Chester's Black-and-white Architecture Tour, Chester

Chester's Black-and-white Architecture Tour (Self Guided), Chester

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 movement in the mid-19th century that re-used the vernacular elements of the past, such as painted black timber framing with panels in between painted white, referring to Tudor style. Although not created in Cheshire, this Revival movement was labeled as "Cheshire specialty".

The principal architects of the movement were John Douglas and T. M. Lockwood, who transformed the street frontages of Chester with their black-and-white creations. Major examples of their work include Lockwood's building opposite Chester Cross at No. 1 Bridge Street of 1888, described as "the best liked of T. M. Lockwood's buildings in Chester", and the terrace of buildings on the east side of St Werburgh Street of 1895–99 by Douglas. The black-and-white tradition in Chester continued well into the 20th century, attesting to which are St Michael's Buildings, completed in 1910 for the 2nd Duke of Westminster, designed by W. T. Lockwood.

These charming buildings are definitely eye-catching and will make your visit to Chester even more memorable. For a more detailed acquaintance with the architectural style so prominent in the city, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Chester's Black-and-white Architecture Tour Map

Guide Name: Chester's Black-and-white Architecture Tour
Guide Location: England » Chester (See other walking tours in Chester)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: rose
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • 2–18 St Werburgh Street
  • 27–31 Northgate Street
  • 11–13 Northgate Street
  • 5–9 Northgate Street
  • 1 Bridge Street
  • St Ursula's
  • Bishop Lloyd's Palace
  • Cowper House
  • St Michael's Buildings
  • The Falcon
  • Bear and Billet
2–18 St Werburgh Street

1) 2–18 St Werburgh Street

2–18 St Werburgh Street is a terrace consisting of a bank, shops and offices on the east side of St Werburgh Street and the north side of Eastgate Street in Chester. In the 1890s Chester City Council decided to widen St Werburgh Street, which leads from Eastgate Street to Chester Cathedral, and arranged for the demolition of a row of old shops on its east side.

The council intended to sell the vacant land in separate lots, but the Chester architect John Douglas bought the entire length of the east side of the street and planned to create a series of buildings in a unified architectural design. Douglas' original plan was to construct the buildings in stone with brick diapering in Gothic style. However, he was persuaded by the Duke of Westminster to include black-and-white half-timbering in his design.

The building at the south end, on the corner of Eastgate Street, was the first to be occupied. It was acquired by the Bank of Liverpool, and the other units were used as shops. Twelve years after Douglas' death, a commemorative plaque was placed on the St Werburgh Street side of the bank by some of his former pupils and assistants.

The terrace is constructed in three storeys, plus attics, with roofs of green Westmorland slate. The ground floor of the bank is built in yellow sandstone on a granite plinth. The upper storeys are all half-timbered.

Along St Werburgh Street, the first five ground floor bays are in stone, and the rest have modern shop fronts. Rising from the roof are brick decorated chimney stacks. The upper storeys display "an unbroken expanse of gorgeously ornamented half-timber", and include carvings of Norman earls, saints (including St Werburgh), and Queen Victoria.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
27–31 Northgate Street

2) 27–31 Northgate Street

The 27–31 building is more complex than the others on Northgate Street, consisting of shops, offices and a public house, with one face overlooking Northgate Street and the other – Town Hall Square.

The public house dates probably from the early 19th century, and the rest of the building was re-fronted by John Douglas in 1902. As a whole, it is constructed in three storeys with a small attic and cellars. The Northgate Street face has a three-bay arcade on the street level.

Among the most attractive features of the building are the niches above the capitals of the columns supporting the arcade, decorated with carvings of figures; those facing the street are in Elizabethan costume playing instruments, while the two figures at the corner of the two faces are carrying scrolls.

The middle storey of the face is jettied. It has a two-light mullioned and transomed casement window in number 29, and a four-light oriel window in number 31. At the corner of the building is a half-size painted effigy of Edward VII.

The top storey is complex. Number 27 has a two-light casement window; number 28 also has a two-light casement window, above which is a jettied, gabled attic containing a five-light casement window and surmounted by a carved finial; number 31 has a four-light casement window over which is a jettied gable with a shaped bargeboard and a finial. Behind the gable of number 31 is a flèche with a finial and a gilt weather vane.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
11–13 Northgate Street

3) 11–13 Northgate Street

11-13 Northgate Street is an English Heritage-listed structure largely famous for its magnificent bow windows on the upper floor.

