Chester is a city in Cheshire, England. Lying on theRiver Dee, close to the border with Wales, and is the largest and most populous settlement of the wider unitary authority area of Cheshire West and Chester, which had a population of 328,100 according to the 2001 Census. Chester was granted city status in 1541.
Chester was founded as a "castrum" or Roman fort with the name Deva Victrix in the year 79 by the Roman Legio II Adiutrix during the reign of theEmperor Vespasian. Chester's four main roads, Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge, follow routes laid out at this time – almost 2,000 years ago. One of the three main Roman army camps, Deva later became a major settlement in the Roman province of Britannia. The Roman Empire fell three hundred years later, and the Romano-British established a number of petty kingdoms in its place. Chester is thought to have been part of Powys at this time. King Arthur is said to have fought his ninth battle at the city of the legions and later St Augustine came to the city to try and unite the church and hold his synod with the Welsh Bishops. In 616, Æthelfrith of Northumbria defeated a Welsh army at the Battle of Chester and probably established the Anglo-Saxon position in the area from then on.
In the late 7th century, (AD 689) King Æthelred of Mercia founded the Minster Church of West Mercia on what is considered to be an early Christian Site and known as The Minster of St John the Baptist, Chester (now St John's Church) which later became the first cathedral. Much later the body of Æthelred's Niece, St Werburgh was removed from Hanbury in Staffordshire in the 9th century and, in order to save its desecration by Danish marauders, she was reburied in the Church of SS Peter & Paul - later to become the Abbey Church (the present cathedral). Her name is still remembered in St Werburgh's Street which passes alongside the cathedral, and near to the city walls. A new Church dedicated to St Peter alone was founded in AD907 by the Lady Æthelfleda at what was to become the Cross
The Saxons extended and strengthened the walls of Chester to protect the city against the Danes, who occupied it for a short time until Alfred seized all the cattle and laid waste the surrounding land to drive them out. In fact it was Alfred's daughter Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, that built the new Saxon burh. The Anglo-Saxons called Chester Ceaster or Legeceaster.
In 973, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle records that, two years 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 Edgar's field to the great Minster Church of St John the Baptist by six (the monk Henry Bradshaw records he was rowed by eight kings) tributary kings called 'reguli'.
Chester was one of the last towns in England to fall to the Normans in the Norman conquest of England. William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a castle, to dominate the town and the nearby Welsh border. In 1071 he made Hugh d'Avranches the first Earl of Chester.
Chester has a number of medieval buildings, but some of the black-and-white buildings within the city centre are actually Victorian restorations. Chester is one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain. Apart from a 100-metre (330 ft) section, the listed Grade I walls are almost complete.
The Industrial Revolution brought railways, canals, and new roads to the city, which saw substantial expansion and development – Chester Town Hall and the Grosvenor Museum are examples of Victorian architecture from this period.
Chester lies at the southern end of a 2-mile (3.2 km) Triassic sandstone ridge that rises to a height of 42 m within a natural S-bend in the River Dee (before the course was altered in the 18th century). The bedrock, which is also known as the Chester Pebble Beds, is noticeable because of the many small stones trapped within its strata. Retreating glacial sheet ice also deposited quantities of sand and marl across the area where boulder clay was absent.
The eastern and northern part of Chester consisted of heathland and forest. The western side towards the Dee Estuary was marsh and wetland habitats.
The more unusual landmarks in the city are the city walls, the Rows and the black-and-white architecture. The walls encircle the bounds of the medieval city and constitute the most complete city walls in Britain, the full circuit measuring nearly 2 miles (3 km). The only break in the circuit is in the southwest section in front of County Hall. A footpath runs along the top of the walls, crossing roads by bridges over Eastgate, Northgate, St Martin's Gate, Watergate, Bridgegate, Newgate, and the Wolf Gate, and passing a series of structures, namely Phoenix Tower (or King Charles' Tower), Morgan's Mount, the Goblin Tower (or Pemberton's Parlour), and Bonewaldesthorne's Tower with a spur leading to the Water Tower, and Thimbleby's Tower. On Eastgate is Eastgate Clock which is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben.
