Castle Timeline

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There is another, more detailed, page on Chester Castle.

11th Century:

  • 1070: Motte and Bailey Castle founded by William the Conqueror.

12th Century:

  • 1159-60: £102.7s.6d. spent on the work of the castle during the minority of Earl Hugh. £20 spent on the rebuilding of the castle bridge.

13th Century:

  • c.1210: The Agricola Tower is built as the bailey gatehouse with a first floor chapel, decorated with wall paintings.
  • c.1230-40: The Agricola Tower chapel is given a second coat of wall paintings of very high quality and focused on the Virgin Mary.
  • 1237: The end of the independent earldom, the castle is taken over by the crown, and remains the administrative centre of the palatinate.
  • 1241-5: Henry III uses the castle as a base for his campaigns in Wales, and an ‘oriel’ is constructed before the doorway of the King’s chapel. The castle was used as a gaol from this time.
  • 1245: The King’s apartments were repaired, the paintings in the Queen’s chamber renewed and a bridge made from the castle into the orchard.
  • 1246-8: Henry III builds a new chamber over a cellar at a cost of £220.
  • 1247-51: Henry III replaces the wooden palisade round the outer bailey with a stone wall.
  • 1249-53: Henry III demolishes the hall in the outer bailey and builds a new Great Hall at a cost of £350.
  • 1251-67: Prince Edward uses the castle as a base for his campaigns against the Welsh.
  • 1264: The castle is acquired by Simon de Montfort after the battle of Lewes.
  • 1265: The castle is held by Lucas de Taney (the justiciary appointed by Simon de Montfort) and besieged by Prince Edward's men (James de Audley and Urian de Saint Pierre) for 10 weeks, prior to its surrender.
  • 1275-7: Edward I stayed at the castle while awaiting Llywelyn ap Gruffudd’s response to his summons to do homage. The King’s houses in the Outer Bailey were renovated for the Earl of Warwick and given a new chapel.
  • 1282-3: The castle is used as a base for Edward I’s second campaign in Wales. Prince Llywelyn’s brother David and 5 squires were held hostage in the castle gaol.
  • 1284-91: Edward I adds new chambers for the King and Queen, as well as a stable and carries out repairs to the King’s houses at a cost of £1,400.
  • 1292-3: Edward builds a new outer gatehouse at a cost of £318.
  • 1294: The castle is used as a base for Edward I’s third campaign in Wales.
  • 1296: Six Scots taken at the battle of Dunbar were held in the castle goal.
  • 1299: Ten ceiling corbels in the King’s great chamber were coloured, and William of Northampton adorned the lesser chapel near the great hall with a depiction of the murder of Thomas Becket.

14th Century:

  • 1301 The chapel in the Agricola Tower is converted into a treasury.
  • 1310 The shire hall was removed to a new position just outside the main gate of the outer bailey.
  • 1322 The castle is granted to Edward II’s favourite Hugh Despenser the younger.
  • 1326 After Despenser’s fall the castle reverted to the crown.
  • 1327 Castle in the custody of Thomas of Warwick, and orders issued for its provisioning and repair. The presence of the Dunheved brothers in Chester causes Isabella of France to require the taking of eighteen children as "boy hostages" in the castle.
  • 1328 The justice of Chester’s deputy had a hall, chamber and new kitchen constructed in the inner bailey.
  • 1329 A new attilliator (weapons maker) was appointed.
  • 1337 100 yards of wall had to be rebuilt, and repairs were undertaken on the constable’s hall and other buildings of the inner ward as well as the bridges leading to the two gatehouses.
  • 1347 Gonkes Tower, Chapel, Damory Tower, the Great Chapel, the Great Hall and several other chambers were all in disrepair.
  • 1353-5 £170 spent on the repair of the inner bailey wall.
  • 1355: A new exchequer was built within the castle
  • 1374-96 The office of master mason at the castle lapsed.
  • 1397 the office of Keeper of the King’s artillery in Cheshire and Flintshire is first mentioned.
  • 1399: Richard II has a heated bathroom constructed in Chester Castle (costing £70). It was paneled with Norwegian timber. His apartments were redecorated with cushions and fine silk hangings.
  • 1399 Henry Bolingbroke stays at the castle twice. Sir Piers Legh of Lyme was executed at the castle by the Duke of Lancaster.

