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Astronomy

Nameunknown (retired lawyer) is a keen amateur astronomer when he isn't editing the wiki

Mostly on history

A Short History

Chester is the county town of Cheshire, England. It was founded by the Romans around the year 74 on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales and, as befits a border town, is one of the best-preserved walled cities in the country. The Romans left around 400. During the Dark Ages which followed, a major battle took place at Chester in 616. The city was re-fortifed by the Saxons in the 10th Century (another battle followed) and during the 11th Century became the home to powerful Saxon earls. Equally powerful Norman Earls of Chester replaced these after 1066, when Chester was the last city to fall to the Normans, who promptly added a castle to the defenses of the city. During the time of Edward I Chester was an important base for the conquest of Wales. Later it was a much-favored city of Richard II (who was eventually imprisoned in Chester) and a source of revolt for his successors. Once a major port, Chester declined but was still important during the Civil War when a protracted siege and a further major battle took place. The Cathedral was an important center of learning and scholarship with such writers as Lucian the Monk, Ranulf Higden and Robert of Chester.

Cheshire Regiment

In 1415 John de Chester and Lyell de Chester fought at Agincourt as part of the retinue of Sir John Grey. Also present were "Archers of the erle Chester, that was of the Retenu oi our Soveraigne Lord the King CIIIJ". Chester's famous Regiment was to come later but from early times the men of Chester were prepared to sign-up to the hazards of war. This is a brief history of the Cheshire Regiment.

HMS Chester

A "Birkenhead" class light cruiser (sometimes called a "Town" class) these were modified Chatham/Sidney class cruisers originally planned for export to Greece but purchased, part built, by the British government in 1915. "Chester" was laid down at Cammell Laird in October 1914 as Lambros Katsonis and entered service in early May 1916. Three weeks later, on the 31st May 1916, at Jutland, Chester fought as part of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron (led by Admiral Hood who placed his flag upon and perished upon HMS Invincible)

Minstrel Court

Dating from the time of Ranulf de Blondeville and his rescue from Rhuddlan Castle by minstrels and various others (as depicted at the Town Hall), the last such court was held in 1756.

Polychronicon

This mediaeval book was written in Chester and has fascinating links with the death of Edward II and Robin Hood.

Gloverstone

This lump of rock has at least 900 years of history, perhaps much more, and yet most visitors to Chester never even see it. It's story involves much of the history of Chester, especially the frictions both between between local and itinerant tradesmen, and county and city that still continue. It's true tale may be even older still.

Chester Mystery Plays

The Chester Mystery Novels

The "Chester Mystery" novels have been described as being a cross between "Morse" and the "DaVinci Code". Based in the police station beneath the Town Hall (rather than the Cheshire Constabulary headquarters), at present they are all out of print.

Shoot the Welsh

Specific Periods

Before The Romans

Life in and around Chester did not start with the Romans. There is evidence for habitation from at least as far as the 7th millennium BC.

Roman Chester

Dark Ages

Late Medieval

Civil War

The Earls of Chester

It seems that no other Earldom has suffered such bad luck as that of Chester. For an overview see The Earls of Chester.

For the history of the individual Norman Earls see:

Gherbod the Fleming:

Given a tough job in a difficult province - Chester was the last major city subdued by the Normans. Probably appointed Earl c.1070 (it is doubted whether he actually took up residence in Chester) he returned to Flanders where was either imprisoned in a dungeon or fought and was captured at the Battle of Cassel on the 22 Feb 1071. He may have died in the dungeon or he may have become a monk at Cluny

Hugh of Avranches:

Given a Palatine county with the power to make and break any law save treason in return for bankrolling Duke William's Invasion, Hugh built castles in England and made a poor job of invading Wales. He managed to arrange the marriage of his son into the monarchs family, but this was to end in tragedy.

Richard of Avranches:

Born in 1094, he was seven when he inherited his father's vast estates (1101). In 1120, aged 26 he was drowned on the wreck of the White Ship.

