries since. A series of major restorations took place in the 19th century and in 1975 a separate bell tower was opened. The elaborately carved canopies of the choirstalls are considered to be one of the finest in the country. Also in the cathedral is the shrine of St Werburgh. To the north of the cathedral are the former monastic buildings. The oldest church in the city is St John'smarker, which is outside the city walls and was at one time the cathedral church. The church was shortened after the dissolution of the monasteries and ruins of the former east end remain outside the church. Much of the interior is in Norman style and this is considered to be the best example of 11th–12th century church architecture in Cheshire. At the intersection of the former Roman roads is Chester Cross, to the north of which is the small church of St Peter’smarker which is in use as an ecumenical centre. Other churches are now redundant and have other uses; St Michael’smarker in Bridge Street is a heritage centre, St Mary-on-the-Hillmarker is an educational centre, and Holy Trinitymarker now acts as the Guildhall. Other notable buildings include the preserved shot towermarker, the highest structure in Chester.

Roman remains can still be found in the city, particularly in the basements of some of the buildings and in the lower parts of the northern section of the city walls. The most important Roman feature is the amphitheatremarker just outside the walls which is undergoing archaeological investigation. Roman artifacts are on display in the Roman Gardens which run parallel to the city walls from Newgate to the River Dee, where there's also a reconstructed hypocaust system. An original hypocaust system can be seen in the basement of the Spudulike restaurant on Bridge Street, which is open to the public.

Of the medieval city the most important surviving structure is Chester Castlemarker, particularly the Agricola Tower. Much of the rest of the castle has been replaced by the neoclassical county court and its entrance, the Propyleum.To the south of the city runs the River Dee, with its 11th century weirmarker. The river is crossed by the Old Dee Bridgemarker, dating from the 13th century, the Grosvenor Bridgemarker of 1832, and Queen's Park suspension bridge (for pedestrians). To the southwest of the city the River Dee curves towards the north. The area between the river and the city walls here is known as the Roodee, and contains Chester Racecoursemarker which holds a series of horse races and other events. The Shropshire Union Canalmarker runs to the north of the city and a branch leads from it to the River Dee.

The major museum in Chester is the Grosvenor Museummarker which includes a collection of Roman tombstones and an art gallery. Associated with the museum is 20 Castle Street in which rooms are furnished in different historical styles. The Dewa Roman Experience has hands-on exhibits and a reconstructed Roman street. And one of the blocks in the forecourt of the castle houses the Cheshire Military Museum.

The major public park in Chester is Grosvenor Parkmarker. On the south side of the River Dee, in Handbridgemarker, is Edgar's Field, another public park, which contains Minerva's Shrinemarker, a Roman shrine to the goddess Minerva. A war memorial to those who died in the world wars is in the town hall and it contains the names of all Chester servicemen who died in the First World War.

Chester Visitor Centre, opposite the Roman Amphitheatre, issues a leaflet giving details of tourist attractions. Those not covered above include cruises on the River Dee and on the Shropshire Union Canal, and guided tours on an open-air bus. The river cruises start from a riverside area known as the Groves, which contains seating and a bandstand. A series of festivals is organised in the city, including mystery plays, a summer music festival and a literature festival. Chester City Council has produced a series of leaflets for self-guided walks. Tourist Information Centres are at the town hall and at Chester Visitor Centre.


Arts and sport

In 2007, Chester's cultural sector was going through a major transformation. The Gateway Theatremarker had closed as part of the Northgate Development and so too had the Odeon cinema, which opened on 3 October 1936. The site was earmarked for redevelopment, with the closed Odeon cinema being the subject of a proposal to re-open it as part of an arts complex with a cinema at its heart; or its owners, Brook Leisure, may pursue planning permission to turn it into a nightclub. Numerous public houses and wine bars, some of which date from medieval times, populate the city. Chester also has some nightclubs, which are soon going to be added to by the development of two new clubs in the next eighteen months.

Chester has its own film society, a number of successful amateur dramatic societies and theatre schools for youngsters.

To the east side of the city are the UK's largest zoological gardens, Chester Zoomarker.

Chester City football club plays in the Conference National, one step before the football league. They were elected to the Football League in 1931, and have played at their Deva Stadiummarker, straddling the England–Wales border, since 1992. The team was relegated out of the Football League in 2009 and went into administration. Notable former players include Ian Rush (who also managed the club), Cyrille Regis, Arthur Albiston, Earl Barrett, Lee Dixon, Steve Harkness, Roberto Martínez and Stan Pearson.

The city also has a professional basketball team in the national league, the BBL Championship. BiG Storage Cheshire Jets play at the city's Northgate Arenamarker leisure centre; and a wheelchair basketball team, Celtic Warriors, formerly known as the Chester Wheelchair Jets.

Chester Rugby Club (union) plays in the English Midlands One Division. It won the EDF Energy Intermediate Cup in the 2007-08 season and has also won the Cheshire Cup several times.

There is a successful hockey club, Chester HC, who play at the County Officers' Club on Plas Newton Lane, and also an American Football team, the Chester Romans, part of the British American Football League.

Chester Racecoursemarker hosts several flat race meetings from the spring to the autumn. The races take place within view of the City walls and attract tens of thousands of visitors. The May meeting includes several nationally significant races such as the Chester Vase, which is recognised as a trial for the Epsom Derby.

The River Dee is home to rowing clubs, notably Grosvenor Rowing Club and Royal Chester Rowing Club, as well as two school clubs, The King's School Chestermarker Rowing Club and Queen's Park High Rowing Club. The weir is used by a number of local canoe and kayak clubs. Each July the Chester Raft Race is held on the River Dee in aid of charity. Chester Golf Clubmarker can also be found near the banks of the Dee.


Chester has a brass band that was formed in 1853. It was known as the Blue Coat Band and today as The City of Chester Band. It is a fourth section brass band with a training band. Its members wear a blue-jacketed uniform with an image of the Eastgate clock on the breast pocket of the blazer.

Pop band Mansun are probably the most famous Britpop band to come from Chester.


Chester's newspapers are the daily Chester Evening Leader, and the weekly Chester Chronicle. It also has free publications, such as the newspapers Midweek Chronicle and Chester Standard and the free student magazine Wireless. Dee 106.3 is the city's radio station, with Heart Wrexham and BBC Radio Merseyside also broadcasting locally. Chester is where Channel 4's soap-opera Hollyoaks is set (although most filming takes place around Liverpool).

Notable people


  • Russ Abbot (born 1947) (birth name Russell A. Roberts), musician, comedian and actor.
  • Jeff Green (born 1964), comedian.
  • Bob Mills (born 1957), comedian and gameshow host.




See also




External links

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