15th Century:

  • 1400: The castle is successfully defended by the Chamberlain of Chester, the County Sheriff and the Constable, from a siege during the Epiphany Rising. The castle was garrisoned by 8 men-at-arms and 35 archers.
  • 1401: The exchequer is moved to a building adjoining the Shire Hall, just outside Inner Bailey of Chester Castle.
  • 1404: The castle was garrisoned by 8 archers.
  • 1422-61: Henry VI spent an average of £25 a year on the maintenance of the castle, under the control of a master mason and master carpenter.
  • 1441: The jailors of the castle and Northgate, "Rockley and Rooley" fought together on the Roodee.
  • 1442: Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, was detained at the castle "for practising the King’s death".
  • 1474: Edward, Prince of Wales (Being only 5), was conveyed to the castle at Christmas with much pomp.
  • 1479: Richard Grey appointed constable of Chester castle. Richard Grey was the younger son of Sir John Grey of Groby and Elizabeth Woodville, later Queen Consort of King Edward IV.
  • 1495: Henry VII appointed a new master mason and again spent c. £25 a year on maintenance.

16th Century:

  • 1506: A charter was passed to maintain the castle’s independence from the city
  • 1511; £272 was spent on repairs to the great hall, gatehouses and shire hall.
  • 1536; The castle became a base for the County justices.
  • 1577-82 The Great Hall is rebuilt at a cost of £650, to house the shire court. The parliament chamber to the south was also reconditioned to house the exchequer court.
  • 1579-81 The castle provided supplies and lodgings for soldiers before they embarked for Ireland, during the revolt.
  • 1585: On St.Andrew’s day the castle bridge fell down killing two horse and some cattle transporting coal. In addition, 16 pirates were committed to the castle goal for taking a ship out of Wirral.
  • 1589: The keeper of the castle gaol hung for maltreatment of prisoners.

17th Century:

  • 1613: 500 marks was spent on the castle.
  • 1617: Elizabeth Wainewright of Hawarden, widow, and Richard Fazakarley, of Broadlane were both accused, "of going to charmers to be blessed", apparently at Chester Castle.
  • 1624: A survey of the castle was undertaken for the county justices. Chester "suffered dreadfully from the plague"; the court of exchequer was removed to Tarvin, the court of assize to Nantwich
  • 1627-8: The Earl’s representatives reluctantly paid for repairs, including a new bridge into the castle.
  • 1636: The castle was condemned as "old and ruinous".
  • 1642-6: The castle was a royalist headquarters during the siege of Chester, with a garrison commanded by a military governor. It escaped physical damage and in 1646 surrendered with all its arms, ordnance and ammunition intact.
  • 1646-59: The castle was a supply base for parliamentary troops in Ireland, with a garrison under a military governor.
  • 1655: Many of the principal gentry of the county were sent as prisoners to the castle, under suspicion of being disaffected with Cromwell’s government.
  • 1659: Castle put into a state of defence during the rising of Sir George Booth, and shots were exchanged with royalists who had entered the city.
  • 1660-2: Governor and garrison removed from the castle. Much of the outer gatehouse fell down, and John Shaw the county surveyor estimated cost of repairs at £860. A garden was created in the inner bailey for the judges to walk in at the Assize.
  • 1662: Sir Theophilus Gilbey was granted a warrant to enlist and arm 60 foot soldiers to be kept under array at the castle. Sir Evan Lloyd was appointed governor. A survey of the castle estimated the cost of repairs at £5,000. In 1662-4 Just over £546 was spent on repairs to the castle.
  • 1665: "many gentry imprisoned at the castle" (Roberts)
  • 1666: Fears of an uprising among disaffected Parliamentarians stimulated the King to order the proceeds of the local mize to be paid to the Governor for additional repairs.
  • 1680: Sir Geoffrey Shakerley was Governor and was ordered to disband the foot company garrisoning the Castle. By 1681 there were only three gunners remaining. The infamous "Hanging Judge Jeffreys" is made Chief Justice of Chester.
  • 1682-6: The Duke of Monmouth visited the Castle and issued a new commission to Shakerley to act as governor, and a new garrison was installed. The men were quartered in public houses and private dwellings, and the Castle received a Roman Catholic chaplain.
  • 1685: following the outbreak of Monmouth's rebellion in June: suspects were imprisoned at the castle, and arrangements were made (in the event proving unnecessary) to send 1,000 foot from Ireland to protect the city. The duke's cause evidently had some support in Chester, but there was no uprising.
  • 1687: James II visited the castle and heard mass. At this time the castle was garrisoned by 8 companies of soldiers from Ireland and a newly appointed furbisher. The castle received a new armoury and Frobisher's shop.
  • 1689: Peter Shakerley was replaced as governor by Sir John Morgan, who requested two new companies of 100 men. A gun platform was built. Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk raised a regiment on the little Roodee in Chester in an effort to resist any attempt by James II to re-take the English throne - this would eventually become the Cheshire Regiment.
  • 1690: The castle was used in the transport of soldiers to Ireland to repress the Jacobites. King William visited Chester (later, on 1st July, he defeated his James II at the Battle of the Boyne). The roof of the exchequer court and protonotary’s office were repaired.
  • 1691: Repairs to the armoury included 62 yards of brick walling, also the Flag Tower and Half-moon Tower were re-roofed.
  • 1694: A company of c. 90 invalids was drawn out of Chelsea hospital to garrison the castle.
  • 1696-8: The castle received a mint for William III’s "Great Recoinage". This was staffed by a comptroller (the astronomer Edmond Halley), a warden, master, assayer and 5 other officials. It issued half-crowns, shillings and sixpences.

18th Century:

  • 1717-27: Military stores and ordnance were removed to the Tower of London.
  • 1715-17: 500 Jacobite prisoners were brought to the castle after the government’s victory at Preston. Among them Charles Murray.
  • 1728: The castle was commanded by a Governor and two companies of invalid soldiers.
  • 1736: Cooke writes of what appears to have been the last Welsh invasion of Chester:- "a large body of colliers, and other countrymen, were brought from the neighbourhood of Wrexham, by the direction and under the influence of Mr. W. W. Wynne. The citizens hearing of their approach, retired into the castle, and there armed themselves with old swords, helmets, and breast-pieces; and, thus formidably accoutered, sallied forth to meet their foes. A bloody encounter ensued in Bridge Street; and the Welshmen, after several of them were dangerously wounded, were soon routed and put to flight".
  • 1745: Castle under threat of attack by the Jacobites. George Earl of Cholmondeley put Chester in a state of defence, repairing the castle’s defences and adding raised batteries in the inner and outer wards and a raised platform with a parapet south-east of the great hall. The military architect Alexander de Lavaux was engaged to draw up a plan to strengthen the fortifications, but the work was never carried out.
  • 1760-86: A large portion of the curtain wall of the inner bailey behind the armoury fell down. Repair work included the reconstruction of Lord Cholmondeley’s battery.
  • 1788: Harrison demolished the exchequer and constables house, then built the prison and southern parts of the main block.
  • 1789: A passage with a new gateway was opened into the upper ward, and consent was given for the outer gatehouse to be removed and replaced by a new arch and guardrooms.
  • 1791: The exchequer, grand jury room, protonotary’s office and prisoners’ wards had all been finished.
  • 1794-9: The main block including the Shire Hall, its portico and Prison Chapel were finished.
A panorama of Harrison's. modification of the Outer Bailey of Chester Castle. The Agricola Tower can be seen behind the buildings on the right but the gate leading to it is now kept locked. The Military Museum is in the building to the left. The neo-classical design is remarkably similar to that of Downing College in Cambridge by the architect William Wilkins and only completed in 1951. Wilkins career in architecture began in 1804 with his Greek-revival designs for the newly established Downing College. Wilkins' commission came after earlier plans in a Palladian style by James Wyatt had been rejected as "insufficiently classical". Wilkins arranged the college buildings around a single large courtyard. Construction began in 1807 and proceeded slowly, coming to a halt (due to litigation over the founders bequest) in 1821 with Wilkins' scheme still incomplete.

19th Century:

  • 1802: 5 prisoners broke out of the castle on March 31st
  • 1803: The Militia were called up on April 4th and assembled at the castle.
  • 1804: The inner gatehouse, Square Tower and part of the curtain wall of the inner bailey were demolished and a new armoury block was erected in their place.
  • 1805: Five convicts made their escape from the castle.
  • 1806-10: Another block housing the barracks, provost cells and exchequer court was erected on the north side of the outer ward. A ditch faced with a stone wall was constructed round the castle yard.
  • 1810: An extra mural magazine was constructed adjacent to the upper bailey wall.
  • 1811-13: A new Doric gateway (propylaea) was constructed.
  • 1814: May 28th, William Wilson was executed at the castle for setting fire to a barn in Tiverton.
  • 1818: The Agricola Tower is refaced in sandstone.
  • 1826: The military hospital on Castle Street was erected by William Cole the younger.
  • 1830 The extra mural magazine was taken down and the chapel of the Agricola Tower was used as the magazine.
  • 1831-6 Demolition of the officers’ barracks and judges’ lodgings in the south east range of the inner ward, to make way for a new armoury and Napier House. Harrison’s ‘B’ block converted into accommodation for officers and judges.
  • 1846 The guardroom in the upper bailey was constructed.
  • 1849-50 Castle garrisoned by the 46th Foot(became 2ndBn The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry).
  • 1860-70 Castle garrisoned by a company from a regiment stationed in Manchester.
  • 1865 The prison was found inadequate by visiting justices.
  • 1867 The Fenians planned an attack on the castle, and the garrison was reinforced by three additional companies from Manchester, local volunteers and several hundred men from London and Aldershot.
  • 1867-9 Castle garrisoned by the 7th Bn. The Rifle Brigade; 81st foot RHQ (became 2nd Bn. The Loyal Regt. North Lancashire); one company of 54th Foot 2nd Bn. The Dorsetshire Regt.
  • 1869-71 Castle garrisoned by the 4th Foot, King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster). ‘Larry’ the regimental bear had to be shot having sustained injuries while jumping through the window of a moving train when the regiment was leaving Chester in 1871.
  • 1871-3 Castle garrisoned by the 2nd Bn. 14th Foot The West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’ Own).
  • 1873 The open ball alley was converted into straw sheds.
  • 1877 The prison was transferred to the crown.
  • 1878 The guardroom cells in the upper bailey were constructed.
  • 1882 The castle became the depot for the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment.
  • 1884 The prison was closed to civil prisoners.
  • 1891 Protonotary’s office converted to a council chamber for the new county council
  • 1892 The exchequer court was transferred to the War Department, and the site of the prison became a drill ground for the local volunteer artillery.
  • 1899-1902 The Cheshire and Cearnarvonshire Artillery Volunteers used the straw sheds in the castle ditch to house their 40-pounder guns

20th Century:

  • 1900-02: The prison buildings were demolished.
  • 1903: The artillery corps received new QF 4.7in. guns.
  • 1904: The straw sheds were converted into dining halls for the men.
  • 1921: The Agricola Tower chapel ceased to be used as the magazine. The miniature rifle range was constructed. The fire engine shed in front of the Agricola Tower was taken down.
  • 1922: Harrison’s barrack block was restored. The site of the well in the upper bailey was uncovered and the water “found to be of excellent quality”, subsequently recovered with a York stone slab. 21 lime trees along the southeast side of the rifle range were planted.
  • 1923: A conservation programme was undertaken on the wall paintings in the Chapel of the Agricola Tower by the Office of Works.
  • 1938: B block (Colvin House) became the Machine Gun Training Centre.
  • 1939-57: The site of the prison was used to build the new county hall.
  • 1958: RHQ Cheshire Regiment took over ‘A’ block on the formation of Infantry Brigade Depots.
  • 1972: Part of ‘A’ block was made into the regimental museum.
  • 1979-82: Excavation and building recording in the inner bailey, directed by Peter Hough for the Department of the Environment.
  • 1992-3: Investigation and conservation of wall paintings in the Chapel of the Agricola Tower, undertaken for English Heritage by the Courtauld Institute.
  • 1997: Colvin House ceased to function as the Garrison Officers’ Mess.
  • 1999: The HQ for the Army Medical Services TA left Napier House.

21st Century:

  • 2009: Castle closed to casual visitors.