The building forms a section of shops and offices at Northgate Street, with the contrast between black and white colors clearly defined.

On the ground floor it has a modern shop front behind an arcade. The shop premises was built in 1900 for J. F. Denson and Sons and was designed by the local architect John Douglas.

In the upper storey there are decorated panels, above which are two seven-light bowed oriel windows, each with further windows on each side, forming a row of continuous glazing. The gable is jettied and contains two rows of quatrefoil panels and a carved bargeboard. Internally, the cellars consist of sandstone medieval undercrofts.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
5–9 Northgate Street

4) 5–9 Northgate Street

5-9 Northgate street continues the terrace of shops and offices on the popular Chester street, and is part of the section known as Shoemakers' Row, or Sadler's Row. The listed building was constructed in 1900. Similar to the other architecture in the area, John Douglas designed it; the architect also happened to own the site.

Number 9 was rebuilt after a fire in 1914. The whole has two storeys and six bays. On the ground floor, modern shop fronts are behind an arcade that is raised by two steps over the street. Above this is a carved bressumer which includes the date 1900. The upper storey includes three pairs of canted five-light oriel windows; between each pair of windows is a carved figure. Above all are three gables with carved bargeboards and finials.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
1 Bridge Street

5) 1 Bridge Street

1 Bridge Street is located at the junction of Bridge Street and Eastgate Street at Chester Cross in the centre of the city of Chester. Its architecture is that of the black-and-white revival, it incorporates part of the Chester Rows. The building was designed by Thomas Lockwood, and built in 1888 for the 1st Duke of Westminster, although by 1889 it was owned by Chester City Council.

The building is now occupied by shops. The citation in the National Heritage List describes the building as "the best liked of T. M. Lockwood's buildings in Chester, well executed in his most flamboyant style". The building is in four storeys, including an undercroft, whose floor is below street level, and an attic. It extends for one bay down Bridge Street and for one bay along Eastgate Street. At its corner is a flight of seven steps leading from the street to the row level above which is an octagonal turret. Above the steps is a canted, mullioned and transomed, oriel window. Over this are three pargetted panels under a four-light canted casement window. The roof is curved and surmounted by a weather vane.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St Ursula's

6) St Ursula's

Sitting on the south side of Watergate Street, at number 37, almost opposite Crook Street, is St Ursula's. The building, very easy to find, incorporates a section of famous Chester Rows and stands four storeys high.

Built in sandstone at the street and Row levels, it has a timber-framed section above, which makes it fitting in well with Chester's signature black-and-white architecture. Following the alterations made in the 16th or 17th centuries, the building was largely remodeled above the Row level in the late 19th century, and then further modified in the 20th century.

St Ursula's undercroft has 5½ bays and it is considered that its walls date from the late 12th century, somewhere between about 1180 and 1280 – the earliest yet structure to have been dated in the Rows. It is mainly for this undercroft, they say, that the building has been listed by The English Heritage Trust. Presently, the undercroft is used as a storeroom for the neighbouring toy shop.

Although there were 16th-century almshouses in Chester dedicated to St Ursula, they were not at this location, so it is unclear why this stone shop front has her name carved into it. Still, the beautiful building adds a great deal to the joy of walking down Watergate Street, and is most definitely well worth checking out if you're in the area or planning a trip to Chester.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bishop Lloyd's Palace

7) Bishop Lloyd's Palace

Bishop Lloyd's Palace is at 41 Watergate Street, and 51/53 Watergate Row in Chester. The house is built on two stone medieval undercrofts with timber framing above. Its first floor incorporates a section of the Chester Rows. The house is now used as shops and meeting rooms and it includes the headquarters of Chester Civic Trust. It was rebuilt during the 17th century when the two buildings were converted into one.

The rebuilt house broke with the medieval fashion of having the main residential accommodation in a great hall at the row level; instead the principal living accommodation was in two "elegant chambers" in the floor above the row. The house has been associated with George Lloyd, who was Bishop of Chester from 1605 to 1615. By the 19th century it had become run down, the carvings on its frontage had been covered with plaster, the house had been split into tenements, and it was becoming derelict.

