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Historical Buildings in Chester

Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral is the mother church of the Church of England Diocese of Chester, and is located in the city of Chester, Cheshire, England. The cathedral, formerly St Werburgh’s abbey church of a Benedictine monastery, is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since 1541 it has been the centre of worship, administration, ceremony and music for the city and diocese. The cathedral is a Grade I listed building, and the heritage site, including the former monastic buildings, lying to the north of the cathedral is also listed Grade I. The cathedral, typical of English cathedrals in having been modified many times, dates from between 1093 and the early 16th century, although the site itself may have been used for Christian worship since Roman times. All the major styles of English medieval architecture, from Norman to Perpendicular are represented in the present building. The cathedral and monastic buildings were extensively restored during the 19th century amidst some controversy, and a free-standing bell-tower was added in the 20th century. The buildings are a major tourist attraction in Chester, a city of historic, cultural and architectural importance. In addition to holding services for Christian worship, the cathedral is used as a venue for concerts and exhibitions.

The cathedral is a place of Christian worship, with three services held daily, and five each Sunday. There is Holy Communion each day, and Choral Evensong each day except Wednesday. The cathedral organises a programme of events, including bible studies, weekly organ recitals, concerts and exhibitions. Every five years, the cathedral is a venue for the Chester Mystery Plays, a cycle of medieval plays, traditionally performed by the townsfolk. The cathedral and other buildings on the historic site are a tourist attraction and visitors from beyond the city who are not attending services are required to pay an admission charge. The cathedral also provides a venue for events; the Cloister Room is available for meetings and conferences, and the refectory is used as a restaurant, and for receptions and other events. The cathedral library is available for research.

Chester Roman Amphitheatre

Chester Amphitheatre is a Roman amphitheatre in Chester, Cheshire. The site is managed by English Heritage; it has been designated as a Grade I listed building, and a scheduled monument. The ruins currently exposed are those of a large stone amphitheatre, similar to those found in Continental Europe, although a smaller wooden amphitheatre may have existed on the site beforehand. Today, only the northern half of the structure is exposed; the southern half is covered by buildings, some of which are themselves listed. The amphitheatre is the largest so far uncovered in Britain, and dates from the 1st century, when the Roman fort of Deva Victrix was founded. The amphitheatre would have been primarily for military training and drill, but would also have been used for cock fighting, bull baiting and combat sports, including classical boxing, wrestling and gladiatorial combat. In use through much of the Roman occupation of Britain, the amphitheatre fell into disuse around the year 350. The amphitheatre was only rediscovered in 1929, when one of the pit walls was discovered during construction work.

Eastgate and Eastgate Clock

Eastgate and Eastgate Clock in Chester, Cheshire, England, stand on the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix. It is a prominent landmark in the city of Chester and is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. The original gate was guarded by a timber tower which was replaced by a stone tower in the 2nd century, and this in turn was replaced probably in the 14th century. The present gateway dates from 1768 and is a three-arched sandstone structure which carries the walkway forming part of Chester city walls. In 1899 a clock was added to the top of the gateway to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria two years earlier. It is carried on openwork iron pylons, has a clock face on all four sides, and a copper ogee cupola. The clock was designed by the Chester architect John Douglas. The whole structure, gateway and clock, was listed by English Heritage on 28 July 1955 as a Grade I listed building.

Minerva’s Shrine

Minerva’s Shrine, Chester, is a shrine to the Roman goddess, Minerva, in Edgar’s Field, Handbridge, Chester, England. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. The shrine dates from the early 2nd century and is carved into the face of a sandstone quarry. It is the only monument of its kind in Western Europe that remains in its original location. It is protected by a 19th-century stone surround with a hood and it was refurbished in the late 20th century. The carving has weathered over the centuries and has also been damaged by human activity. Next to the shrine is an opening into the rock face which is possibly a natural fissure that has been enlarged and which is known as ‘Edgar’s Cave’. The shrine stood beside the route of the old main Roman road into the fortress from the south.

