Castle Street in history
Castle Street (formerly Castle Lane) links Lower Bridge Street (opposite St Olave Street) with Grosvenor Street. Its history is intimately linked to that of the Gloverstone district of Chester and to the military.
Hemingway is entirely dismissive of Lower Bridge Street and writes (seeminly forgetting about Bunce Street):
- "The only spot on this side the street to he noticed Castle street and an opening directing to Mary's hill Mary's church The former leads to Glover's Stone where malefactors are delivered by the Constable of the Castle to the City Sheriffs for execution and was formerly the only road to the Castle."
Batenham is a little more informative and mentions how the houses in the Gloverstone area had been taken down in preparation for the setting out of Grosvenor Street:
- "A little higher up is Castle Street leading to the Castle, the Walls, and a small privileged place called Glover's Stone. This with the Castle, although within the city walls, is not within the jurisdiction of its magistrates: it being a township belonging to the county by a charter of Henry VI. At this place non-freemen have sometimes exercised their respective callings unmolested, but the houses have been taken down to make room for the projected improvements."
Castle Street was paved in 1568.
After about 1900 Castle Street seems to have taken a sudden downturn, the number of cases of violence, theft and drunkeness before the Police Court increases markedly and a lot of property appears to change hands. Many of those appearing in these cases live either in Castle Street itself or in the number of courts which branched off it, or in Hawarden Castle Entry across Lower Bridge Street just south of Tudor House.
The interesting thing about Castle Street is the number of pubs associated with eagles, either directly or via a pun: "The (Golden) Eagle", the "Split Crow" and the "Golden Cock".
Buildings, Listed or otherwise
Provost (Military gaol)
Military gaol, now part of the Military Museum. Dated on two rainwater heads GIIIR 1810. By Thomas Harrison of Chester. Sandstone ashlar (Bunter to ground floor and Cuyper to first floor) and slate roof with lead flashings. Two storeys. Central single bay with wings to either side extending at approximately 45 degrees. All stonework tooled vertically. Entrance front: slightly projecting plinth. Band extending across front at level of first floor window sills. Plain frieze and cornice with plain parapet above. Central doorway with bolt head decoration.
The gaol used to be connected by an underground passage to the county court buildings but this has now been blocked. Some years ago a collapse of part of the surface of the central courtyard revealed a well which enabled it to be stated that the gaol stands on the site of the outer gatehouse of the Chester Castle - possibly the site of the tower were Richard II was held captive.
24 Castle Street - Military House
Detached house, now office. 1826, altered C20. In the manner of Thomas Harrison. The listing data states this was probably designed for use of officers in association with the Chester Regiment buildings on Castle Square, but on maps of 1875 and later it is marked "Military Hospital". It remained a military hospital until WW1 at least.
22 Castle Street
Town house, now Grosvenor Museum office. Late C18. Flemish bond brown brick with grey slate roof, ridge parallel with front. 3 storeys of 3 bays, plus attic. The side wall shows signs of alteration including blocked window openings.
20 Castle Street - The Georgian House
Town house, now displayed as such by the Grosvenor Museum (entry is via the museum, and is free). Mid to late C18. Brown brick in Flemish bond to front and, older, in English bond and irregular bond to east side and rear; hipped grey slate roof, ridge at right angle to front. The side wall to Bunce Street is interesting (if you are into architecture) as the house has clearly been altered significantly and a "join" in the brickwork is fairly obvious, as well as some filled-in windows of which the surrounds in part remain.
18 Castle Street - "Golden Eagle" Public House
Public house incorporating elements of the town house of Humphrey Ball, Sheriff of Chester in 1469. The present building is C17 and C18 externally. Flemish bond painted brick to front and irregular bond brown brick to west side facing Bunce Street; grey slate roofs with 3 parallel ridges, gables to Castle Street. It was part of the "Chester Imp Trail" and still has an imp stuck on the front. The cellars of the "Golden Eagle" are said to be haunted by a squad of around 20 Roman soldiers, plus an officer, who march out of one wall and then dissappear into another - it should be said that this legend dates from a time, long gone, when the pub was known as a place to get "Whacky Baccy".
On the Lavaux Map of 1745 it is marked as the house of "R Leicester Esq" a gentleman who appears to have left few other footprints in the history of Chester.
There is a minor puzzle here, as the "Double Eagle" in Castle Street is said to have bern a masonic lodge meeting place in 1724. The double-headed eagle is an important masonic symbol, as well as a one of the Byzantines and the Holy Roman Empire, but actually goes way back to the city of Lagash, in the late 3rd millennium BC. It gets even more complicated - Randle Holme I, the grandfather of Randle Holme III, an early freemason in Chester, lived at the other end of Castle Street in what is now the Old Kings Head (which became a pub by 1717). Randle III (1627-1700) is buried at St Mary on the Hill, where he was a churchwarden. The name "Ffoulkes" (see below) turns up twice in Randle's papers - in his masonic notes, and in his will, which states that he was related to the Ffoulkes. So did the pub revert briefly to being a house once more, before returning as the "Spread Eagle".
