This article is about Chester in England. For other towns named after Chester see Chester (disambiguation).

Chester is the county town of Cheshire in the north-west of England, close to the border with Wales. It is one of the best-preserved walled cities in the country. It is situated north of the River Dee. It is the main settlement in the City of Chester local government district. The adjective associated with the city is Cestrian.

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River Dee Weir, Chester, England (2002)


Roman Origins

Template:GBmap Chester is an old city dating back approximately 2000 years to Roman times (when parts of the City wall date from) when it was known as Deva or Castra Devana. They built it as a fortress for Legio XX Valeria Victrix, the 20th Legion, safe in the loop of the River Dee and used it as a port and defence from the Welsh Celts. It was then the principal town of England, with many relics remaining today, including the weir on the river to keep water levels high and stop ships going too far, the 'cross', where the four main streets intersect, as well as remains of a strong room and hypocaust system underneath shops and, controversially, half of its original amphitheatre, with the other half built over.

Saxon Period

The Roman Empire fell three hundred years later. In 605AD or 606AD (ref. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) or 613AD to 616AD (ref. Bede), thelfrith king of Northumbria defeated a big Celtic army at Chester and established the Anglo-Saxon position in the area. The Saxons extended and strengthened the walls of Chester to protect the city against the Danes. The Anglo-Saxons called Chester Ceaster or Legeceaster.

Middle Ages

After the 1066 Norman Conquest, Chester Castle was built as another defence from the Celts. Along with this, the Normans built what is now Chester Cathedral which, before Henry VIII, was a great Benedictine monastery dedicated to Saint Werburgh, and still stands in the city centre today. Chester was at this time the largest port in North-west England, with the trade that this created bringing affluence to the city. It was once thought that Chester's maritime trade was brought to an end by the silting of the river Dee, although recent research has shown this is not the case. It was the use of larger ocean-going ships that led to the diversion of the trade to the relatively young town of Liverpool. Neither was it that the silting of the River Dee that created the land which is now Chester's racecourse (known as the Roodee), on which a stone cross, once used as a water level marker, still stands, since the Roodee was in existence as early as the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Chester continued to deal with its loss of trade throughout the centuries, and in the 1640s English Civil War the Battle of Rowton Moor occurred in nearby meadows, where the Parliamentary Forces crushed the Royalist loyal Cavaliers. This battle was watched by King Charles I from Chester's Phoenix Tower (now also called King Charles' Tower) on the City Walls.

Victorian & Georgian era

In the Georgian era, the city became again a centre of affluence, a town with elegant terraces where the landed aristocracy lived. This trend continued into the Industrial Revolution, when the city was populated with the upper classes in amongst the industrial sprawls of Manchester and Liverpool. The revolution brought the Chester Canal (now part of the Shropshire Union Canal) to the city (which was dubbed 'England's first unsuccessful canal', after its failure to bring heavy industry to Chester) as well as railways and two large central stations, only one of which remains. The Victorians progressed to build Chester's Gothic Town Hall, which, along with the Cathedral, dominates the city skyline. This was built after the original Guild Hall burnt down, and features a clock tower with only three faces, with the Welsh facing side remaining blank. The reason for this was declared by the architects to be simply because "Chester won't give the Welsh the time of day". However, this did not stop the town hosting Wales's National Eisteddfod in 1866.

Present Day

Chester, England (2002)
Chester, England (2002)

A considerable amount of land in Chester is owned by Duke of Westminster who owns an estate at Eaton near the village of Eccleston. Grosvenor is the Duke's family name, which explains such features in the City such as the Grosvenor Hotel and Grosvenor Park. Much of Chester's architecture dates from the Victorian era, with many of the buildings that aren't modelled on the Jacobean half timbered style of the medieval times being designed by John Douglas, employed by the Duke as his principal architect. He had a trademark of twisted chimneystacks, may of which can be seen on the buildings in the City centre. Douglas designed amongst other buildings the Grosvenor Hotel and the City Baths. By 1945 two problems needed attention, namely affordable housing and traffic congestion. As a result vast areas of Slums were cleared and an inner by-pass was driven through and around the City centre. Large areas of open fields on the outskirts of the City were turned into residential areas in the 1950s and early 1960s.

In the late 1960s the City authorities woke up to the fact that new developments were radically altering the look of the City centre. In 1968 Donald Inshall published a report in collaboration with the City authorities and Central Government. His report recommended preserving historic buildings rather than tearing them down and finding new uses for them.

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 Inn, Dutch Houses and Kings Buildings.

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



The city is a popular shopping centre, with its unique 'Rows' or galleries (basically two levels of shops) which date from medieval times. The city is heavily populated by chain stores both in the centre and on retail parks to the west, and also features two indoor shopping centres, an indoor market and a department store, Browns of Chester, once known as 'the Harrods of the North'. There are two main indoor shopping centres, The Mall Grosvenor and the Forum. The latter refers to the city's Roman past, and is to be demolished in the Northgate Development to make way for new shopping streets, a new indoor market, a new library and a performing arts centre.

Arts & Sport

The city has two cinemas and a theatre, the Gateway Theatre, and in the summer the city hosts the annual Chester Music Festival and the Chester Mystery Plays, the latter of which dates from medieval times. Numerous pubs populate the city, some of which are medieval, as do wine bars at night, and Chester also has five night-clubs. The city also has a football team, Chester City F.C., who play in the Deva Stadium and a national basketball team, the Chester Jets, who play in the city's Northgate Arena leisure centre. Also to the east side of the city are the UK's largest zoological gardens, Chester Zoo.


Chester's weekly newspapers are the Chester Chronicle and the Chester Standard. Dee 106.3 is the city's own radio station, with Wrexham's MFM 103.4 also broadcasting locally.


The city's main industries are retail, tourism and financial services. Chester's main employer is MBNA Europe. There is also a large Shell oil refinery, and also a chemical factory, operated by ICI to the north of Chester near Ellesmere Port. To the west near the village of Hawarden there is an aviation factory, operated by BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace) where the wings of the Airbus are manufactured, and there are food processing plants to the north and west.

Chester has its own university college, University College Chester, that is affiliated to the University of Liverpool.


Chester has a railway station to the North East of the city centre, designed by Francis Thompson with an impressive Italianate frontage of 1848, though the interior is somewhat dilapidated. Trains go from here along the North Wales coast, as well as to Liverpool, Crewe, Manchester and Shrewsbury. The Northgate station was closed in 1969, was demolished and is now the site of the Northgate Arena leisure centre.

Bus transport in the city is provided by the council owned and operated Chester Bus(formerly Chester Ctiy Transport) as well as First Group and Arriva. There is to be a new bus exchange built in the city as well as a new coach station.

The city is also the terminus of the M53 from Liverpool and, via the M56, Manchester, as well as the terminus of the A55 to Holyhead in North Wales.

Further reading

G.W. Place, The Rise and Fall of Parkgate, Passenger Port for Ireland (1994).

External links

bg:Честър de:Chester (England) fr:Chester (Angleterre) no:Chester sv:Chester


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