Chester city walls

Chester city walls consist of a defensive structure built to protect the city of Chester in Cheshire, England. Their construction was started by the Romans when they established the fortress of Deva Victrix between 70 and 80 AD. It originated with a rampart of earth and turf surmounted by a wooden palisade. From about 100 AD they were reconstructed using sandstone, but were not completed until over 100 years later. Following the Roman occupation nothing is known about the condition of the walls until Æthelflæd refounded Chester as a burgh in 907. The defences were improved, although the precise nature of the improvement is not known. After the Norman conquest, the walls were extended to the west and the south to form a complete circuit of the medieval city. The circuit was probably complete by the middle of the 12th century.

Maintenance of the structure of the walls was an ongoing concern. They were further fortified before the Civil War, and were damaged during the war. Following this they ceased to have a defensive purpose, and were developed for leisure and recreation. The walls are now a major tourist attraction, and form an almost complete circuit of the former medieval city, providing a walkway of about 2 miles (3.2 km). Upkeep and repair of the walls continues to be a problem.

Chester Castle

Chester Castle is in the city of Chester, Cheshire, England. It is sited at the southwest extremity of the area bounded by the city walls. The castle stands on an eminence overlooking the River Dee. In the castle complex are the remaining parts of the medieval castle together with the neoclassical buildings designed by Thomas Harrison which were built between 1788 and 1813. Parts of the neoclassical buildings are used today as Crown Courts and as amilitary museum. The museum and the medieval remains are a tourist attraction.

The complex is entered from Grosvenor Road through the Propylaeum, a Grade I listed building. This consists of a massive entablature supported on widely-spaced (areostyle) Doric columns, flanked by temple-like lodges. Directly ahead is the former Shire Hall (also listed Grade I) which now houses the Crown Courts. Its façade has 19 bays, the central seven bays of which project forward and constitute a Doric portico. To the left is the former barracks block which is now the home of the Cheshire Military Museum. To the right is the block which was originally an armoury and later an officers’ mess. Both blocks are in neoclassical style and are listed Grade I. Further to the right are the remains of the Norman castle. The Agricola Tower is a Grade I listed building. It is built in sandstone ashlar with a metal roof in three storeys. The ground floor has a blocked gateway and to the right of the gateway is a slightly projecting stair turret. Internally, the ground floor consists of a crypt, and the first floor contains the chapel of St Mary Castro. The Agricola Tower is also a scheduled monument. The chapel is still consecrated as the regimental chapel of the Cheshire Regiment. Its ceiling is covered with frescos dating from the early part of the 13th century which depict the Visitation and miracles performed by the Virgin Mary which were revealed during conservation work in the 1990s. To the south and the west, the curtain walls, which include the Halfmoon Tower, the Flag Tower and the gun emplacement, are listed Grade I. Other walls within the castle complex are listed Grade II. These are the retaining walls and the railing of the forecourt designed by Thomas Harrison, and two other areas of the medieval curtain walls. In the castle courtyard is a statue of Queen Victoria dated 1903 by Pomeroy. The inner bailey is managed by Cheshire West and Chester Council on behalf of English Heritage.

Chester Rows

Chester Rows consist of covered walkways at the first floor behind which are entrances to shops and other premises. At street level is another set of shops and other premises, many of which are entered by going down a few steps. The Rows, found in each of the four main streets of the city of Chester, Cheshire, England, are unique; nothing precisely similar exists anywhere else in the world.

Dating from the medieval era, the Rows may have been built on top of rubble remaining from the ruins of Roman buildings, but their origin is still subject to speculation. In some places the continuity of the Rows has been blocked by enclosure or by new buildings, but in others modern buildings have retained the Rows in their designs. Undercrofts or “crypts” were constructed beneath the buildings in the Rows. The undercrofts were in stone while most of the buildings in the Rows were in timber.

Today about 20 of the stone undercrofts still exist, but at the level of the Rows very little medieval fabric remains. Many of the buildings containing portions of the Rows are listed and some are on the National Monuments Record. The premises on the street and Row levels are used for a variety of purposes; most are shops, but there are also offices, restaurants, cafés, and meeting rooms. Chester Rows are one of the city’s main tourist attractions.

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