Chester Introduction Walking Tour, Chester

Chester Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Chester

Chester is a walled city in Cheshire. It was originally founded in 79 AD as a Roman fort with the name Deva Victrix. It was garrisoned until the 4th century when it was abandoned by the Romans. It is thought that the area was settled by Anglo-Saxons during medieval times. It was also briefly occupied by the Danes.

Chester was very important during the Industrial Revolution. This is largely due to the city's location on the River Dee. It also became a spot where unique architecture was developed. Black-and-white revival architecture, while not specifically founded in the city, was greatly improved by T.M. Lockwood and John Douglas. Together, they designed more than 500 buildings in Chester and Cheshire County.

The Chester city walls are the most complete Roman walls in Great Britain. Previously a defensive structure, the walls are now used for recreation. Despite in constant repair due to years of damage, the city walls are one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. The walls are also used by locals who want to exercise on the 1.8 mile path.

Another popular tourist spot in Chester are the Rows. These medieval buildings were once shops that held living residences above them. Today, these well preserved historical buildings hold shops, stores and offices. Along with the city walls, the Rows are among the most notable features in the city.

Chester is an important, historic city with a lot to offer to tourists who want to be inspired by old and new architecture. The ruins of the Chester Roman Amphitheatre, the Roman Gardens, Eastgate Clock and Chester Cathedral are all must-see places for every visitor to the city.

Take this self-guided walking tour to see the beauty and history of Chester.
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Chester Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Chester Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: England » Chester (See other walking tours in Chester)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: rose
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Chester Town Hall
  • Chester Cathedral
  • Eastgate and Eastgate Clock
  • Chester Rows
  • Guildhall
  • Grosvenor Museum
  • Chester Roman Gardens
  • Chester Roman Amphitheatre
  • Grosvenor Park
  • St John the Baptist's Church
  • Chester City Walls
Chester Town Hall

1) Chester Town Hall

Chester Town Hall was completed in 1869 as a city administration building. The architect William H. Lynn designed the town hall in the Gothic Revival architectural style. It was inspired by Cloth Hall at Ypres in Belgium.

The building is constructed from pink and buff sandstone. It has 10 bays and a tower with a 160-foot spire. There are four stone sculptures that show the history of the city. It was recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a Grade II listed building in 1972.

The town hall underwent a massive restoration in 1898 after a fire gutted a large portion of the council chamber. The restoration project was overseen by architect T. M. Lockwood.

The Chester Town Hall is no longer used for administrative purposes. It is now rented for special events like weddings, conferences and other celebrations. The building is sometimes open to the public for tours, though it does not have a regular schedule.
Chester Cathedral

2) Chester Cathedral (must see)

Chester Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral. It is also the mother church of the Diocese of Chester. It has been the seat of the Bishop of Chester since 1541.

The church was first constructed in 1093 with many additions, renovations and remodeling projects having taken place since that time. The most notable architects of the cathedral were Richard Lenginour, Nicholas de Derenford, William Rediche, Seth and George Derwall, Thomas Harrison and George Gilbert Scott. Though the church itself is considered mostly Romanesque and Gothic, it also uses elements from the most notable English medieval architecture like Norman and Perpendicular.

One of the reasons the church has been restored so many times is the use of Keiper Sandstone. This material is very popular because it is easy to make detailed carvings, which lends to the beauty of the building. Unfortunately, it is also easily damaged.

A detached bell and clock tower was added in 1975 due to difficulties in repairing the previously constructed bell tower. New bells, based off of the original ones, were recast for use in the bell tower. Only two of the older bells, both from the 17th century, were re-used in the new tower. It was somewhat controversial because it was the first detached bell tower built in England since the Reformation.

The cathedral continues to offer regular church services. It is also used for concerts and exhibitions. The cathedral has a gift shop and cafe for those who wish to spend more time enjoying the medieval atmosphere.

