Castle Drive

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Chester Castle as seen from Castle Drive.

There are only a few points to note about Castle Drive that are not covered on the pages relating to the City Walls, Chester Castle or elsewhere on this site. These include the stone model of the Grosvenor Bridge, the Medical Museum and the hydroelectric plant at the Old Dee Bridge.

In November 1950, workmen digging near Chester Castle found a small Chester-type pot containing 547 coins, 27 ingots and 120 pieces of cut-up hacksilver jewellery, buried in the ground between AD 965-970. According to a local newspaper story from the time, workmen from the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board reported a stream of “tiny discs” while clearing a trench for cabling 18 inches beneath the pavement in Castle Esplanade, Chester: the road now named Castle Drive. Little notice was initially taken of the find, although several workers salvaged souvenirs. A re-excavation was only carried out by Graham Webster, the Curator of the Grosvenor Museum, after the niece of one of the finders took the pennies into her school for identification. Together with his assistant, Alan Warhurst, Webster found even more coins, causing the City Coroner, David Hughes, to call an inquest. The bulk had been left in the ground and Mr. Webster was therefore declared the finder of this part of the hoard and given a substantial award which he generously forewent. This made it possible for the entire hoard to be acquired for the British Museum and the Grosvenor Museum at Chester. The workmen were rewarded for such coins as they had troubled to pick up.

The coins are inscribed with marks suggesting they were minted in Chester, Southampton, York, Bedford, Huntingdon and Oxford, adorned with the names of the Saxon Kings Aethelstan (925-939 AD), Edmund (939-936 AD), Edred (949-955 AD), Eadwig (955-959 AD) and Edgar (959-975 AD).

Castle Drive separates the City Walls from the Little Roodee. In some older photographs circle marks are visible in the Little Roodee from the tents of "Lord John Sanger's Royal Circus and Menagerie" or "Bostock and Wombwell's Menagerie". During the First World War the council had the Little Roodee seeded and was still letting it for grazing sheep in the winter of 1920–1, but in 1921 it was laid out as a parking ground for charabancs and other motor vehicles, complete with public lavatories. The race week fair and occasional circuses were still held there.

The portion of Castle Drive from the Medical Museum to the Bridgegate was once known as Skinners Lane and occupied by the houses of skinners, which contained skinning sheds and Tanning pits. Hemingway (1831) describes this as a

  • "portion of the walls may be taken as the least pleasant, or rather as the most disagreeable in the whole circuit, not only because of the narrowness and darkness of walking path, but on account of the offensive stench arising from some pyroligneous acid works betwixt the river and the workshops of skinners; who from immemorial have carried on their trade on this spot."

The factory was closed shortly afterwards and replaced by an extension of the jail.

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