Abbey Green

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The excavations at the Deanery Field revealed blocks of Roman legionary barracks - it can be seen that the street between the blocks was quite narrow and had verandahs along both sides.


At Abbey Green a series of striations in the sandstone bedrock in different parts of the site indicated pre-Roman cultivation, while fragments of pottery found in the second of the Roman fortress ramparts, which presumably came from the plough soil, are probably of Iron Age or earlier date. There is very little evidence for pre-Roman settlement in Chester, with this being only the second putative evidence. The other evidence was some possible pre-Roman plough marks in what was Mercia Square on Frodsham Street. Given its location on high ground close to the River and with a clear view towards Wales it is possible that the site of Roman Chester had been occupied at an earlier date, but no evidence of large-scale structure such as a "hill-fort" has been discovered. However, it is clear from the scatter of flints which are usually found at just about any excavation that there was human activity on the site. See: Before The Romans for more.

Roman Remains

There has been some debate as to when the Romans first arrived at Chester. Oman (History of England, Methuen, 1910) gives the year c.57 AD as the date that either Aulus Didius Gallus or Suetonius moved the headquarters of one or both of his legions from Wroxeter to Deva, and built a flotilla of flat-bottomed boats on the Dee so that in 60 A.D. he could invade North Wales. Again, there is also debate as to when the Romans first established a significant permanent presence at Chester rather than a temporary "marching camp". Lead ingots with a date of 79 AD seem to establish that signifcant infrastructure was being developed at that time when the governor of Britain was Gnaeus Julius Agricola (13 June 40 – 23 August 93). The Romans would remain in Chester for almost three and a half centuries.

The excavations at the Deanery Field in 1923.

Robert Newstead of the Grosvenor Museum excavated parts of barracks in Deanery Field in the 1920's and 30's. With potential redevelopment in mind, extensive archaeological "rescue" digs were conducted in 1975-8 which led to the discovery of substantial portions of the Roman rampart and associated structures and this in turn led to the entire area being scheduled as an Ancient Monument. Much of the area was occupied by barracks, with rows of rooms for each of ten squads (contubernia) of 8-10 men each and a larger centurion's quarters at the end. While the enlisted men could not marry, the centurion could have a family and slaves in his quarters. Barracks would face each other just as the tents did when the army was on march.

Together these excavations turned-up many relics of the everyday life of the Roman soldier including: miniature altars, gaming pieces, a small lock made of bone, and a stamp with backward lettering used to mark bread baked by a certain Lucilius Sabinanus. These diggings also show that for a while some of the barracks were abandoned for long enough for a layer of debris to accumulate before reconstruction. This has been taken to indicate that the size of the Roman forces at Chester fluctuated over the years but it is considered that the legionary base was never completely abandonned. During times when the fortress was a full strength it would have not been possible to supply it by local agriculture and grain, together with other foodstuffs would have been shipped in by river. The need for a good harbour, a defensible position and locally available building materials strongly influenced the placement of the legionary fortress. Choice of location was important as there were relatively few major legionary bases and once roads and other infrastructure had been established the Romans did not often relocate.

It is likely that the troops living in the barracks at Roman Abbey Green would have been heavy-infactry legionaries of Legio II or later Legio XX rather than auxilliary troops. On entering the army, the recruit would have signed on for a period of 16-25 years. Normally, he would have been 18-22 years of age on entry. There would then follow a few months of basic training and training would continue through his entire career. On retirement, usually in his 40's an ex-legionary would often recieve a gift of land.

3-6 Abbey Green

#3-6 is a listed terrace of 4 town houses, built late C18, for leaseholders from the Dean and Chapter of Chester Cathedral. The terrace is shown on the map of Chester surveyed by Samuel Weston and published by James Hunter (of Hunter Street) in 1789.

Rufus Court

Rufus Court, was built by Thompson Cox Developments in the early 1990's.

St Thomas

The chapel dedicated to St Thomas (Becket) stood by 1200 in the graveyard belonging to St. Werburgh's abbey some distsnce outside the Northgate, in the fork of the later Parkgate and Liverpool roads. Serving as the meeting place for the abbot's fortnightly Ecclesiastical Court of St. Thomas, it became a private house called Green Hall after the Dissolution. The building probably survived only until the demolition of the northern suburbs during the Civil War siege, though in 1821 it was claimed that the former chapel was still in use as a barn. Today, the site is occupied by the George & Dragon public house. After the Civil War a new St Thomas was built within the City Walls towards the south end of the Abbey Green.


Northgate Street;

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