Boughton

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Overview

A panoramic view of the "Earl's Eye" at Boughton where the River Dee turns into the first curve of the great S-bend at the "Chester Gorge".

A Brief History

The name 'boughton' or 'bluestone' may have originated from the placement of a "blue" boundary stone (now lost) alongside the road similar to the Gloverstone which stood outside Chester Castle. St Giles Cemetery and the nearby Gallows Hill are relics of the darker side of Chester history. In 1170 the Earl of Chester Hugh de Kevelioc was reported in the Chester Annals to have built a mound at Boughton out of the heads of Welshmen killed at the 'bridge of Baldert', possibly Balderton (in Dodleston), south of Chester.

Other historical landmarks include the Watertower, Leadshot Tower and the Steam Mill. Boughton is described as follows in Thomas Pennant's "Journey from Chester to London" (1811).

  • "Boughton, a suburb in the parish of St. Oswald, a little disjoined from this part of the city, had before the dissolution an hospital for poor lepers, as early as the beginning of Edward II. From an eminence, the retreat of the unfortunate brave, is a view of very uncommon beauty. It commands two fine reaches of the Dee, one bounded by meadows and hanging woods, the other terminated by part of the city, the ancient bridge, and over it a distant view of the Cambrian hills."

Waterworks

Boughton has always been an important as a source of much of the city's Water Supply - the waterworks is still here. In Roman Chester water from the springs at Boughton was carried into Chester along a series of clay, lead or elm pipes, the trees being hollowed out. Later, water was piped to a cistern at One Bridge Street by Chester Cross. Many rivers in industrial areas became too polluted by effluents to be usable for water supply, but the City of Chester provides a notable exception to this, having directly abstracted Dee water (at least) since the first Chester Waterworks Company was formed in 1826. This was possible because of the relatively few troublesome effluents in the River Dee catchment upstream of Chester. Nowadays, water is still drawn from the River Dee and treated at the waterworks. The Dee has a complex regulation system to ensure that a continuous flow of water is provided. The balance of Chester's drinking water comes from a borehole at Plemstall: an artesian well, 350 foot deep with an 8 inch diameter pipe.

Leadworks

Decidedly dodgy-looking ladders and steps inside the lead-shot tower at Chester.

In 1800 Walkers, Maltby & Co. set up a Leadworks by the then 'Chester and Nantwich' canal. As the proprietors were not freemen of Chester, the concern was initially threatened by a reassertion of ancient restrictions relating to who could run a business in Chester. It was only able to avoid these as a few of the owners were freemen of the City of London. The works made white and red lead for paints and primers, and had a shot tower. In such a tower, molten lead is allowed to fall like rain and forms spherical drops which are solidified as they plunge into a vessel of water. This process was invented and patented by William Watts of Bristol, in 1782 after a dream of leaden rain. By 1812 a rolling mill for sheet lead and machines for drawing lead pipe had been added. The site was well-placed for manufacturing lead articles from ores mined, smelted, and refined in north Wales and Spain, and their onward distribution to the industrial Midlands and North-West. The lead shot produced in Chester was used extensively in the Napoleonic Wars. Because the lead was smelted elsewhere the toxic effects of a local lead smelter were greatly reduced. At 168 feet (41.2 m) the Leadshot Tower is possibly the tallest surviving structure of it's type in the world.

"Stronghold of Satan"

Boughton Post office in 1920 - note the position of the drinking fountain, it was originally in the middle of the junction rather than in the corner of the cemetery mound..

The Salvation Army used to refer to Boughton as a "Stronghold of Satan" and in the early 1880's it was their habit to march through it on Sundays, after gathering at St Giles Cemetery and ending their march at the Pavilion roller-skating rink near Chester Station. On the 26th March 1882, this led to a serious riot and Chester was shaken by what came to be known as "Black Sunday", during which the local Salvation Army ignored orders and marched through the Irish Catholic district around Steven Street, where it was attacked by a mob of "decidedly criminal appearance", according to the local press. The ensuing trial saw the magistrates threatened with "Revenge and Death" (according to the Salvationists). Trouble had been brewing for some time, as "An Angry Citizen" had written a long complaint letter to the Chester Courant which begins as follows:

  • "Sir, a detachment of the Salvation Army, now in this city, are allowed nightly to parade the streets shouting and singing, to the serious inconvenience of the public. If a man has a restive horse he must hold him fast by the heads and cover his ears to prevent him bolting on account of the noise..."

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