Curiously, another name for a pub based on a double-headed eagle is the "Split Crow" (when its sign was taken from the German coat of arms) - and while the Eagle was never called that there was acutually a "Split Crow" a half dozen doors further down Castle Street, but that had vanished by 1908.
Incidentally, the cap-badge of the Mercian Regiment, formed by amalgamation including the Cheshire Regiment is derived from the double-headed eagle used as a personal emblem by Leofric, Earl of Chester (see: Dark Ages). Could this be a corntinuous tradition from the Roman eagle, through the Mercian Eagle to the eagle of the regiment? - it might do much to explain why Castle Street, right next to the garison, had three pubs with eagles in their signage.
25 Castle Street - once the "Cock Inn"
Previously the "Golden Cock" Inn which was based in a house built in 1707 and was trading as an inn by 1822. It is now flats above offices.
On the Lavaux Map of 1745 it is marked as the house of Robert Foulques Esq. Lavaux only mentions prominent citizens on his map so it is worth looking at the Foulques in detail.
An inscription around a circular window set in the cornice high on the front reads: DOMINUS ILLUMINATIO (almost the opening words of Psalm 27: "The Lord is my light") ANNO DOMINI 1707. "Dominus Illuminatio Mea" (the correct quote) is also the current motto of Oxford University, and was in at least occasional use by the second half of the 16th century - and perhaps more importantly is repeatedly used on the ceiling of the oldest part of the Bodlean Library. In 1822-26 the tavern was still in the hands of the Foulkes (note change of spelling) and a son of the landlord, William, became the organist at Chester Cathedral. The son is said by some sources to have occupied a house on the south side of Castle Street known as "Foulkes Mansion" which later became the Royal Standard Hotel. William Foulkes supposedly emigrated to America in 1871 (other sources indicate Foulkes was still organist at Chester in 1891). Given the contradictions in the records it is difficult to say what the Foulkes were doing in Castle Street after 1822. One possible way to resolve the confusion is to assume that the "Foulkes Mansion" was an alternative name for the "Cock" which later became the Castle Tavern (it's location is given as "adjoining the Castle yard") and Foulkes moved over the road to the Golden Eagle in 1840 - curiously this particular Foulkes also appears in the masonic literature. The Castle later became "The Royal Canteen" and then "The Royal Standard" (in 1888), which closed in 1912.
So is there an Oxford connection? - research indicates the following: a Robert Foulkes of Llechryd, Denbighshire, was "deputy baron of the court of exchequer of Chester", which was located at Chester Castle (next door). Robert Foulkes, of Llechryd, co. Denbigh, esquire, was also possessed of Boughton Hall. Robert’s father and grandfather were also deputy barons of the Exchequer of Chester. He was born about 1712, was admitted a freeman of Chester as esquire in 1733, and died in 1787. Robert's daughter and co-heiress married Dr. William Currie. A bottle stamp found in Handbridge in 1939 reads "Robt. Foulkes, Chester, 1732" and may well have been once fixed to wine supplied to this Robert Foulkes.
Robert's son was the "scholar and divine" Peter Foulkes (1676–1747), who was baptised at St Mary on the Hill, Chester (next door). He was admitted king's scholar at Westminster in 1690, and was elected thence to a Westminster studentship at Christ Church (Oxford) in 1694. While an undergraduate he published, in conjunction with John Freind and under Henry Aldrich's auspices, an edition of "Æschines against Ctesiphon and Demosthenes on the Crown" (Oxford, 1696). "On the Crown" is often cited as "the greatest speech of the greatest orator in the world".
Peter took the degrees of B.A. in 1698, M.A. in 1701. He was chosen censor at Christ Church in 1703, in preference to Edmund Smith, the poet, and was junior proctor for 1705. His cousin, Dr. William Jane, regius professor of divinity, who died in 1707, left him "residuary legatee and devisee of his property", which included land in Liskeard and Bodmin, and was supposed to be worth ten or twelve thousand pounds (which is when the house was built)
Consequently, Peter was a grand compounder for the degrees of B.D. and D.D. in 1710. He was appointed canon of Exeter in 1704, and became sub-dean in 1723, chancellor in May 1724, and precentor in 1731. Of Christ Church, he was made canon in November 1724, and was sub-dean from 1725 to 1733. He was instituted rector of Cheriton Bishop, Devonshire, in 1714, and vicar of Thorverton in 1716. Andrew Davy of Medland, Cheriton Bishop, who died in 1722, left him the manor of Medland and other lands in trust for his second son, William Foulkes. He married first in 1707 Elizabeth Bidgood of Rockbeare, Devonshire, who died in 1737; and secondly, on 26 Dec. 1738, Anne, widow of William Holwell, and daughter of Offspring Blackall, bishop of Exeter. He died 30 April 1747, and was buried in Exeter Cathedral.