Why You Should Visit:
- To see one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chester
- To explore the beauty of medieval architecture

The cafe and gift shop are open from 10 AM to 4 PM Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 PM on Sundays. Visitors who wish to tour the interior of the cathedral must make advance arrangements for a 60-minute ground floor tour or a half-hour tour that ends with views from the cathedral's tower.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Eastgate and Eastgate Clock

3) Eastgate and Eastgate Clock (must see)

Eastgate and Eastgate Clock stand on the site of the original entrance gate to the Deva Victrix fortress which was a legionary fortress and town in the Roman province of Britannia. The fortress was built around the AD 70 as the Roman army advanced north against the Brigantes, and rebuilt completely over the next few decades.

The fortress was rebuilt in the early 3rd century. The Roman army probably remained at the fortress until the late 4th or early 5th century, then it fell into disuse. A civilian settlement, or canabae, grew around the fortress and it remained after the Romans departed, eventually becoming the present-day city of Chester.

The original gate is said to date to about AD 74. It was replaced in the 2nd century, and then again in the 14th century. The current Eastgate dates to 1768.

Eastgate Clock was added in 1899 in celebration of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. It was designed by architect John Douglas. It has a face on all four sides with the year 1897 and initials VR appearing above and below each clock face. A copper ogee cupola is mounted over the clock with a large weather vane.

It is said that Eastgate Clock is the second most photographed clock in England after Big Ben in London. Eastgate and Eastgate Clock are among the most well-known landmarks in the city. They were designated as a Grade I listed building in 1955.
Chester Rows

4) Chester Rows (must see)

Chester Rows are a number buildings on the four main streets of Chester. When they were originally built, the Rows were shops with living areas. Today, they are mostly shops but also include restaurants, offices and meeting rooms.

The Rows are thought to have been built atop ruins of Roman buildings during the medieval era, but their origin is still subject to speculation. Many have suggested that they were created after a fire in 1278 destroyed most of the city. The earliest recorded information about Chester Rows 1293.

During the medieval period the Rows serves as both business premise and living accommodation. The doorway led into a hall which was often used as a shop. The story above the hall was the private living space for the residents. In some cases, where the hall was larger, there were several shops sharing the space.

Behind the hall was more domestic accommodation. Normally the kitchen was a separate building in the yard behind the house. The back yard was also used for cesspits which are temporary storage of sewage and for the disposal of rubbish. Below the Rows were crypts or undercrofts. Many of these were stone-lined with ribbed vaults used for storage or for more valuable goods.

Of the original Rows, about 20 are still standing. Cowper House is the best example of the architecture. It has an undercroft of six bays and rib-vaulting. It is on the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.

Those who visit Chester Rows will find the buildings transformed into spots like the Grosnevor Shopping Center and an array of other shopping spots. Pedestrian-only streets make it easy to visit the Rows. Today Chester Rows are one of the city's main tourist attractions.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

5) Guildhall

Guildhall was completed in 1869. Originally built as the Holy Trinity Church, Guildhall's chief architect was James Harrison. The building was constructed in the Gothic Revival architectural style.

Like many of the buildings in Chester, the church was constructed with red sandstone and slate roofs. The sandstone has weathered over time, which has caused multiple renovations to be needed over the years.

Holy Trinity Church closed in 1960. It was remodeled and converted for secular use by the Freemen and Guilds of the City of Chester. Two halls were created in the church: Major Hall and Lower Hall. It was then that the building was renamed from Holy Trinity Church to Guildhall.

Guildhall now functions as a bar and event space known as the Guild Chester. It is open from 5 PM to 1 AM Thursday through Saturday and on Sundays from 5 PM to midnight. The Guild Chester requires photo ID and smart dress for all patrons.
Grosvenor Museum

6) Grosvenor Museum

Grosvenor Museum is a museum of natural history and archaeology. It opened in 1886 with major refurbishments in 1894 and 1999. The original architect was Thomas Lockwood who designed the building in the Free Renaissance architectural style.

The museum was named for the family name of the Dukes of Westminster. The First Duke of Westminster provided the land and the funding to establish the museum. The aim of the museum was as a space to preserve archaeological findings, paintings and musical instruments.

