by John Moss
unless otherwise credited
- a Day Trip Out from
Historic City of Chester
40 miles west and slightly south of Manchester, and reached by
the M56 Motorway directly, Chester makes a pleasant and rewarding
day trip out of Manchester.
When Daniel Defoe, author of "Robinson Crusoe" visited
Chester, he described it as "a city well worth describing",
and when James Boswell, another great writer, came to the city
in the 18th century he said "I was so delighted that I found
it difficult to quit". Chester has much to offer by way of
attractions for the tourist.
This 2000 year old city, with its encircling walls, is a good
base from which to tour the Wirral Peninsular and North Wales.
As the county town of Cheshire, it is often regarded as Britain's
most outstanding "black and white" city, on account of the large
number of half-timbered medieval buildings which survive in its
centre. Of these, perhaps its unique 13th century "Rows", half-timbered
galleried shops on two levels, are the most distinctive examples.
The city is also home to the largest Roman Amphitheatre in Britain,
the proud Victorian Eastgate Clock set on the city walls, and
a magnificent cathedral dedicated to St Werburgh, with a 900 year
It was in Chester Cathedral that the first ever performance was
made of Handel's "Messiah". Copies of Handel's original
manuscript are on view in the cathedral. Also available are cathedral
tours and a restaurant which serves lunches and light refreshments.
Left to Right: the distinctive ornate clock on the city walls;
Chester's 13th Century Rows; shoppers; the city walls.
days the city's Town Crier can be heard shouting "Oyez! Oyez!"
around its neat clean streets. Chester was originally settled
by the Romans as the fortress called Deva, named after the River
Dee on which the city stands, and eventually it was to become
one of Britain's largest garrison for Roman soldiers.
After the Romans abandoned Britain in the 5th century AD, and
Chester, like most of Britain, fell prey to marauding Viking invaders.
By the 10th century, Aethelflaeda, a daughter of King Alfred the
Great, had moved to Chester, driven out the Norsemen, and strengthened
and extended the city walls.
1066, William the Conqueror appointed his cruel nephew, Hugh the
Wolf, (Hugh Lupus) as the first Earl of Chester, a title still
held by the monarch's son, Prince Charles, to this day. Hugh immediately
set about building Chester Castle to secure his title against
a largely unsympathetic and subdued populace.
Chester and the surrounding County of Cheshire, along with Yorkshire,
suffered the savage "harrying of the north" where one
tenth of the population were slaughtered, villages, townships
and fields set to the torch or razed to the ground in retaliation
for Saxon resistance to the new Norman occupying force. In the
1086 Domesday Survey, Cheshire is descibed as "wasta",
that is, simply, "wasteland" with little or no livestock,
grain, property or produce worth noting for taxation or census
purposes; the Normans were nothing if not thorough!
in the Civil Wars
English Civil War, Chester remained staunchly Royalist against
Cromwell's Parliamentarian forces, and it was from the city
walls that King Charles I watched as his soldiers were defeated
at nearby Rowton Moor - this was followed by a 2 year siege
after which the city starved into submission and surrendered
to the Roundheads. For the tourist, the City Walls offer a leisurely
2 mile walk, as they are intact and entirely open to the public,
presenting spectacular elevated views of the city and surrounding
Aerial photograoh courtesy of Webb Aviation © 2008 all
rights reserved. www.webbaviation.co.uk
The Deva Experience
"Deva Experience" is an audio-visual multimedia exhibition which gives
a vivid introduction to Chester's Roman origins. Also worth visiting
is the Broadcasting Museum with its "On The Air" exhibitions, chronicling
the development of British radio and television broadcasting, from
its early pioneers to the present day.
Hall, Northgate Street, Chester, Cheshire. Tel: 0845 647 7868. Website:
The Chester Visitor's Centre was Britain's first Tourist Information
Centre, and still functions as such, while displays and exhibitions
relating to Chester can be viewed at the Heritage Centre, the award-winning
Grosvenor Museum. Chester Toy and Doll Museum is also highly recommended.
Chester offers superb shopping facilities, and is hailed as one of
the UK's premier shopping centres. A Shopping Guide to the City is
available from the Tourist Information Centre.
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