It is unlikely that the initial Robert Foulkes is the one that Lavaux mentions, but when the property was built (1707) Peter Foulkes was a divinity scholar at Oxford, who had just come into a lot of money. Perhaps the connection with the motto of Oxford University is more than just co-incidence.
23 Castle Street - Castle House
Town house. Mid C18 front and stair and late C16 core. Flemish bond brown brick; grey slate roofs, with single pitch sloping away from facade and a lower, long rear wing having ridge at right angle to front. Internally, the house retains features from the Elizabethan era. The plan of 23, Castle Street is unusual in being of two separate ranges, both probably of the late 16th century. It is possible that they represented two separate dwellings, as there are no obvious principal rooms in either, as one would expect for a larger house of this date. If this is the case, the impression is of a landowner developing a plot to maximise its rental, not for his own use. Speed’s map of Chester of 1611 shows Castle Street fully developed by that date, perhaps with buildings of a similar chracter to this one. Castle Street was more fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries. The refronting of the house with an elegant early 18th century facade led to some alteration in the floor levels.
- Grenville, J. C. and Turner, R. C., (1986). Two timber-framed houses in Chester. Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society 69. Vol 69, pp. 97-114.
16 Castle Street
Town house and probably in part warehouse, now flats. The frontage C18 or earlier, altered. Lined render; grey slate roof with gable to street. Replaced camber-headed cart archway, east; altered entrance to office, west, has 6 steps up to brick barrel-vaulted hall. Cast-iron rainwater pipe and head dated 1840. The warehouse part of the building is probably C18. Rendered; grey slate roof with gable to front. Cellar and 3 storeys, symmetrical. The front is lined, with projecting quoins east and, all of the same width, west; Second and third storey floor bands. Low opening to cellar, now narrowed, with former width indicated by length of timber lintel. The central loading bay has double doors to each storey, divided and now with framed and boarded, lower leaves and glazed upper leaves of 8 panes to first and second storeys and 4 panes to third storey.
Hereabouts stood the Chester town house of Thomas Berrington who appears as the standard bearer in a 1662 Civil War armorial window in the Barnston Chapel at St Chad's, Farndon, together with other Royalists Sir Francis Gamul, Richard Grosvenor, Sir William Mainwaring (who was killed in the siege of Chester) and William Barnston.
21 Castle Street
Town house, now office. Probably C18, altered. Pigots commercial directory gives this as the home of Charles Jenkins, Grocer. However the street numbering has changed at some point and Jenkins probably lived at No19 a somewhat smaller property
15 and 17 Castle Street
Two town houses, probably at first one single house of double plot-width, now flats. Later C17 altered during C18. Flemish bond brown brick; grey slate roof with 2 gables to front. Each house has 3 stone steps to a door with a damaged stone pilaster to each side, the west pilaster to No.15 retaining frieze and pyramidal cap. A vertical brick joint suggests a possible former central doorway with flush stone quoins. The third storey has an opening for a former central window, blocked in old brick and there is more doubtful evidence of a former second storey central window. The gables have "pineapple finials". Several of the windows to the front have been, somewhat obviously, blocked by painted screens to provide for bathrooms to the flats.
7 and 9 Castle Street
Pair of small town houses. Early C18 or earlier. English garden wall bond brown brick with grey slate roof, ridge parallel with the front. 3 storeys, each house of one bay. Flush painted stone plinth has covered cellar opening to No.7 and blocked opening to No.9. Three stone steps to No.7, tiled step to No.9.
6 and 8 Castle Street
This is not listed, but forms an archway through which it is possible to walk to view a "hidden street": Heritage Court, a gated residential/office area off Lower Bridge Street which opened in 1985.
5 Castle Street
Town house c1732, probably with earlier core. Flemish bond brown brick; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with front. 3 storeys of 5 bays plus loft in roof. Flush sandstone plinth, mostly replaced in brick east of doorway. One stone step to panelled door in panelled case with 3-pane overlight and heavy moulded hood on consoles.
1 and 3 Castle Street
One or possibly 2 town houses, now shop, office and accommodation. Mid C18, altered. Flemish bond brown brick with grey slate roof, ridge parallel with front, hipped to Lower Bridge Street, east. The east face to Lower Bridge Street has 8 steps down, parallel with front, to former undercroft with lantern arch and replaced rail; modern shopfront.
Sources and Links
- Frank Simpson - "Chester Castle AD 907-1925". Journal of the Architectural, Archaeological and Historic Society, Chester and North Wales. New Series, Vol.XXVI, Part II.
- St Chad's Farndon;