Have you ever visited the charming city of Chester?
I’m just back from my first trip to this lovely, historic city. There were so many highlights – here are just a few!
First stop – the Eastgate Clock
Our first stop was what’s said to be the second-most frequently photographed clock in Britain, after Big Ben.
Installed in 1899, in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee two years earlier, the Eastgate Clock is positioned at the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix.
It’s the perfect place to set off if you’re planning to walk the walls.
Walking The Walls
Chester is the only city in the UK to retain a full circuit of its city walls.
At just short of two miles long, the walls are the oldest, longest and most complete in Britain. Some parts are almost 2000 years old, and repairs to sections of the wall damaged during the siege of Chester in the English Civil War can still be seen from the Roman Gardens.
We walked the walls in just under an hour. It’s an excellent way of seeing the main sights of the city, such as Chester Castle and Chester Race Course, which is the oldest (and smallest) major racecourse still in use in Britain.
You’ll also pass Phoenix Tower, thought to possibly be the spot where Charles I stood to see his army defeated at the Battle of Rowton Heath.
The Roman Amphitheatre
In Little St John Street, you can see what was once the largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain.
Built in the late first century AD to accommodate 7000 people, it was used as a training ground for the troops of the XX Legion, as well as for entertainment like wild beast fights, gladiatorial combat, and public executions. Yikes!
Back in the heart of the city, we visited the Rows.
Found in each of the four main streets originating from Chester cross, the Rows are unique. Each consists of a covered walkway on the first floor, behind which are entrances to shops. There’s also another row of shops below, on street level.
Built between around 1200 and 1350, the Rows have been described as the oldest shopping arcade in Britain. In the lovely “half-timbered” style that’s so evident throughout Chester, the Rows provide loads of shopping and eateries.
Just off the Rows, you can find Chester Cathedral, which was founded as a Benedictine Abbey in 1092.
Although Parliamentary troops destroyed much of the original stained glass during the Civil War, there’s lots of lovely glass from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The nativity window in St Werburgh’s chapel made us hope for a return visit nearer Christmas time!
Other highlights include the Consistory Court — the earliest surviving complete example of an old church court in Britain — alongside the lovely mosaics, and the intricately carved wooden quire stalls.
You’ll also find a carving of the Chester Imp inside. One day, the story goes, a monk thought he saw the devil looking in the window. Craftsmen carved a representation of the devil in chains, so he would know his fate if he dared to return!
In a brilliant fundraising initiative, the Cathedral is being recreated in LEGO, brick by brick.
Donating £1 provides one brick, and the proceeds are helping to fund the work of the Chester Cathedral Education Trust Fund.
At the time of writing, a massive 188,979 bricks had been placed onto the model.
On your way out, you can see a corbel of Gladstone and Disraeli near the ‘Forget Me Not’ Appeal flowers.
Thomas Brassey, builder of Britain’s railways
On our journey home, we noticed a plaque in the station, commemorating the life and work of Thomas Brassey.
“The world’s foremost builder of railways”, Thomas Brassey was born near Chester in 1805, and it’s estimated that by 1847, he had built one third of all the railways in Britain.
By the time of his death in 1870, one in every 20 miles of railway in the world had been built by him. You can find a bust of Thomas in Chester cathedral.
If this has encouraged you to head to Chester, there’s lots more information at www.visitcheshire.com/chester.