Chester is a city that’s an enormous draw for the modern tourist. It’s packed to bursting with vibrant countryside, cultural riches and historical intrigue – and it’s easy to get to if you’re based in the north west and have just a few days spare.
One could make a strong case that Chester is the most blessed place in the entire country when it comes to architectural riches left by the Roman occupiers. The city was originally of a fortress called Deva, which was built to house the 20th Roman legion. The city was a formidable fortress and trading port by the end of the first century AD, and was instrumental in quelling the uprising led by Boadicea. Deva served also as a staging ground for Roman incursions further northward, and the Romans intended to amass an invasion fleet to send to Ireland here – but, unfortunately for them, history had other plans.
After the Romans departed the island in the fifth century, the city (and indeed, the country) fell into a dark age where not a great deal happened – or at least, not a great deal that we know about. The Danes and Saxons had the run of the place – as well as the Vikings, who arrived during the period.
Things didn’t really get going again until the arrival of the William the Conqueror’s forces in Chester in 1070. Chester Castle was built to house the second Earl of Chester, William’s nephew, Hugh ‘the Wolf’ d’Avranches. Hugh was one of the most influential people in the country, and was known for being fat – (as well as being ‘Lupus’, he was also nicknamed ‘le gros’, after the French for fat. Exactly how fat Hugh was remains a matter of some mystery.)The first Earl of Chester, Gerbod the Fleming, was taken prisoner in France, and the new king decided to bestow the title upon his nephew.
The Earl was given a large amount of autonomy, and was free to run the county as he wished. He used these powers to found the abbey of St. Werburgh in Chester – which we know today as Chester Cathedral. Under the stewardship of Hugh, Chester became an extremely prosperous port.
By the 13th century, the city’s famous Rows had been built.These double-level walkways ran along each street, offering an unbroken line of balconies that ran across the front of each shop in much the same way that a modern shopping centre might. These devices were possible only thanks to the prosperity of the port, which served nearby Ireland and Scotland, as well as more exotic locations on mainland Europe.
All of this prosperity, however, was owing to natural causes – namely the river. And when the Dee began to dry up during the 15th century, so too did the wealth of the city. Things would get even worse in the 1640s with the arrival of the English Civil War, during which the city was besieged by parliamentarians not once, but twice – starving the populace until the occupying royalists, led by Charles I, were forced to remember.
When the 1700s arrived, all of this bloodshed was largely forgotten, and domestic war had become rare indeed. The walls of the city, which had first been constructed by Romans centuries ago, were converted into walkways from which the locals could take in the sights and sounds of the city from on high. It’s a perspective that can still be enjoyed by visitors to the city today!
During the Georgian and Victorian eras, the city’s infrastructure was expanded considerably, most notably with the construction of the city’s main railway station – which remains one of just a couple of dozen listed railway stations in the country.
Where Can I Stay?
If you’re looking to pay a visit to Chester and examine some of the famous historical richness of the city up-close, then you’ll need to secure yourself appropriate accommodation. Fortunately, the county is packed with places to stay – including a wealth of hotels in Chester itself, and in the surrounding countryside. Among these, Carden Park stands out as particularly noteworthy – it’s situated just to the south of Chester, in the heart of the Cheshire countryside. There you’ll find a duo of world-class gold courses, restaurants, bars, parkland, and excellent swimming pool and spa facilities.If you’re looking for a Cheshire wedding venue or place to hold a conference, it’s ideal – but even if you’re just looking for a place to rest in between your visits to historical landmarks in the county, it’ll fit the bill nicely.