In the 1890s the house was heavily restored by Thomas Lockwood. He re-fronted the east house to more closely match the west house and added a flight of steps from the street to the level of the row on the east side. He also re-positioned the posts holding the structure above the row and replaced the 18th-century sash windows with mullioned windows.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Cowper House

8) Cowper House

Cowper House is a former townhouse at 12 Bridge Street, and it incorporates a section of the Chester Rows. The property was built in 1664, following the destruction of many buildings in the city during the Civil War. The original owner, Thomas Cowper, was the mayor of Chester in 1641–42.

The house is constructed in sandstone, brick, and timber framing with plaster panels. Beneath it are two undercrofts: the front one (16m long) dating from 1350–75, or possibly earlier; and the rear undercroft (13m long) excavated considerably later, in 1839. More alterations to the building took place in the 19th-20th centuries.

The building has four storeys and a gable overlooking the street. The street level consists of a modern shop front, on the right of which is a flight of 11 stone steps leading to the Row level above. At the Row level there is another modern shop front. Between this and the street is a walkway, a sloping stallboard and a rail with balusters overlooking the street.

Above the Row opening is a carved fascia. In the storey above is a window running almost the whole width of the building. Its frame projects from the wall and is carried on eight corbels. The window has 14 lights, is mullioned and transomed, and contains leaded lights. Below and on each side of the window are timber-framed panels.

The top storey is jettied. At its base is a bressummer carved centrally with "•T•C•1664" (the initials of Thomas Cowper), on each side of which are carved patterns. The top storey has a ten-light mullioned and transomed casement window containing leaded lights. Topping the structure is a grey slate roof.

Just as many other buildings in this area, Cowper House is listed with the English National Heritage Trust.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St Michael's Buildings

9) St Michael's Buildings

St Michael's Buildings are on the east side of Bridge Street, Chester. They contain a section of Chester Rows, with shops at street level and along the Rows, and an arcade of shops stretching behind these to link with the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. The whole structure is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.

The buildings were first completed in 1910 for the 2nd Duke of Westminster. They were designed by W. T. Lockwood. In the initial design, the Bridge Street façade was faced with cream and gold ceramic tiles (faience), with Baroque decoration. The entrance from Bridge Street was modified in 2000 when the steps were replaced.

There are two shops at street level, two more at row level, and a further 20 in the arcade, most of which have modern fronts. The interior of the arcade is faced with faience.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
The Falcon

10) The Falcon

The Falcon is a public house in Chester. The building formerly incorporated part of Chester Rows, but it was the first building to have its portion of the row enclosed in the 17th century. The building originated as a house in about 1200 and was later extended to the south along Lower Bridge Street, with a great hall running parallel to the street. During the 13th century it was rebuilt to incorporate its portion of the row. The house was bought in 1602 by Sir Richard Grosvenor who extensively altered it some 40 years later to make it his town house. During the Civil War he moved his family here from his country home, Eaton Hall.

In the late 18th century the building ceased to be the town house of the Grosvenor family. It continued to be owned by them, and between 1778 and 1878 it was licensed as The Falcon Inn. In about 1879 alterations were made by John Douglas. At this time it was known as The Falcon Cocoa House and it was re-opened as a temperance house. By the 1970s the building had become virtually derelict. In 1979 the Falcon Trust was established, and the building was donated to the trust by the Grosvenor Estate. Between 1979 and 1982 the building was restored and in 1983 it won a Europa Nostra award.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bear and Billet

11) Bear and Billet

The Bear and Billet is a public house located at 94 Lower Bridge Street in Chester. It was built in 1664 as the town house of the Earls of Shrewsbury who held control of the nearby Bridgegate. It was also probably used as a grain warehouse because in the gable are double doors and a bracket for a hoist. The building became an inn in the 18th century, although it continued to be owned by the Shrewsbury family until 1867. Its name is taken from the heraldic device of the Earls that consist of a bear tied to a billet.

The building is constructed in timber framing with plaster panels. It consists of cellars, above which are three storeys and an attic in the gable overlooking the street. The roof has purple slates and a ridge at right-angles to the street. On the ground floor are two doors, one to the south and the other placed more centrally. To the right of each door is a three-light window. At the base of the first floor are 16 rectangular timber framed plaster panels. Above these is a window stretching along the whole length of the frontage.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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