Grosvenor Museum welcomes more than 100,000 visitors per year. Collections include art, silver, costumes, artifacts and a number geological findings. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 to 5 PM and on Sundays from 1 PM to 4 PM. It also includes a small museum store and a cafe. Admission is free.

Grosvenor Museum was added to the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building in 1998.
Chester Roman Gardens

7) Chester Roman Gardens (must see)

The Chester Roman Gardens are located near the River Dee to the southwest of the Chester Roman Amphitheatre. The gardens were built in 1949 with the purpose to display ruins from the Roman fortress of Deva.

The Gardens do, though, contain many fragments from the Deva Victrix Fortress built by Roman in 70 AD. Some of the most notable ruins are the columns. The largest column came from the Roman assembly hall. Many of the others were recovered from the exercise hall of the Roman bathhouse. There is also a reconstructed hypocaust of the bathhouse. The original Roman hypocaust can be seen at at 39 Bridge Street in the city center.

A remodeling project began in 2000. This project offered access to the river and informational panels for visitors. Three mosaics were designed for the garden by prominent mosaic artist Gary Drostle.

The Chester Roman Gardens are open daily from 9 AM to dusk. The walking paths are fully accessible. During the summer months, the gardens host an open-air cinema called Moonlight Flicks. There is no admission fee for entrance.
Chester Roman Amphitheatre

8) Chester Roman Amphitheatre

Chester Amphitheatre is a Roman amphitheater. It is the largest uncovered Roman amphitheater in Great Britain. The amphitheater was first discovered in 1929 when gardening works at one of the buildings on the southern end of the arena revealed a long curved wall.

The earliest amphitheater is believed to have been built between 70 and 80 ADE by the Roman army stationed in the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix. The amphitheater was in active use through much of the Roman occupation of Britain and fell derelict following the Roman departure from Britain.

The ruins uncovered today are those of a large stone amphitheater, similar to those found in continental Europe. Historians believe that a smaller wooden amphitheater existed on the site beforehand and excavations since 1999 have shown that the wooden grillage is the base of the seating. Today, only the northern half of the structure is exposed; the southern half is covered by buildings.

There is a myth that the amphitheater was primarily for military training and drill. However, archaeological findings show that the amphitheater was used for cock fighting, boxing, wrestling and gladiatorial combat. Likewise, a number of cheap Roman pots with images of gladiatorial combat were uncovered. This led historians to believe this site was one of the first to create souvenirs for sale.

The amphitheater could easily seat 8,000 people making it the largest Roman amphitheater in Great Britain. Around it, a sprawling complex of dungeons, stables and food stands were built to support the contests, while a shrine to Nemesis, goddess of retribution, was built at the north entrance to the arena. The complex's unusual size and development has led historians to speculate that Chester would have become capital of Roman Britain had the Romans successfully captured Ireland.

Chester Amphitheatre is managed by English Heritage. It was designated as a Grade I listed building. The amphitheater is open daily during daylight hours. There is no admission to walk the grounds.
Grosvenor Park

9) Grosvenor Park (must see)

Grosvenor Park is a 20-acre public park overlooking the River Dee. The Victorian-style park was designed by Edward Kemp in 1867. Land for the park was provided by Richard Grosvener, 1st Earl Grosvenor.

The original park keeper's lodge was designed by architect John Douglas. It is his first known example of black-and-white architecture. The lodge is two stories of red sandstone and timber-framed plaster panels. It includes eight carvings featuring William the Conqueror and the seven Norman Earls of Chester.

The park includes ornamental flower beds, grassy fields, trees and walking paths. It also offers Billy Hobby's Well, Jacob's Well Drinking Fountain, a statue erected for the 2nd Marquess, three medieval arches and the Grosvenor Park Miniature Railway.

Grosvener Park underwent significant rebuilding and refurbishment in 2014. The park keeper's lodge re-opened as the Lodge Cafe. A new activities center was built and many of the original features were restored. A descendent of the original benefactor, Gerald Grosvenor, oversaw the park's reopening.

