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Bradshaw’s Guide

The Cross and Rows, Chester, England. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress


Chester is a genuine Roman city, built four-square, within walls, which remain to this day. It is also a cathedral town and borough, with 31,110 population, returning two members, a peer, the Prince of Wales, who bears the title of Earl of Chester, and the capital of Cheshire, on the river Dee, thirteen miles from Liverpool, where four lines meet. The joint station, which cost nearly a quarter of a million, is 1,010 feet long. Chester, so called by the Saxons because of the camp, or castram here, was named Deva by the Romans, who joined it by a road right across the country to Colchester, called the Via Deva. Two main streets were cut by them into the rock, terminating in the four city gates; above these on both sides are lines of shops and covered ways, called the Rows, to which you ascend by a few steps. Several old timber buildings with gable fronts are seen. St. John’s is the oldest of its eleven or twelve churches, having solid Norman pillars, &c. The Cathedral, built of the red sandstone so common here; the west front, not older than the 16th century, is the best part of it. A beautiful early English Chapter House is close by. The bishop’s throne was the shrine of St. Werburgh, founder of the abbey here. The present primate was translated from Chester. Falaner, a scholar, Dr. Cowper, Sir J. Vanburgh, the mathematician, Molyneux and Brerewood, Bradshaw, the poet, Higden, the author, Dean Whittingham, translator of the Geneva Bible, and Kynaston and Downham, divines, were natives. The Cheese Market is in the Old Linen Hall. The cheeses weigh from 60 to 160 lbs. and are highly coloured; to make them keep, the whey is entirely pressed out. The famous Cheshire pastures were at one time almost worn out, when they were renovated with bone dust, and made five times as valuable as before. The Shire Hall and Assize Court is an imposing Grecian pile, by Harrison, with a portico copied from the Acropolis at Athens. Here is the old Castle, built by the Conqueror’s nephew, Hugh Lupus; it includes an armoury, barracks, chapel, and Julius Cæsar’s tower. The ancient Walls, now hemmed in by houses, form a walk, 4 to 6 feet broad, and nearly 2 miles long round the town, and are curious from their antiquity. They were patched up or rebuilt by Alfred’s daughter. In some parts they are only a few feet high; but where the cliff overhangs the river you look down 50 or 60 feet. The sharp edges of the Welsh hills are seen here and there; from the Phœnix Tower, Charles I. witnessed the defeat of his troops at Rowton Moor, in 1645. One old bridge of 7 arches dates back to the 11th century. The Grosvenor Bridge, designed by Harrison, and built by Trubshaw, is a fine arch of 200 feet span, with a rise of only 10 feet. The Roodee, or race course, is outside the walls, near the railway. In Crook Street chapel is Matthew Henry’s pulpit, where he used to preach; his monument is in Trinity church. Chester has a middling shipping trade, by means of a cut to the sea from Saltney. The Welsh border is within a walk of 2 miles.

Eaton Hall (3 miles), seat of the Marquis of Westminster, is visited from here, and stands in a large straggling park. Tickets may be had at the booksellers, or at the Royal Hotel. Parties of three — to the house, 5s.; to the garden, 3s.; the proceeds being handed over to the Chester hospitals. The Hall is a very picturesque modern Gothic pile, about 450 feet long, with several pinnacles and turrets, and rebuilt in 1803 on the site of the old seat. In the long gallery are family portraits, with West’s “Cromwell Dissolving the Long Parliament,” and various foreign masters. A pretty iron bridge, 150 feet span across the river.

Haddon (or Hawarden) Castle, seat of Sir S. Glynne, Bart, near an old keep, is in Denbighshire, 7 miles off.

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Places nearby

  • Denbighshire : Denbigh

    The situation of this town from a distance is very imposing, lying as it does on the side of a rocky eminence, the top of which is crowned with the ruins of a castle founded in the reign of Edward I.

  • Denbighshire : Llangollen

    Llangollen lies in the hollow of the Dee, and being the first glimpse of peculiar mountain scenery, it is indebted to this as much as to its own character for the celebrity it enjoys.