Ranulf de Meschines:

Born circa 1074 at Briquessart, Livry, France. An indirect inheritor, Ranulph le Meschin (the Younger), Earl of Chester was also Vicomte de Bayeux. He was also known as Ranulph de Briquessart. He succeeded to the title of Vicomte d'Avranches on 25 November 1120 and was created Earl of Chester in 1121. He was Commander of the Royal forces in Normandy in 1124. He died either on 17 or 27 January 1128 at Chester and is buried at St. Werburg's, Chester. His wife, Lucy survived him, and in 1130 paid 500 marks to King Henry for license to remain unmarried for 5 years.

Ranulph De Gernon:

Apparently pious early in his life, the loss of lands to the Scots (in 1136) led to revolt against his king and his taking sides with Matilda, who also claimed the throne. There was a short reconciliation with the king in 1145/6 but after this he appeared to favour the Angevin cause. Whether Ranulph was so black a traitor as painted, or whether he was simply concerned with looking after his own house while the country fell apart is still the subject of much debate. Even after his death, Ranulf's ability to apparently "change sides" and stir up trouble seems to have been undiminished.

Hugh de Kevelioc:

Hugh of Kevelioc (born 1147), 3rd Earl of Chester was also known as Hugh le Meschin. He succeeded to the titles of Vicomte d'Avranches and Earl of Chester on 16 December 1153. He joined the revolt against King Henry II in 1173, was captured and deprived of his Earldom, but was then restored in January 1177. He died in 1181, leaving a young heir (Ranulf of Blundeville) aged 9.

Ranulf de Blondeville:

Ranulf de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester otherwise known as Ranulph IV de Meschines (1172-1232) was said to have been small in physical stature. He succeeded to the title of Vicomte d'Avranches [Normandy] and the earldom of Chester (like his father before him) as a minor in 1181 (aged 9) and attained his majority (at 16) in 1187. He has been described as “almost the last relic of the great feudal aristocracy of the conquest”. During his minority his inheritance was administered first by Gilbert Pipard and later by Bertram de Verdon. Throughout his long life Ranulf was loyal to his four monarchs.

John Canmore:

John of Scotland or John de Scotia (c. 1207 – 6 June 1237), was an Anglo-Scottish magnate, the son of David of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon by his wife Maud of Chester(1171-1233), herself the daughter of Hugh de Kevelioc (Earl of Chester). John became Earl of Chester in 1232 due to his connection to the previous earl, Ranulph de Blondeville, who was his mother's brother. The granting of the earldom of Chester to one of earl David Ceann mhor's sons was probably an attempt to reduce conflict on the Northern Marches of England.

Specific Places in and around Chester

The Rows

One of Chester’s most distinguishing features is its Rows. These are galleried walkways that run the along the four streets that meet at the High Cross.

City Walls

There is no better guide to the walls of Chester than http://www.chesterwalls.info/ - written by Chester's best informed city guide, this really is worth a look. However without a page on Chester's walls this website would not be complete, and hopefully there are a few things in here that you won't find elsewhere.

Chester castle

Chester castle has seen revolts (several successful, several not) against various English rulers; has been besieged by kings, has held besieged kings, has been a prison of kings and princes or of those who revolted against them;has seen trials of the unquestionably guilty (and of the probably innocent); has been amongst the best or the worst prisons in the country; has been involved in the success and failure of many military campaigns.

Hermitage

One of the most unusual buildings in Chester is the Anchorite's Cell or 'Hermitage', a small sandstone building by the River Dee at The Groves. The present building is believed to dates from the mid 14th century and was one of two 'cells' built as religious retreats for reclusive monks or hermits. It is associated with a surprising legend.

Art of Louise Rayner

Many of the water-colours of this Chester artist have found their way onto biscuit tins and jigsaws, but they provide an insight into what the city used to look like.

Museums

Grosvenor Museum

The Grosvenor Museum holds Chester's biggest collection of local and international history. It covers 2,000 years of Cestrian life spread over three floors of a classic 19th century building. And best of all – it's completely free!

Military Museum

Chester's Military Museum is particularly concerned with the Cheshire Regiment, the Cheshire Yeomanry, the 3rd Carabiniers, the 5th Royal Iniskilling Dragoon Guards and the Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School. However, the impressive and extensive collection of weapons, medals, banners and other artefacts should interest anyone whether they have an interest in military history or just history in general.

Roman Remains

Amphitheatre

Chester's amphitheatre lay outside the south-east corner of the legionary fortress, on a bluff overlooking the River Dee. Its main entrances faced north and south, with smaller entrances facing east and west. In between each of these entrances were two doorways giving access to a corridor running around the outside of the building and staircases leading up to the seats.

Minerva Shrine

This is the only surviving rock-cut Roman shrine which is still in situ at its original location in the whole of western Europe.

Bridges

Grosvenor Bridge

The Grosvenor Bridge was built between 1827-1833 in order to ease congestion on the Old Dee Bridge at Handbridge, which by the beginning of the 19th century was the only crossing across the River Dee in Chester. The bridge is located on the A483 Grosvenor Road.

Old Dee Bridge

The present bridge over the River Dee replaced earlier medieval bridges, probably of timber, and is believed to stand just upstream of the site of a Roman bridge (see Roman Chester), which probably had stone piers carrying a timber carriageway. The remains of the bases of the Roman piers are said to be visible in the river bed just downstream of the present bridge.

Suspension Bridge

The suspension bridge is the only footbridge to cross the River Dee in Chester apart from the footbridge attached to the railway bridge. It was originally built in 1852 at the instigation of Enoch Gerrard, Esq., the "projector and proprietor" of Queen's Park, the developing suburb across the river. According to Thomas Hughes, author of The Stranger's Handbook to Chester, "It was 'a pretty object in the landscape. Though of such spider-like construction, its capabilities and strength have been fully tested".

Rail Bridge

Churches and Graveyards

Cathedral

From a distance, the cathedral has been described as "looking like an upturned gas-cooker", due to the square central tower and a set of turrets that bring to mind Battersea Power Station. However, on closer inspection, the building is impressive, especially internally. All the major styles of English medieval architecture, from Norman to Perpendicular are represented in the present building and there are many features of interest.

St Johns

St John's history is notable for a chronic shortage of building and repair funds and for parts of the structure falling down (it carries this tradition on today). It is also steeped in ecclesiastical history and known for a notable relic as well as being one of the most often painted churches in England.

St Bridget

St Michael

St Olave

St Mary on the Hill

St Thomas

Overleigh Cemetery

Chester's spooky Victorian cemetery at the south end of Grosvenor Bridge originally had a lake with islands and two chapels; one for nonconformists and another (on higher ground!) for Anglicans. It is situated in a dark valley and as the evening draws near it can be an very ghostly place. The gates are locked at dusk.

St Giles Cemetery

Few passers-by appreciate the grim history of what was once the village of Spital St Giles or Spital Boughton. Over the years, this small patch of land has been visited by each of death, war and pestilence

Other Buildings

Town Hall

After the Exchange fire of 1862 a competition was organized for a new Town Hall. Entrants were to submit designs which were "substantial and economical" and in accordance with "the general features of this ancient city" and costing no more than £16,000. Some thirty designs were submitted in 1864 and the competition was won by the Belfast architect W. H. Lynn with a design said to be based on the medieval "Cloth Hall" in Ypres, Flanders.

Stanley Palace

Stanley Palace in Watergate Street is Chester's finest Elizabethan house. It was built in 1591 for lawyer Sir Peter Warburton of Grafton, Vice Chancellor of the Cheshire Exchequer and then the city's MP. When Warburton died in 1621, the property was inherited by his (sixth) daughter, who was married to Sir Thomas Stanley, a kinsman of the earls of Derby (hence it is also known as Derby House).

Chester Station

If you ask a Cestrian what is above the main entrance of Chester Station, they will probably say a clock. However, the clock is actually offset so as to be visible down the length of City Road, at one end of which stands the Station. It was originally located in the centre of the building, where the British Rail logo is now but, when the Queen Hotel opposite was built in the 1860s, it obscured the view of the clock from City Road and it was subsequently moved to its present, rather ungainly, position. The frontage of the station was designed by Francis Thompson. It is operated by Arriva Trains Wales. Inside the station is a memorial to its builder, Thomas Brassey, a well-known railway engineer (and another Cestrian). He was said to have been an enlightened employer much admired by his workforce, who, remarkably, built the entire station, as well as all the track, sidings and service buildings, in less than a year

Gamul House

St John's Hospital

The hospital 'for the sustentation of poor and silly persons' which stood outside the North Gate of Chester was probably founded by Ranulph III, Earl of Chester, in the early 1190s. He gave the site in free alms and free of all services except the reception and care of the poor and ordered that the brothers of the hospital who travelled through Cheshire preaching and collecting alms should be honourably treated. The earl's grant was made to the Virgin and All Saints but within a few years the hospital had acquired its dedication to St. John the Baptist (Sigillum Hospitalis Sancti Iohannus Baptiste Cestrie) and was usually known as the "Hospital of St. John without the North Gate"

Bishop Lloyd's House

Leche House

Other Places

Grosvenor Park

Grosvenor Park is now regarded by many as one of the finest and most complete examples of Victorian parks in the north-west of England, if not nationally. Many changes have taken place since its official opening, but much of the original design and features have been retained. The park is registered on English Heritage's list of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Canal and Boatyard

From Boughton to Mollington, the Chester Canal worms its way through the centre of Chester, forming a moat for the walls between Cow Lane Bridge and the Water Tower. Overall, the canal is 19.5 miles long, has 17 locks and runs from the River Dee to Nantwich. It is now part of the Shropshire Union Main Line.

Newton Hollows

Newton Hollows is an ancient route into Chester and a superb example of a Medieval hollow way. Originally a Roman road, it was later used as a main route for people, cattle and herds of sheep. This constant traffic over 1,000 years has worn the ground into the Hollows.

Jacobs Well

Jacob's well is another, possibly ancient drinking fountain, now appearing to be dried up. It can be found in Grosvenor Park Chester. Beside the fountain is the inscription "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall never thirst again" (John IV, 1) a reference to the original Jacob’s Well in Samaria (Palestine). The interesting thing about the well is that it has moved.

Heronbridge

The Roman and later site at Heronbridge stands on the west bank of the River Dee two kilometres south of Chester city centre, between the river and the line of Watling Street (now Eaton Road). The elongated oval site is visible in the satellite photograph above to the east of the road. To the west of the road can bee seen signs of a ancient trackway splitting off from the line of the road and tending south west. Some ridges and furrows are also seen in the western field and these date from Mediaeval times.

Lightfoot Street Fire

Two major fires in recent years have devastated this street, which also has some interesting history associated with it.

The River Dee

The River Dee (Welsh: Afon Dyfrdwy) flows 110 miles from it's source to Hilbre Island. Travelling through Wales and England and also forming part of the international border between them, the river rises in Snowdonia, flows north via Chester and discharges into an estuary between Wales and The Wirral. The lower reaches of the river are unusual in that comparatively little water occupies so large a basin. One theory of a contributory factor to the large basin is that once the River Mersey and/or the River Severn flowed into the Dee. A more recent theory, however, is that the estuary was not formed by water, but by ice being pushed southwards by the pressure of an icecap over the Irish Sea. The total catchment area of the River Dee up to Chester Weir is 1,816.8 square kilometres (701.5 sq mi). The average rainfall over the catchment is estimated to be 640 millimetres (25 in) yielding an average flow of 37 m³/s.

The history of the Dee has many interwoven layers. There is the geological record, from the Ordovician rocks at its source to the modern deposits in the estuary. There is a historical record starting with it's use as a trade route in pre-Roman times. A path of myth which places the young Arthur at it's source. And an industrial tale bringing gold, stone, wool and water downstream as the railways and canals crept ever upstream towards it's head. We make no apology for mashing-up these strands for the Dee is a river to be explored in its many moods on many levels.

We have divided the story of the river into three parts:

Upper Reaches

from the source of the river through Wales;

Middle Reaches

through England from the Welsh borders to Chester;

Lower Reaches

back in Wales, below Chester to Hilbre Islands and the sea;