The park is open from 7 AM to 8 PM in the summer season and 8 AM to 6 PM during winter months. The park also hosts an open-air theatre from July through August.
St John the Baptist's Church

10) St John the Baptist's Church

St. John the Baptist's Church was founded in the late 7th century. It is the former cathedral of Chester, Cheshire during the Early Middle Ages.

In 973, the famous King Edgar's council at Chester took place on a barge near St. John the Baptist's Church. After his coronation at Bath, King Edgar of England, came to Chester where he held his court in a palace in a place now known as Edgar's field near the old Dee bridge in Handbridge. Taking the helm of a barge, he was rowed the short distance up the River Dee from Edgars field to St John the Baptist's Church by several kings from Scotland and Wales. These kings pledged their faith that they would be Edgar's liege-men on sea and land.

The church was partially demolished and used as a garrison during the English Civil War. Restorations took place in 1886 that encompassed the medieval building into a new, larger church.

Architects R. C. Hussey and John Douglas designed the reconstruction with Norman, Gothic and Gothic Revival inspiration. Hussey focused on the Victorian restoration while Douglas designed the northeast belfry tower after the original collapsed.

The interior of the church contains a number of damaged effigies that date to the late 13th century. There are also two 15th century fonts and two 18th century brass chandeliers. The stained glass windows were designed by T. M. Penson in 1863 and Edward Frampton in 1890. It was designated as a Grade I listed building in the National Heritage List for England in 1955.

Visitors are welcome to attend services at St. John the Baptist's Church. The church is open for Holy Communion and Principal Eucharist at 8 AM and 10 AM on Sundays. Holy Eucharist takes place at 10 AM on Wednesdays and noon on Fridays.
Chester City Walls

11) Chester City Walls (must see)

The Chester City Walls were built by Romans when the Deva Victrix fortress was established between 70 and 80 ADE. The walls were built as defensive structures, but took more than 100 years to complete. The construction was carried out using sandstone and a wooden palisade.

The walls were expanded after the Norman conquest. The full circuit was completed in the mid-12th century. The walls were severely damaged during the English Civil War, after which they were no longer needed for defense.

The city chose to repair the walls for recreational use in 1707. The gates were rebuilt with wider arches to allow more walkers to use the walls. A number of steps were also added to make walking easier for pedestrians. The Chester City Walls form a walkway of about 1.8 miles.

The city walls continue to be a primary tourist attraction in the city. This is largely due to the fact that the walls are the oldest in all of Britain. They are also the most complete and the longest city walls in the country.

Those who wish to walk along the walls can access them from one of four main gateways. These gateways are Northgate, Eastgate, Watergate and Bridgegate. The walls are also accessible by steps and some accessible ramps in the city. Visitors should plan their entry points in advance as water damage regularly causes closures of certain areas.

The city walls regularly undergo repair projects in order to maintain the safety of walkers.

Why You Should Visit:
- To see the largest and oldest city walls in Britain
- To have an excellent view of the city from multiple vantage points

Chester Walls are open throughout the year with open and free access.

Walking Tours in Chester, England

Create Your Own Walk in Chester

Create Your Own Walk in Chester

Creating your own self-guided walk in Chester is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Chester's City Walls

Chester's City Walls

Chester City Walls are the oldest, longest and most complete (missing only just about 100 meters) historic defensive structure in Britain. Walking the full circuit of this ancient fortification provides wondrous views, wherever you choose to go, down into the city, and offers a fantastic insight into Chester's rich history.

First built by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago, the Walls were...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Chester's Black-and-white Architecture Tour

Chester's Black-and-white Architecture Tour

While the origins of Chester date back to Roman Times, much of the city center, and by far the greatest part of it, looks medieval. Indeed, if you visit the city, the first thing you notice is the magnificent black-and-white architecture. Despite their appearance, however, the majority of these buildings are Victorian by the time of construction.

The Black-and-White Revival was an architectural...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles