Chester, England

Chester is one of England's most beautiful cities, a compact collection of Tudor and Victorian buildings wrapped in an almost intact red sandstone wall that was originally built by the Romans to protect the fortress of Castra Devana. For much of the Middle Ages Chester was the northwest's most important port, but the gradual silting of the River Dee diminished its importance and Chester was overtaken by Liverpool.

Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester


24 May 2009 - Chester (Beeston Castle), England

Beeston Castle is a former Royal castle in Beeston, Cheshire, England, perched on a rocky sandstone crag 350 feet (110 m) above the Cheshire Plain. It was built in the 1220s by Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, (1170–1232), on his return from the Crusades. In 1237, Henry III took over the ownership of Beeston, and it was kept in good repair until the 16th century, when it was considered to be of no further military use, although it was pressed into service again in 1643, during the English Civil War. The castle was partly demolished in 1646, to prevent its further use as a stronghold. During the 18th century the site was used as a quarry.
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Beeston - Outer lodge and towers

Beeston - Outer lodge and towers

Although in ruins, enough of the walls and towers are still in place to provide a clear picture of how it would have looked in its prime. It has a small museum and visitor's centre at the entrance. A lodge house was built by Tollemache in the 19th century, and was expanded in the 20th century. The lodge is two storeys high, with two circular towers either side of a central archway. These were not part of the orginal defences.
Beeston - The lodge from the other side

Beeston - The lodge from the other side

The rock of Beeston stands over one of the three gaps in the hills which encircle Chester, dominating the Cheshire plain. The idea of a castle dependent, at least in part, for its strength on deep, rock cut ditches owes much to the fortresses seen in the Holy Land on crusade by Ranulf, earl of Chester.
Beeston - The outer walls and beyond

Beeston - The outer walls and beyond

After passing the entrance towers you come to the actual medieval structure. This outer wall closed off a massive outer bailey. Towers, mostly D-plan, were built at regular intervals along the walls, the most massive to form gatehouses. This concept of castle defence was only to be fully developed at the end of the 13th century in Edward I's great castle building campaign in his conquest of Wales.
Beeston - Inside the outer bailey looking up to the castle

Beeston - Inside the outer bailey looking up to the castle

Beeston never had palatial buildings like in other castles, and throughout the 13th and 14th century remained a military base, spartan but effective.
Beeston - Standing sentry over the Cheshire plain

Beeston - Standing sentry over the Cheshire plain

The summit is the crowning glory of Beeston and the inner bailey is defended by a deep tock cut ditch. The inner bailey commands astounding views across eight counties, from the Welsh mountains to the west, to the penines in the east. It also contains the the 100m deep castle well.
Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey I

Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey I

As well as the deep ditch, the inner bailey is also defended by the mighty double towered gatehouse.
Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey II

Beeston - Gatehouse to the inner bailey II

Beeston Castle experienced a final blaze of glory as an important English Civil War stronghold, which finally surrendered to Parliament in November 1645 after a long and eventful siege when only potential starvation caused its defenders to surrender.

22 Feb 2009 - Chester (U-Boot 534), England

A short drive outside of Chester and near the Mersey ferry is housed the now broken remains of a salvaged German World War II submarine. Unterseeboot 534 (U534) was a Type IXC/40 U-boat of the Kriegsmarine built in 1942. The U-boat is one of only four large German WWII submarines in preserved condition remaining in the world, the only other IXC boat being U-505 in Chicago. U534 was used mainly for training duties, and during her life sank no ships. The boat was part of a museum until 2006. When the museum closed it was deemed too expensive to move it whole so was cut into four sections to be displayed at the Woodside Ferry Terminal opposite Liverpool.
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U534 - Looking up at the conning tower

U534 - Looking up at the conning tower

The German submarine war in WW2 was a fascinating campaign with technology and tactics continually evolving to swing the advantage from one side to the other until in May 1943 the Allies regained the initiative and kept it until the end of the war. The human side is also fascinating and it takes a special kind of person to serve on submarines. If you read any accounts of the men who served you will understand the roller-coaster life they led and learn of the extreme highs and lows they experienced.
U534 - The business end of the wolf

U534 - The business end of the wolf

The U Boats were referred to as wolves for propaganda reasons. Unlike in WWI where submarines acted alone and were not as effective, the German tactics in WWII would be for a submarine to call in reinforcements when allied shipping was found and then attack together or to continue the propaganda, as a Wolf Pack. When U Boat losses became unsutainable and the futility of continuing the campaign became apparent the sailors often referred to their submarines as Iron Coffins instead.
U534 - Forward crew quarters and torpedo room

U534 - Forward crew quarters and torpedo room

The fuel and oil tanks ran along the sides, making the food stored in this area taste of diesel. The wood on the left by the hatch was a cupboard which has been removed. Through the hatch is the forward torpedo area and a further crew quarters. Two of the four bow torpedo tubes can be seen.
U534 - Side view of the conning tower

U534 - Side view of the conning tower

On 5 May 1945, for unknown reasons, the captain of U-534 ignored the order to surrender, issued to all U-boats by Admiral Doenitz, and set course for Norway instead. To this day, mystery still surrounds U-534's refusal to surrender; however, numerous theories exist. What seems to be established fact is that U-534 was sailing on the surface of the Kattegat, together with three other boats, when British aircraft attacked. The crew managed to shoot one bomber down, but the boat received a direct hit from a depth charge.
U534 - Engine room

U534 - Engine room

U-534 had a crew of 52 men, all of whom escaped and 49 survived. Five were trapped in the torpedo room as she began to sink but escaped through the torpedo tubes just in time. One of these crewmen, 17 year old radio operator Josef Neudorfer, failed to breathe out as he was surfacing from depth and the air in them expanded, effectively burst his lungs. The other two deaths were caused by exposure
U534 - Aft battle damage

U534 - Aft battle damage

The indentations show where the depth charge that sank U534 exploded.
U534 - Visitor centre and museum

U534 - Visitor centre and museum

The visitor centre acts as host to the many artifacts that have been recovered from the wreck. There had to be a good mathematician on board to interpret the contact data. The rulers and tables can be seen here along with a camera.
U534 - Life on board

U534 - Life on board

Finding ships to sink were often rare occurrences and sailors had to find ways to fight the inevitable boredom that would set in when on patrol. Ludo, chequers and chess pieces can all be seen in this photo. Some everyday objects can also be seen such as the brush in the top right which the owner engraved his name in.
U534 - Day to day lif

U534 - Day to day life

Cutlery, razors, a ceremonial dagger, uniform insignia and the coveted Iron Cross have all been left behind.
U534 - Preserved WW2 German flag

U534 - Preserved WW2 German flag

All U Boats carried a German flag, which was flown when arriving back at port. This has been preserved by the silt it was covered in at the bottom of the sea. By the end of WW2, 28000 sailors had lost their lives out of a total of 40000 who served - a casualty rate of 75%. Towards the end, losses became so high that many sailors never made it past their second mission. Despite such overwhelming odds the sailors continued to do their duty knowing that they must certainly be heading to their deaths.

21 Jun 2008 - Chester, England

After Hadrian's Wall I headed back South, stopping off in Chester to continue being a tourist in my home town. When you start to scratch at the surface there is still plenty left to discover and it's surprising to find yourself still being surprised by what you can find out.

Chester is compact and much is squeezed in with most places of interest inside the walls. The Roman street pattern is also relatively intact. A number of shops even have Roman or Medieval remains within.

Following on from my last Chester blog, I've focused more on and around the former Roman amphitheatre and the South East corner of the walled part of the city, a part of the city that I've never really known a lot about and was amazed to learn of a 13th century coffin embedded in the ruins of a church and on display.
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Chester - The Cross and Rows

Chester - The Cross and Rows

This stone pillar marks the town centre. Four roads that follow the original Roman plan fan out from this point and are Watergate, Northgate, Eastgate and Bridge Street. It has been the site of public proclamations since medieval times, the earliest known proclamation being in the 15th century. During the Civil War, the Cross had served as a rallying point for the Royalist citzens, but after their eventual surrender to Parliamentary forces at the end of the siege it was pulled down.
Chester - St Peter's Church

Chester - St Peter's Church

St Peters Church stands at the centre of Chester adjacent to The Cross. It was founded in AD 907 and is Chester's oldest church. It once had a large spire and the exterior has been restored several times. The church is unusual because of its square form. It is constructed out of local sandstone and stands on top of the Roman headquarters building. the Principia. In 1086 the church was mentioned in the Domesday Book and referred to as 'Templum Sancti Petri'.
Chester - The Three Old Arches, Upper Bridge St

Chester - The Three Old Arches, Upper Bridge Street

The Three Old Arches form the facade of a row building from the 12th century, believed to be the earliest surviving shop frontage in England. The structure behind was rebuilt in the early to mid 14th century, as an impressive stone town house with a hall which is partly intact.
Chester - Roman Amphitheatre, viewed towards the City

Chester - Roman Amphitheatre, viewed towards the City

In the background can be seen The Newgate, built to replace a Medieval era gate. This falls just outside of the Roman fortress, the walls to the left of the gate being the approximate position of the South West corner of the fort.
Chester - Roman Amphitheatre, from the North entrance

Chester - Roman Amphitheatre, from the North entrance

One of the two processional entrances or porta pompae. These gave direct access to the arena and its northern and southern ends.
Chester - Roman Amphitheatre, to the East entrance

Chester - Roman Amphitheatre, to the East entrance

Close to the church side of the Amphitheatre are the remains of the steps leading to the Roman officer's seats. From this position to Roman elite would have watched the events unfold. The alternative theory is that this is an early Church. And was replaced by the one near by.
Chester - St John the Baptist Church I

Chester - St John the Baptist Church I

This church is adjacent to the amphitheatre and built on the site of an older Saxon Church in 1075. It is now considered to be the best example of 11th–12th century church architecture in Cheshire
Chester - St John the Baptist Church II

Chester - St John the Baptist Church II

The church was a cathedral but following the Dissolution of the Monasteries (A formal process between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monastic communities in England, Wales and Ireland and confiscated their property) and became a church. The eastern end of the church, abandoned in 1581 is now a ruin.
Chester - St John the Baptist Church, 'Dust to Dust'

Chester - St John the Baptist Church, 'Dust to Dust'

Placed high in the wall of the ruin has been placed a medieval solid oak coffin found during repairs in 1813. Inside are painted the words "Dust to Dust". I think that something like this should be held and preserved in a museum rather than slowly decay in the ruin.
Chester - Evidence of a breach in the Medieval walls

Chester - Evidence of a breach in the Medieval walls

This section of the walls shows the breach that was made in the walls during the Civil War siege of Chester. It can be seen where the breached section has been rebuilt. Though the Parliamentarian forces were successful in creating a breach, fierce Royalist resistance beat back all attempts to enter the city.
Chester - The Boat House Pub

Chester - The Boat House Pub

This pub is just outside of the city centre and next to the park in the Groves area. This is a popular area in the summer due to its river location. I have included this picture for no other reason than it reminds me of many a drunken night spent here in my formative years.
Chester - The Falcon pub

Chester - The Falcon pub

The first house on this site was built around 1200. This was longer and reached further down the Street. In the 13th century the building was altered and a row walkway was added through the front of the property. In the 17th century the row walkway was enclosed. Other residents followed suite and as a result Lower Bridge Street lost its ancient rows. They can be seen from within the pub though and are worth a look. The Falcon was first used as an Inn in 177 and restored in 1980 to the pub that you can see today.

22 Dec 2007 - Chester, England

Being a Cestrian, I know that Chester is steeped in history but as is often the case, you sometimes fail to appreciate what is on your own doorstep. In the knowledge that Chester is a city that can rival many a destination I have been to, I took to the streets with my camera and guide book to be a tourist in my home city.

I now know a lot more about the city I lived in for most of my formative years and it is good to see that excavations are still taking place, particularly around the Roman Amphitheatre. As Chester continues its regeneration, I am sure that a lot more will be uncovered as the old is pulled down to make way for the new.
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Chester - Entrance to Abbey of St Werburgh

Chester - Entrance to Abbey of St Werburgh

This 14th century vaulted gateway was the main entrance to the abbey of St Werburgh, now Chester Cathedral. In medieval times, the abbey held its annual fair just outside this gate and plays were also performed here at whitsun. The upper floor is a later addition.
Chester - Chester Cathedral

Chester - Chester Cathedral

The abbey was closed in 1540 during Henry VIII's dissolution frenzy but was reconsecrated as a cathedral the following year. It has received a Victorian facelift but the 12th century cloister and surrounding buildings are essentially unaltered.
Chester - Chester Cathedral from the walls

Chester - Chester Cathedral from the walls

Walking along Chester's historic walls provides good views of the cathedral. The cathedral was a Benedictine abbey built on the remains of an earlier Saxon church dedicated to St Werburgh, hence the name of the street that the cathedral is on.
Chester - Tudor buildings opposite the cathedra

Chester - Tudor buildings opposite the cathedral

Chester's beauty and reason it is a tourist destination can be seen in these attractive building opposite the cathedral.
Chester - The Bridge of Sighs

Chester - The Bridge of Sighs

Just outside the walls on Northgate St is this bridge. The stone footbridge over the canal was built in 1793 to link the city jail with a chapel (on the right). Prisoners crossed over to the chapel to receive their last rights before execution.

Prisoners were held in dungeons below the city walls and without windows. The only air the prisoners got was by pipe.
Chester - Chester walls, Northgate St

Chester - Chester walls, Northgate St

The most famous characteristic of Chester are the city walls that surround the historic center. Originally built by the Romans around 70 AD, they were altered substantially over the years but have retained their position since around 1200.

In this photo, the darker wall is part of the original Roman wall. The canal was dug centuries later and used for transport rather than defence.
Chester - King Charles Tower

Chester - King Charles Tower

This is the North Eastern corner of Chester's Roman and Medieval defences. A Roman angle tower stood near the site of this medieval watch tower.

During the English civil war on 24th September 1645, King Charles stood on this tower and saw his Royalist army defeated at the Battle of Rowton Moor, about two miles away.
Chester - King Charles Tower and the city walls

Chester - King Charles Tower and the city walls

At its height, this Roman fort named Deva or Castra Devana held over 5000 soldiers from the legion 'Legio XX Valeria Victrix' - the Brave and Victorious 20th Legion.

Near this section of the walls was the site of the legionary barrack blocks. These long narrow buildings housed a century of 80 men with separate quarters for the commanding officer or centurion. This is now the grassy area on the left.
Chester - Eastgate Clock

Chester - Eastgate Clock

Further along the walls at the East gate is the famous clock, second in fame only to London's Big Ben. The clock was build for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Chester - Newgate and south eastern Roman tower

Chester - Newgate and south eastern Roman tower

In 1938 the Newgate replaced a small medieval gate called the Wolfgate. This part of the wall is not Roman and is a medieval extension. The foundations in the photo are those of a Roman angle tower which guarded the south eastern corner of the fortress.

The tower was built between AD 74 and 96. In front was a defensive ditch 9 feet deep and 20 feet wide.
Chester - Roman Amphitheatre

Chester - Roman Amphitheatre

Just outside the Roman fortress near the Newgate was a stone amphitheatre, the largest ever found in Britain and could hold 7000 spectators. Half has been excavated and the other half is still underground. The soldiers used it for weapon training and parades but it was also used for entertainment and evidence for gladiatorial combat has been found.
Chester - The Roman Gardens

Chester - The Roman Gardens

Between the amphitheatre and the walls are the Roman Gardens with a reconstructed hypocaust. A hypocaust was the underfloor heating in Roman buildings. A furnace under the floor allowed heat and hot air to rise. The hot air was then drawn up into flus set into the wall and finally vents in the roof.
Chester - Hypocaust

Chester - Hypocaust

This reconstruction is based upon the excavations of the main bath building in the fortress.

The baths used half a million litres of water a day. The water was supplied from fortress aqueduct which originated 2 kilometers.
Chester - Alms houses within the walls

Chester - Alms houses within the walls

These six houses just within the walls were built in the mid 17th century. The medieval walls can be seen opposite the houses.
Chester - Walls facing the River Dee and Wishing Steps

Chester - Walls facing the River Dee and Wishing Steps

This side of the walls faces onto the River Dee. The steps in the photo are called the Wishing Steps and were added in 1785. Local legend claims that if you can run up and down these steps while holding your breath your wish will come true.
Chester - The Bear and Billet

Chester - The Bear and Billet

This outstanding timber building was originally the town house of the Earl of Shrewsbury, sergeants of the Dee Bridge 'Bridgegate' a short distance to the left, in the mid 17th century. Dated 1664 and the oldest timber framed building in the city, this former tollgate may have replaced an earlier building destroyed during the Civil war.
Chester - Old Dee bridge, Chester is on the left

Chester - Old Dee bridge, Chester is on the left

This was the only bridge across the River Dee until the 19th century and dates from 1387 when it replaced the timber bridges which were swept away in floods. A strong fortified gate on the Welsh side was demolished in 1782. Medieval Chester was a base for the conquest of North Wales and just across the river the suburb of Handbridge was known as 'Burnt Town' because of frequent Welsh attacks.
Chester - On the old Dee bridge, Chester is on the left

Chester - On the old Dee bridge, Chester is on the left

The great stone weir across the river was built in the 11th century and provided water power for a corn mill on the Chester side of the Dee Bridge. Salmon fishing is one of Chester's traditional industries and the river between the weir and the Dee Bridge was known as the Kings Pool. Only the Abbot of Chester and his monks could fish in it.
Chester - Image of the Roman goddess Minerva

Chester - Image of the Roman goddess Minerva

The fortress was constructed of local sandstone, quarried from across the river. Traces can still be seen today in Handbridge. On the old quarry face was carved an image of the Roman goddess Minerva. The figure can just about be seen holding a spear and a shield with an owl above the left shoulder to symbolise wisdom - if you can see it you have a better imagination than me. It is thought that the shrine was used by travellers crossing the ford before going into the fortress. It is unique in Britain because it is the only rock cut Roman shrine still in situ in the country.
Chester - Chester Castle

Chester - Chester Castle

Chester Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1070 to guard the Welsh border. It was originally a timber castle built on an earth mound but was rebuilt in stone in the 12th and 13th centuries. Much of the castle has been levelled but the surviving medieval parts can still be visited.
Chester - Agricola Tower, Chester Castle

Chester - Agricola Tower, Chester Castle

The original Norman gateway to Chester Castle, this 12th century tower houses a chapel with fine though wall paintings from around 1220, rediscovered in the 1980s.
Chester - Chester Racecourse

Chester - Chester Racecourse

As you continue the walk around the city walls from Chester Castle you will be taken past the racecourse to the 'Watergate' which is where much traffic occurred when Chester was a great port. The Roman harbour wall can be seen towards the bottom right of the picture.
Chester - The Roman quay wall

Chester - The Roman quay wall

Below the walls are the remains of the Roman harbour wall and were an impressive engineering achievement. In Roman times the River Dee came much closer to the fortress and the current racecourse was a tidal pool. Being an important port, a large settlement formed between the walls and the harbour. It became unused in the Middle Ages and the river silted up allowing the river bed to become grazing land and today's racecourse.
Chester - The Watertower

Chester - The Watertower

Leaving the racecourse and 'Watergate' behind, the next interesting monument on the walls is the Water Tower. In the 14th century, the river continued to change course so a new tower was built standing out in the river, connecting the defences. Over time, silt continued to choke the river channel and within 100 hundred years, the Water Tower was left stranded on dry land.
Chester - Morgans Mount

Chester - Morgans Mount

Morgans Mount was originally one of the medieval watch towers on the city walls. It is named after a commander of the gun battery that stood forward from here during the Civil war in 1645.

Once the defensive need for the walls had gone in the 18th century, they became a fashionable parade and many gateways were replaced and towers pulled down or modified.
Chester - From the historic rows on Eastgate St

Chester - From the historic rows on Eastgate St

The Rows are a series of two level galleried arcades that fan out along the central Cross. It is a handsome mix of Victorian and Tudor (some of it mock) and houses a large collection of shops (great for the missus, yawn). It is believed that as the Roman buildings slowly crumbled, medieval traders built their shops against the rubble while later arrivals built theirs on top.
Chester - Eastgate St bridge Clock looking into the city

Chester - Eastgate St bridge Clock looking into the city

Only two shopping days till Christmas!
Chester - The Three Old Arches, Upper Bridge St

Chester - The Three Old Arches, Upper Bridge Street

The Three Old Arches form the facade of a row building from the 12th century, believed to be the earliest surviving shop frontage in England. The structure behind was rebuilt in the early to mid 14th century, as an impressive stone town house with a hall which is partly intact.
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