Bath Street

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Bath Street runs between Foregate Street and Vicars Lane. It does not appear on the 1872 OS Map, which shows the area occupied by "slum courts".

Foregate Street layout in 1910. The area bounded by St John Street, Vicars Lane, Union Street and Dee Lane contained so many buildings by John Douglas that it became known as "Douglasville". Bath Street is right of centre.

The Werdens

The 1745 Lavaux Map show that Bath Street lies over land which once made up the gardens of the Chester town-house of Sir John and, earlier, Robert Werden. Nothing of the house remains today.

John and Robert Werden (Civil War)

The first historical Robert Werden (c. 1622 – 23 January 1690), was a Royalist officer during the English Civil War. After the Restoration he served as an officer in the English Army, and was a Member of Parliament for Chester during most of the 1670s and 1680s. Werden was the son of the first historical John Werden (died 1646), and his wife Katherine, daughter of Edward Dutton, said to be governor of Barbados (but not clearly so).

On the eve of the English Civil War John Werden was appointed a commissioner of array for Cheshire. He exerted his influence in support of the royal cause, and his son Robert was named colonel of a troop of horse under Sir John Byron, 1st Baron Byron. Robert distinguished himself by his activity. He took part in the defence of Chester, but was wounded and taken prisoner in a skirmish on 18 January 1645. His father assisted in the negotiations for the surrender of the town, and signed the articles of surrender on 3 February 1646.

The area around Bath Street from the Lavaux Map (1745).

On 26 March John Werden begged to be permitted to compound for his delinquency in being a commissioner of array, pleading that he had never acted against Parliament, and that he had been active in the surrender of Chester. The commissioners for compounding were moved by his representations, and, although he had not come in within the prescribed term, they only imposed on him the small fine of £600, "consideration being had of his great losses and kind offices to members of parliament". Their sentence was confirmed by the House of Commons of England on 9 July, Robert being included in the composition. On 21 July the county committee indignantly remonstrated, declaring Robert was "a most violent enemy, administering general astonishment and terror to the whole country". They were, however, too late; the house declined to recede from its former decision, and as John Werden had died about the close of 1646, Robert Werden was finally cleared by a draft ordinance of the House of Lords on 12 February 1647.

In 1648, Robert Werden's estates were again sequestered on the suspicion that he harboured treasonable designs, a fifth being allowed his wife for maintenance. On 27 January 1652 they were discharged from sequestration, but in 1655 his fidelity was seen to be very doubtful, and in 1659 he took part in the royalist rising under Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamere. He was proclaimed a traitor and a rebel on 9 August, and his goods sequestered on 27 August. A few days earlier he was captured and sent to London for examination. He succeeded in making his peace with the Commonwealth, probably at the expense of the Royalists.

At the Restoration Robert Werden was imprisoned on a charge of treason. Among other acts of treachery he was accused of endeavouring to secure the king's person after the Battle of Worcester (1651) and of betraying Booth in 1659. Booth and other Lancashire gentlemen, however, befriended him, and he finally obtained his pardon, received back his estates, and in 1662 was made a groom of the Duke of York's bedchamber, and was granted the lands of Thomas Wogan, the regicide, in Pembrokeshire. On 4 June 1665 he received the commission of lieutenant in the Duke of York's guards, and in May 1667 he was named a commissioner for regulating the Duke of Norfolk's affairs. On 29 June 1667 he was appointed lieutenant and major in the Duke of York's guards, and on 2 October 1672 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and lieutenant-colonel.

Bath Street Baths are actually on Union Street.

On 10 February 1673 Robert Werden was returned to parliament for Chester, retaining his seat until the dissolution in 1679. He was returned for the same city on 9 March 1684–1685 to the first parliament of James II. On 1 May 1678 he received the commission of brigadier of the horse, and in the summer served in Flanders expedition against the French. In 1679 he was appointed comptroller of the Duke of York's household. On the accession of James II he was promoted, on 19 June 1685, to the rank of "brigadier over all our forces", and on 31 July was appointed major-general. On 24 October he received the command of the regiment of horse now known as the 4th Dragoon Guards, and on 8 November 1688 attained the rank of lieutenant-general. On 15 September of that year, when the borough of Chester was remodelled by James, he was appointed a common councillor.

Notwithstanding the many benefits he received from James II, Robert Werden deserted him during the Glorious Revolution in 1688, and was rewarded by the post of treasurer to Queen Mary II. He died on 23 January 1690. With his first wife he had John Werden (1640–1716) who became a politician and a baronet and Robert, a captain in the Royal Navy.

Sir John Werden (diplomat) and his brother Robert (navy)

Sir John Werden, 1st Baronet (also Worden) (1640 – 29 October 1716) was born at Cholmeaton in Cheshire, he was the eldest son of Robert Werden, and his first wife, Jane Backham. He was called to the bar in 1660 at the Middle Temple, and on 16 November 1664 was admitted baron of the exchequer for Cheshire. Werden became secretary to the embassy in Spain and Portugal under the Earl of Sandwich, and at the end of 1669 was sent to Holland with official instructions to Sir William Temple to moderate his support for the Triple Alliance, which Charles II found untimely. In 1670 he went to Sweden as envoy extraordinary, but in 1672 he was again in Holland. On 28 November 1672 Werden was created a baronet. He was also secretary to James, Duke of York, and took a shorthand report of Titus Oates's's narrative before the House of Lords. On 11 February 1673[a] he was returned to Parliament for Reigate in Surrey, retaining his seat until the dissolution in January 1679. On 22 May 1683 he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the university of Oxford. At this period Werden employed John Ashton, the future Jacobite plotter. After the accession of James II Werden was again returned to Parliament for Reigate, on 27 March 1685, and on 2 April was appointed a commissioner of customs. On the dissolution of Parliament in July 1687 he did not seek re-election. On 1 October 1688 he was placed on the commission of the lieutenancy of London, but on the landing of William of Orange, like his father, he deserted the king; and in consequence was excluded by name from James's declaration of pardon in 1692. William continued him in the commission for the customs, but not for the lieutenancy of London. In August 1697 he was removed from the customs, but was replaced on the accession of Queen Anne. Werden was a Tory, and retired from office and public life in 1714 on the Hanoverian succession. He died on 29 October 1716, and was buried on 7 November in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. By his second wife he had an only son John, occupier at the time of the Lavaux Map, whose daughter Lucy married Charles Beauclerk, 2nd Duke of St Albans; on the death of Sir John Werden, 2nd Baronet, without male issue, on 13 February 1758, the Werden baronetcy became extinct, and his estates passed to George Beauclerk, 3rd Duke of St Albans.

Brother Robert (Capt. RN) was killed, either fighting against the Dutch at the Battle of Solebay on 28 May 1673, while in command of HMS Henrietta (the renamed HMS Langport), or (according to other accounts) when his ship was wrecked apart from the battle. (needs further research)

Bath Street is almost all the work of the Chester architect John Douglas.

John Douglas and Bath Street

The area bounded by St John Street, Vicars Lane, Union Street and Dee Lane contained so many buildings by John Douglas that it became known as "Douglasville". Bath Street is almost all Douglas.

1-11 and 13 Bath Street

Nos. 1–11 stand at the north end of Bath Street. They are built in buff sandstone with grey-green slate roofs in two storeys. The frontage is asymmetrical and includes a variety of features, including two large plain gables with their upper storeys jettied on corbels, two smaller dormers with shaped gables, and three round turrets with conical roofs. The cottages containing dormers are set back from the rest, have bay windows in the lower storey, and small forecourts with wrought iron railings in front. Over the door of No. 11 is a cartouche containing the date 1903. On the gables and on the summits of the turrets are finials. The chimneys and the rear of the cottages are constructed in brick.

The former floating baths, adrift from its moorings and aground on the weir.

No. 13 ("The Spinney") is at the south end of the street and has two storeys. It is built in red brick with panels containing stonework in the upper storey, and has Westmorland green slate roofs. Its plan consists of a main square part with a wing to the north. On the front of the main part of the house are, from the left, a round turret with a conical roof containing a hipped lucarne and surmounted by a finial, a high shaped chimney, and an octagonal turret with an octagonal spire and finial. The upper storeys of the main part of the house and the octagonal turret are jettied on terracotta corbels. The wing contains the front door and a jettied dormer with a casement window

The Baths

By,1898, The Corporation was making plans with John Douglas the architect and his partners for the indoor baths. This was a novel project for this versatile architect and he probably conferred with others building municipal baths in other boroughs just then. He is known to have asked for extra money to ensure his baths did not leak. He designed a typical smart Douglas frontage on Union Street, at the corner of Bath Street, with the upper half black-and-white and utilitarian pool halls behind. One swimming bath 25 yards long and safe for diving is named "Atlantic" cost 2d per session then The second pool "Pacific" was 20 yards long and slightly superior costing 6d to go in. The Atlantic had galleries for spectators. In 1902 the Chester Swimming Club, which began in 1894 at the Floating Bath on the River Dee, transferred to the indoor baths and soon developed their activities. In this they were helped from 1904 by Albert Moody, who was appointed manager by the council. Unlike other folk, he believed all children should be taught to swim. He started with his own; his daughter Ada became a star, his son Willie swam at two years-old, and a son and a grandson followed him as baths' manager.

In 1975 the Chester City Council announced the closure of the old City Baths, scheduled to coincide with the opening of the Northgate Arena Leisure Pool, which was then under construction. But keen swimmers and trainers wanted Union Street kept open as well, as the Arena's second pool was not deep enough for diving. So those concerned formed Chester Swimming Association, a trust claiming charity status, and offered to run the premises as council tenants. This was eventually agreed and is the situation now.

Sources and Links