The Rows are unique in Britain. They consist of buildings with shops or dwellings on the lowest two storeys. The shops or dwellings on the ground floor are often lower than the street and are entered by steps, which sometimes lead to acrypt-like vault. Those on the first floor are entered behind a continuous walkway, often with a sloping shelf between the walkway and the railings overlooking the street. Much of the architecture of central Chester looks medieval and some of it is but by far the greatest part of it, including most of the black-and-white buildings, isVictorian, a result of what Pevsner termed the "black-and-white revival".
The most prominent buildings in the city centre are the town hall and the cathedral. The town hall was opened in 1869. It is in Gothic Revival style and has a tower and a short spire. The cathedral was formerly the church of St Werburgh's Abbey. Its architecture dates back to the Norman era, with additions made most centuries since. A series of major restorations took place in the 19th century and in 1975 a separate bell tower was opened. The elaborately carved canopies of the choirstalls are considered to be one of the finest in the country. Also in the cathedral is the shrine of St Werburgh. To the north of the cathedral are the former monastic buildings. The oldest church in the city is St John's, which is outside the city walls and was at one time the cathedral church. The church was shortened after the dissolution of the monasteries and ruins of the former east end remain outside the church. Much of the interior is in Norman style and this is considered to be the best example of 11th–12th-century church architecture in Cheshire. At the intersection of the former Roman roads is Chester Cross, to the north of which is the small church of St Peter's which is in use as an ecumenical centre. Other churches are now redundant and have other uses; St Michael's in Bridge Street is a heritage centre, St Mary-on-the-Hill is an educational centre, and Holy Trinity now acts as the Guildhall. Other notable buildings include the preserved shot tower, the highest structure in Chester. and *St Thomas of Canterbury Church
Roman remains can still be found in the city, particularly in the basements of some of the buildings and in the lower parts of the northern section of the city walls. The most important Roman feature is the amphitheatre just outside the walls which is undergoing archaeological investigation Roman artefacts are on display in the Roman Gardens which run parallel to the city walls from Newgate to the River Dee, where there's also a reconstructed hypocaust system. An original hypocaust system discovered in the 1720s can be seen in the basement of the Spudulikerestaurant at 39 Bridge Street, which is open to the public.
Of the medieval city the most important surviving structure is Chester Castle, particularly the Agricola Tower. Much of the rest of the castle has been replaced by the neoclassical county court and its entrance, the Propyleum. To the south of the city runs the River Dee, with its 11th century weir. The river is crossed by the Old Dee Bridge, dating from the 13th century, the Grosvenor Bridge of 1832, and Queen's Park suspension bridge (for pedestrians). To the southwest of the city the River Dee curves towards the north. The area between the river and the city walls here is known as the Roodee, and contains Chester Racecourse which holds a series of horse races and other events. The first recorded race meet in England at Roodee Fields was on 9 February 1540. The Shropshire Union Canal runs to the north of the city and a branch leads from it to the River Dee.
The major museum in Chester is the Grosvenor Museum which includes a collection of Roman tombstones and an art gallery. Associated with the museum is 20 Castle Street in which rooms are furnished in different historical styles. TheDewa Roman Experience has hands-on exhibits and a reconstructed Roman street. One of the blocks in the forecourt of the Castle houses the Cheshire Military Museum.
The major public park in Chester is Grosvenor Park On the south side of the River Dee, in Handbridge, is Edgar's Field, another public park, which contains Minerva's Shrine, a Roman shrine to the goddess Minerva. A war memorial to those who died in the world wars is in the town hall and it contains the names of all Chester servicemen who died in the First World War.
Chester Visitor Centre, opposite the Roman Amphitheatre, issues a leaflet giving details of tourist attractions. Those not covered above include cruises on the River Dee and on the Shropshire Union Canal, and guided tours on an open-air bus. The river cruises start from a riverside area known as the Groves, which contains seating and a bandstand. A series of festivals is organised in the city, including mystery plays, a summer music festival and a literature festival. Chester City Council has produced a series of leaflets for self-guided walks. Tourist Information Centres are at the town hall and at Chester Visitor Centre.
The city is home to the University of Chester. Formerly a teacher training college, it gained full university status in 2005 and is the county's main provider of tertiary education. The University of Law also has a campus in the city.
West Cheshire College is a vocational college in the North West of England. It has over 20,000 students at its two main campuses in Ellesmere Port and Chester as well as in workplaces and community venues. The science and technologies campus is based in Chester and offers a wide range of vocational courses and qualifications to local and international students.
Other secondary schools include: