City Road

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History

Prior to the construction of City Road, the land was undeveloped. The line along what woul become City Road is the garden wall of the house associated with the Leadworks.
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In 1848 on the opening of Chester Station a broad strip of open land extended from the frontage building to the canal. To the west of this area, 19th century housing development had spread only as far as Francis Street. To the east the Leadworks would have dominated the view along with the adjoining Georgian house for Mr Walker the proprietor (now known as Queen House). Between the leadworks and the site of City Road were the extensive private walled gardens to Queen House. These terminated in a long garden wall on the alignment of City Road but located some way to the east. Between Francis Street and the walled garden, Gerrard Street followed an alignment that appears to coincide with the present access road to the rear of properties on the western side of City Road. At this time it is noted to be a "footway to the City" and appears not to have been developed. In his Stranger's Guide of 1859 Thomas Hughes comments on the route from the station to the City by Brook Street saying that:

  • "its many parts inconveniently narrow, abounding in sharp curves and unsightly proportions and certainly nowise equal to the continually increased traffic".

The relationship between Chester's stations and the core of the historic city has presented difficulties of integration from the outset. Initially Chester Station lay entirely in open allotments and paddocks beside the important Warrington turnpike. Passing through the cattle market, Brook Street failed to provide the grand and prestigious link to which the City fathers aspired. City Road was laid out in the midd-1860's to create a more formal and befitting approach to both the City and Chester's principal railway station, with vistas of the Railway Station frontage. At its opposite southern end there would have been an alignment to the proposed spire that would have completed the Catholic Church of St Werburghs (but was never built). At an intermediate point the spire of the Methodist Central Hall located beside the canal at the most elevated part of street would have provided a similar intermediate focal point. Intended as an impressive boulevard in the continental tradition, the vision was only partly fulfilled: whilst at the junction with Station Road buildings of stature were constructed, elsewhere construction was sporadic and of variable architectural quality. As the canal bridge was not completed until 1863 it seems the construction of the road was somewhat protracted. From the station to the canal City Road was laid out through entirely undeveloped land. Beyond the canal its alignment cut through the pre existing pattern of streets.

A "foot way to the city" is marked on this c.1860 pictorial map. There is no bridge over the canal (except Lunt's "Union Bridge". The octagonal chapel of the Presbyterian Church of Wales can be seen to the south of the canal. The Octagon chapel was demolished in 1864 to make way for City Road and the congregation moved briefly to the Corn Exchange until a replacement had been erected near the original site.

City Road was intended to be a new commercial quarter to the City with hotels, offices, shops and some private residences. Although by 1878 the road was established as one of the city's principal tram routes, its development was slow and faltering. It began promisingly enough flanked by the imposing Queen and Queen Commercial Hotels but the western side of the street below the canal bridge only became relatively fully developed by the turn of the 20th century, whilst at this time the eastern frontage comprised only two additional buildings (Meyer House and the Methodist Hall). Aside from the set piece architecture of the important late Victorian Westminster Hotel and the landmark gothic spired Wesleyan Methodist Central Hall of 1872 which (now demolished) stood high above the canal on the eastern side of the street, most of the remainder of the street was developed on a piecemeal basis with substantial three storey buildings on its western side. Where, beyond the canal bridge City Road cut through pre-existing streets development and rebuilding took place more quickly, and in part with a good deal of architectural style. The entrance to the street at The Bars is defined on its eastern side by the fine stone building originally built for the Liverpool Union Bank to the design of T M Lockwood and beyond this the row of fine timber framed vernacular revival buildings of 1900 also by Lockwood.

Beyond this the recently (2001) demolished Royalty Theatre was constructed in 1882, but was at the time described as "being devoid of any effect". The prominent former boot and shoe manufactory, presumably built soon after the completion of City Road terminates this block. To replace an early nonconformist octagonal chapel that lay on the alignment of City Road, a new Presbyterian Church and Sunday School were constructed in 1865 on the western side of the street between The Bars and the canal bridge. With the 1970’s clearances for the ring road this group of buildings now defines the western entry to City Road. Many of the problems of the station area today are a consequence of this historic legacy. The abandonment of the city's tram system in the inter-war years, combined with declining post-war fortunes of the Edwardian hotels that lined its route diminished the relevance of the City Road link. The construction of Hoole Way and the inner ring, respectively bypassing Brook Street and severing it from the City centre further isolated the station from the City, whilst the relocation of the cattle market greatly diminished the economic vitality of the link via Brook Street. In the post war years the relevance of railways for both passenger and goods traffic diminished.

Architecture

The architectural character of City Road is very mixed. This reflects the great length of time over which the street became fully developed, and the unfortunate demolitions, particularly those on the western side of the street for the mediocre Job Centre (a typical piece of 1980s work from the Property Services Agency), and those on the eastern side of the street with the clearance of the landmark Methodist Central Hall beside the canal bridge. Despite this the street retains the general air of a late 19th century street of some importance. The late Victorian/Edwardian buildings use Ruabon brick accented with hints of the local vernacular tradition. The Westminster Hotel is particularly handsome with timber framed and shaped brick gables, together with copper and slate clad terminal cupula turrets. The adjacent Belgrave Hotel is of much simpler composition but like the Westminster sports good quality Ruabon brick and moulded timber casements partially leaded. Perhaps the most distinctive contribution to this frontage is made by Kinnard House a handsome rough cast building of 1896 with decorative pargeting. Along with many other buildings on this part of the street, it would appear that when constructed they were intended to have ground floor retail units which with the exception of a single unit do not ever appear to have served this function. These buildings feature common themes including one or two storey oriel windows, timber framed elements, hipped or timber framed gables, sashes and moulded timber casements.

Even after the construction of the tramlines and the tram terminus shed there was little development north of the canal apart from several hotels and the Methodist Chapel.

The eastern side of the street, with the sole exception of the heavily gothic mid/late Victorian Meyer House presents a complete contrast comprising mid 20th century buildings which do not yet completely fill the street frontage. Notable buildings include the good quality concrete tower of seven storeys originally known as North West House, and now forming part of the Queen Hotel. Its basic cladding is in brick, relieved to the main elevation by narrow full height glazing and to the side, street elevation by a broad projecting full height panels of alternating glazed and solid curtain walling infill. Closer to the canal the once "Royal Bank of Scotland building" is in a "department store Georgian style" with Portland stone detailing to a brick façade. This building, along with several others was boarded-up and not in use as of the winter of 2017.

The canal bridge of 1863 retains its strong and simple cast iron balustrade, however with the exception of the secondary spans over Canalside and Leadworks Lane the structural components have been replaced with concrete beams.

Beyond the canal bridge towards The Bars the buildings are more typically mid Victorian using predominantly machine made red/brown brick. Most are rather ordinary with the exception of nos 12 & 21 with a finely detailed timber veranda with a decorative tile dado, and the simple but robust former boot and shoe manufactory, which presents an impressive 4 storeys to the canal. This end of the street also has several set piece buildings. Lockwood's former Liverpool Union Bank is an impressive corner building at the junction with Boughton. It is executed in yellow sandstone in a Baroque style with pedimented mullion and transom stone windows with leaded lights. The roof features belvederes capped with cupolas.

The railway station exterior after the public realm works (2008). The old Post Office building (extreme right) was still derelict at this time, but had by 2013 been converted into apartments. City Road is to the right, with the prominent Queen Hotel on the corner.

Adjoining the former bank 4-10 City Road comprises an impressive range of late Victorian timber framed buildings (again by Lockwood} which are a particularly fine example of the vernacular revival. They feature four prominent jettied gables with herringbone and shaped timber framework. The first floor is close studded with fine timber framed oriel windows with leaded lights.

On the opposite side of the street the English Presbyterian Church of Wales is executed in a classical style with Ionic detailing in stucco. In contrast the adjoining former Sunday School is executed in a Gothic style and is in rock-faced stonework.

Listed (and other) buildings

There are only six listed buildings in City Road. These are the two corner buildings at the north end and the last two buildings on each side at the south end.

West side (Town Crier to Canal Bridge)

Queen Commercial Hotel, formerly The Albion, now Town Crier

Former hotel of 1865 in Italianate style built as a more humble subsidiary to the Queen Hotel proper and originally in the same ownership. The building has two storeys with a quadrant corner at City Road / Station Road junction and a principal frontage of 10 bays to Station Road. The walls have stuccoed render with rustication to "area" basement and plinth. There is a heavy modillioned cornice to the first floor. The bays are divided by pilasters, with each bay having "2-over-2" sashes with round heads. Several of the windowa have been blocked-up. The former hotel, now pub, entrance is on City Road and has double 2-panel doors in an Ionic case with a "green man and beasts" in the spandrels; ornate upper panels to pilasters, keystone and frieze. The is a low (almost flat) pitched slate roof concealed by the parapet. Original spearheaded iron railings line the frontage on stone kerbs. The south face to the lawn is brick and has a verandah of 8 cast-iron basket arches with openwork spandrels.

The "Town Crier" in 2017.

The pub-sign is now plain, but for many-years was a fairly faithful depection of Mike Chittenden, Chester's Town Crier from 1981-92. Mike eventually resigned after becoming infatuated with a local news-paper reporter and setting himself on fire when she rejected his advances.

The Queen Commercial Hotel was originally linked to the Queen Hotel proper by an underground passageway (now bricked-up apart from a few feet at one end). This would enable "Commercial Travellers" staying at the less expensive hotel to reach the Queen Hotel without being seen. The Albion Hotel moved here in 1867 from Bridge Street.

Number 63: Westminster Hotel.

A large late Victorian Hotel: 3 storey plus a large attic storey This building has a longitudinal slate roof, hipped to gables on both elevations and most of the original chimney stacks seem to survive. The street frontage to City Road is of seven bays, to the unsigned Tramway Street (now Crewe Street) five bays. The northern end wall is plain and was intended to have another building abutting (where the car-park is and previously the site of a bowling green). The north end of the City Road elevation has a copper clad hexagonal cupola on heavily moulded posts infilled in part with lead lights, others have replaced – and appear to have been an outlook gallery structure, expressed below as oriel to 1st and 2nd floors. The nearby Queen Hotel also had observation towers prior to a fire soon after it was built.

The Westminster Hotel and the Belgrave Hotel straddle Tramway Street (now Crewe Street). The small door in the center of the facade of the Westminster Hotel is the "Tradesmans Entrance".

The three central bays of triple timber framed gables are of close-studded work with herringbone pattern to the apexes. Corner bay to Crewe Street has a hexagonal cupola with a slate roof structure expressed as three segments to ground floor. The City Road elevation is of Ruabon brick with little adornment except at wall head which has a pargetted band of scroll work, but has five, two-storey timber framed oriels to 1st and 2nd floors: these are box-framed with elliptical heads. Windows are moulded timber with leaded casements and transoms, mostly of four elements with middle two having curved transom. The area below the transom has a replaced top hung swivels in the central part of windows. The corner bay to Tramway Street has two-element windows with only one original remaining. Tramway Street elevation is all of Ruabon brick with plain detailing other than tall shaped gables, one single bay and to last three bays a single large shaped gable with three gables peaks. The windows have timber casements in moulded frames – many have been replaced.

A tram outside the Town Crier when it was The Albion. The frontage of Chester Station can be seen in the background.

One somewhat amusing feature of the City Road frontage is the small but clearly signposted "tradesmens entrance" in the middle of the frontage which presumably leads to steps down to the cellars.

Chester Tramways Company operated an horse-drawn tramway service in Chester between 1878 and 1901. Services started on 10 June 1878 with a route between Chester Station and Chester Castle. This was extended to Curzon Street, Saltney on 21 June 1879. Under the Chester Corporation Act of 1901, the council took up its option to purchase the assets of the company. In 1903 horse drawn trams were replaced by electric ones. The last trams ran in Chester in 1930.

Number 61: Belgrave Hotel.

A medium-sized late Victorian/Edwardian Hotel. It is three storey and has a longitudinal slate roofs, on which most stacks seem to survive. It has five bays to City Road and two principal and three secondary bays to Crewe Street. The hotel is in Ruabon brick with little adornment except a prominent pentice roof above the 1st floor to City Road and two return bays to Crewe Street. The 1st floor to City road has three oriel windows below the pentice roof. The windows have moulded timber casements with cornices to their heads.

Both this and the previous building follow a common theme in Chester of naming things after the Grosvenors. Belgrave is a historical village at the entrance to Eaton Hall (residence of the Duke of Westminster). It consists of a few houses and a large thriving Grosvenor Garden Centre. The village is also one of the Duke of Westminster's subsidiary titles, Viscount Belgrave. Belgravia in London also takes its name from this peerage. Most of the area in the capital was once owned by Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster, who had it developed from the 1820s. The land was the marriage portion to Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Baronet (20 November 1655 – 2 July 1700) which the guardians of the twelve-year-old Mary Davies were able to offer the young Cheshire baronet and consisted of some five hundred acres of land, mostly meadow and pasture, a short distance from the western fringes of built-up London. Not all of this was to be available in immediate possession and the income from the land was at that time relatively small, but its potential for future wealth was realized even then.

  • A travel blog inspired by the Belgrave Hotel with a perhaps "over the top" set of T&C's;

Chantry House (55-59: ex-Job Centre)

Typical Property Service Agency 1980 build, modernist-style brick with some relief, metal-clad mansard roof. In the area characterisation study (2008) it was stated that it "..does not respond well to the prevailing character of the area.." and that "..the building is unsightly and terminates the vista from Queen's Road.." In May 2017 permission was finally given, after a protracted planning process, for it to be demolished and replaced by a care home for the elderly. Conservative council member for adult social care Cllr Jill Houlbrook said: "The building has been empty for too long and really has become an eyesore on City Road". As Modernist building go this is actually not a particularly bad example.

Right to left: the Modernist ex. Job Center, Arts and Crafts Kinnaird House and a range of almost identical "retail units" (only one ever used as such), with a mock-Tudor unit inserted in the middle.

49, 51 & 53 Kinnard House.

Late Victorian "arts and crafts" build of 1899 apparently intended as retail units with dwellings above. However, the usage is likely to have always been wholly residential. On three storeys with a large attic storey under a longitudinal slate roof with three bays projecting to gables. Overall there are four bays, with two gabled bays to the south an a single gabled bay to the north. The intermediate bay is recessed to form a first floor balcony except to ground floor. The gabled bays are in rough cast, with brick quoins and bands, aprons and pediment panels with scroll motif and date panels. The floor has oriel windows on coved projections with scroll pargetting. The intermediate bay and ground floor walls are of Ruabon brick (except the rendered central bay). The intermediate bay has coved eaves with pargetting in scroll work. Planted multipane timber casements have cornices, and the casements are in powder coated aluminium, 2nd floor window and intermediate bay windows are multipane, oriel windows are multipane above transom and plain below.

The ground floor has three slightly recessed panels one to each unit (as if intended to be shop units) with rendered fascia panels above. Paired accesses in intermediate bay comprises matching doors beneath arched brick heads, four panel doors, with vertically subdivided fan light above. To south and intermediate bay there are "two-over-two" sashes. However the northern bay has a larger casement with moulding and a curved transom, possibly suggesting use (or intended use) as a public house at one time. Records place "The Memphis" bar was possibly here in 1942 although street numbering may have changed.

Number 47

This is a Victorian/Edwardian retail unit with living accommodation above. Of single build, over two bays of three storeys with attic. It has a longitudinal slate roof, and a tiered stack. The walls are of Ruabon brick with head and cill bands. Each two storey half hexagonal brick oriel sits on a heavily moulded base and has a hipped slate roof. The other bay has single "two-over-two" sashes. The ground floor has a shop front with a separate entrance doorway. The building has an overall rendered fascia with three moulded consol brackets. The shop front has three Tudor headed windows on slim timber columns, and a rendered stall. The shop front has been mutilated to create a ground floor flat unit.

Three retail units converted into a hotel (note the bricked-up doors). A further mock-Tudor building and a pair of symetric brick buildings.

Number 45

Unit of single build late Victorian/Edwardian "Mock-Tudor" house on three storeys with attic. It has a longitudinal slate roof, with one large and one small gable both with timber framing. Below the large gable is a two story oriel window of rectangular form on the second floor and half hexagonal form on the first floor, also timber framed with circular and elipitical patterns. The oriel has casements to other bay, and "one-over-one" sashes replaced on the second floor. The ground floor has recent alterations, elongate window and separate entrance but the original stone window cill survives.

Numbers 43, 41, 39 Stafford Hotel (since renamed).

A late Victorian/Edwardian single build of three similar properties, apparently built as three shop units but likely never used as such. The three properties have been linked together to form a hotel. Detailing is very similar to Number 47. It has a three storey Ruabon brick front with a longitudinal slate roof containg attics and with truncated stacks. Each unit of is of two bays one with half hexagonal two storey brick oriel window rising from moulded stucco plinth. The “shop fronts” feature is a built in fascia with console brackets below which is a brick infill inset by corbelling below fascia. Ground floor has tripartite sashes in this infill. The ground floor front has been altered to provide for the hotel entrance and the original doorways have been rather crudely bricked-up.

Number 37

Late Victorian "Mock-Tudor" house detailed exactly as Number 45 but retains original domestic ground floor treatment comprising a tripartite "two-over-two" sashes with stone heads and cills. The entrance doorway has a dentillated stone head, stepped upwards to form date panel of 1896. The house has a door and panel comprising two lower panels two middle panels and an elliptically shaped top panel, with fanlight above.

The south end of City Road prior to the construction of the inner ring-road in the 1960's.

Numbers 35/33

A pair of late Victorian/Edwardian houses of one build on three storeys with a large attic, in four bays overall, symmetrically arranged. The two central bays have six panel entrance doors detailed exactly as Number 37 these are flanked by tripartite sashes also matching Number 37. The outer bays have single storey splayed oriel windows on the first floor with hipped slate roofs, they feature timber framing with fleur-de-lys patterning, and have moulded timber mullion and transom windows with iron casements. Windows in the central bays are eight over one sashes with an overall brick relieving arch with herringbone in the infill below. The central two bays have an attic gable, flanked by small gables on the outer bays both jettied and with close studded timber frame: all have eight over one sashes. There is a longitudinal slate roof with truncated stacks.

Beyond the canal bridge. Left to right: the stone built ex Sunday-School followed by a range of buildings ending in the former Eaton Hotel

The following building is a modern apartment complex in part on the site of the former "Jolly Miller" public house which was in Leadwworks Lane (which passes under the bridge) and was demolished in 1997. In 1903 there was a protracted dispute about the provision of steps down from City Road to Leadworks Lane, as there were none at the time. Greenall Whitley and Co. offered land for the steps for free, but the local "Improvement Committee" and the local churches objected, presumably due to the reputation of the pub and a desire not to give the "lower classes" eary access to City Road.

West Side (Beyond canal bridge)

Number 29

The former Eaton Hotel. A simple mid to late Victorian house, in painted brick in four storeys (the lower storey being on Canalside. There are two bays to the street, with long elevation to canal of five bays (housing a bar). To City Road the windows have stone head and hood moulds with bracketed cills. The front has dentillated eaves. This is the third hotel with an association (by name only) with the Grosvenors.

Number 31

The adjoining part of the former Eaton Hotel. A three storey simple mid to late Victorian house, in painted brick, with a hipped slate roof, on which stacks survive with square terracotta pots. The ground floor windows have moulded head 2 over 2 sashes.

Number 27

Mid to late Victorian shop with accommodation, single bay, machine made red brown brick with blue band courses, dentillated eaves in brick. With "two over two" sashes, above a modern tiled shop front.

The end of City Road before the construction of the Inner Ring Road in the 1960's. All of these builings have been demolished with the exception of the church on the far right.

Numbers 23 / 25

"Gate of India" & shop on site of former "Theatre Shop" (see Royalty Theatre below). These mid to late Victorian retail units have living accommodation over, and are one build of four bays. Walls are of machine-made red-brown brick with blue bands, stone heads and cills on the windows. The south bay has an indifferent modern shop front, while the north bay has a more ornate shop front. The longitudinal slate roof has stacks with square terracotta pots.

Numbers 19 / 21

Late Victorian/Edwardian building in “colonial style”: bar with living accommodation above and extensive cellars. The longitudinal slate roof has truncated stacks. The buillding is of three storeys with four bays to 1st floor. The building was formerly "The Cestrian Hotel" - from around 1880.

The English Presbyterian Church of Wales - now the last building on the west side of City Road.

The elaborate oriel windows on the outer bays have a linking veranda in the central bays, all rising from moulded base and with an overall pitched pentice roof of slate. The oriels have timber casement window between turned columned mullions. The veranda has ornate spandrel brackets in timber and a balustrade of turned balusters. Both the veranda and the exterior wall flanking the oriels have a dado of polychromatic patterned tiles.

Number 17

Sunday School of 1880 of rock faced yellow sandstone in gothic style. A stone plaque by door is inscribed "THIS MEMORIAL STONE WAS LAID BY MISS WALKER ABBEY GREEN CHESTER JUNE 16 1880 THE SUNDAY SCHOOL CENTENARY YEAR". This might seem somewhat misleading - why should a Sunday School built in 1880 have a centenary the same year? The answer is that it was the idea of a sunday school which was 100 years old. At Gloucester in July 1780, under the guidance of Robert Raikes, who since 1757 had been the proprietor of the Gloucester Journal, what was generally claimed (in 1880) to be the first Sunday school was opened in the parish church of St Mary le Crypt (although according to some versions of these events, it was in the house of a Mrs Meredith). It now appears that the idea is actually older: Hannah Ball (1734–1792) was an English Wesleyan methodist and pioneer of the Sunday school as early as 1769. The celebrations provided the press with numerous stories in 1880, but by the late summer it is obvious that newspaper editors felt their readership was satiated with accounts of processions, musical events, and sermons. ‘If Raikes’ centenary zeal was a disease’, editorialised the Bacup Times, ‘England would quickly be wiped out’.

English Presbyterian Church of Wales

By Michael Gummow (Wrexham) of 1864 stucco frontage to street, brick elsewhere slate roof behind parapets. The building has a classical Ionic frontage comprising a portico with four columns. It is fronted by simple spear-headed cast iron railings on a stone plinth. The railings have three pairs of iron gates having lattice dogbars, double lockrail and foliar top-rail with spears; square panelled cast-iron posts; simple gate to sunk yard, right.

Behind the portico the wall has sillband with central recessed panel; a now blank architraved opening to each side with pilasters, frieze and cornice. A pair of doors of 5 fielded panels in each return wall of portico. A blank panel with architrave frieze and cornice on face of each wing. The gallery has 3 probably cast-iron lights, 2 with 1-pane hoppers, in portico and a 12-pane fixed light in face of each wing; architraves, friezes and alternating triangular and curved pediments to openings. Dentil pediment to portico. Sides of 6 bays, the first bay stucco, the others brick; 16-pane recessed sashes to basement, one altered. Simple plinth-cap at basement ceiling level; brick pilasters; stone imposts and keys; 18-pane lights with 4-pane stilted fans. The liturgical east end is apsidal.

The side and rear elevation are in brick with a curved end wall to the chancel, and multipane round headed timber windows.

An architect of the same name (Michael Gummow), also from Wrexham, had a brother Benjamin Gummow. However that earlier Michael died in 1804. In 1802 Robert Grosvenor succeeded to the title of Earl Grosvenor, and shortly afterwards commissioned Porden to rebuild Eaton Hall near Chester. Benjamin Gummow was appointed supervising architect for the project by Porden and at this time he moved to the Chester area. The project lasted between 1803 and 1814. Gummow and Porden did not get on too well and in 1807 Porden said to Earl Grosvenor that Gummow "speaks without thinking, and is the most inconsistent of men that I ever met". Gummow, apart from working at Eaton Hall also undertook the building of Littleton Hall, Christleton in Cheshire in 1806. By 1819 he started to be employed as the surveyor of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn of Wynnstay's estates at Ruabon near Wrexham. In 1821 Porden was forced to resign from the surveyorship of the Grosvenor Estates and Earl Grosvenor then appointed Gummow to add further Gothic wings to Eaton Hall. In doing this Gummow was working and modifying plans that had already been drawn up by Porden. The later Michael Gummow (died 1876) was his nephew. Slaters 1858-59 Wales Directory lists: Gummow James Reynolds (Architect), Gummow Michael (Surveyor) and another Gumnow Jas R (Joiner & builder) all from Wrexham.

East side

As noted above, the eastern side of the street, with the sole exception of the heavily gothic late Victorian Meyer House and the buildings south of the canal bridge presents a complete contrast comprising mid 20th century buildings which do not yet completely fill the street frontage.

The "Queen Hotel", opposite the railway station, has a statue of Victoria which seems much older, but actually dates from 1963, when the older statue was replaced. The Hotel is famous for its Halloween decorations - expect zombies and vampyres in the corridors - and (during the 1990's) it was noted, if not notorious, for its incredibly "full" English breakfasts, that could potentially keep a man alive for weeks.

Queen Hotel

The Queen Hotel, located directly across from Chester Station, was designed by Thomas Mainwaring Penson and opened on the 21st April 1860, costing £29,000.00. A novel feature of the hotel were two iron lattice-work towers which could be ascended to obtain a view of Chester. It's promotions state that it was:

The Queen Hotel fire was the first published work of Randolph Caldecott.
  • "built in the Italian style upon a beautiful piece of ground with sumptuous furnishings, a beautiful garden and offering the quietest and most spacious first class Hotel in Chester" (21st July, 1860).

The following year, in December 1861, the hotel was gutted by a major fire. Apparently, back in 59/60 the builders had put a wooden joist through one of the chimneys and over the course of the following years this slowly burned away until it could ignite the entire building. Randolph Caldecott's illustration of the Queen Hotel fire (his first published work) shows not only how major the fire was, but also shows the latticed "observation towers" that (unfortunately) were not rebuilt after the fire.

Nowadays, the Queen has all the fire precautions that one would expect of a major hotel, so the disaster of 1861 is very unlikely to be repeated. The "Victoria" statue of the queen was erected in 1963 to replace the old one. Messrs H. A. Clegg, stonemasons on the Chester Sealand Industrial Estate, were commissioned by the hotel to provide a new statue and this was produced by T. G. Murphy who had worked for twenty five years sculpting at Liverpool Cathedral. He studied postage stamps to gain an idea of the Queen's features. The statue cost £350. The roof of H. A. Clegg and sons had to be removed to get in the two ton of stone needed for the statue. It had to be removed again nine weeks later to get the statue out.

Originally three storeys with tower, it was rebuilt after the fire as a four storey building. The basement and the ground floor are in stucco with rusticated detail on the basement. The are spearheaded railings on sandstone kerb to the street. At ground floor level each bay is defined by ornate pilasters and in each panel there is a round arched window opening, with cillband on consol brackets with ornate architrave and keystone to the windows. The Corinthian columned entrance porch is accessed by a rusticated half arched bridge across the basement lightwell. The second and third floors are in brick with rendered detailing including rusticated quoins, cill, bands and eared architrave to segmental window heads, but former tower at the third floor level in stucco rendered. The windows with two over two sashes, tripartite windows above entrance porch and to quadrant at junction of Station and City Roads. Ornate wrought iron bracket for hanging sign to City Road.

North West House (now part of Queen Hotel)

The former North West House.

Former North West Securities HQ. elegant 1960s tower of 7 storeys – brick clad, with curtain wall glazing panels in part. Short elevation to street frontage with strong vertical emphasis provided by full height continuous window slots, set in projected concrete frame, tiled panels below each window.

The ground floor has large lion scuptures.

Meyer House and the adjoining buildings.

Number 42

Meyer House on corner with Queens Road. A mid Victorian office with workshops to rear. This is one of the few early buildings north of the canal. Of two storey constuction, with three bays to City Road, and a steeply pitched slate roof to provide attic accommodation. The roof is longitudinal with two projecting hipped and dormered bays with oriels below. The front is in Ruabon brick rising from a moulded stone plinth. The frontage is symmetrically arranged about a central entrance. At first floor, oriel windows are on either side of the entrance bay supported on prominent corbel brackets. The oriels are linked by balcony on similar brackets, above the entrance doorway. The elevation features prominent gothic columns flanking the recessed entrance to front door and by windows to ground floor. The four element windows are each divided by four columns on ground floor, and in the oriels four elements with flanking columns and one central column. Windows have timber casements. The attic has three dormers with glazed cheeks. Over the outer bays the dormer roof is hipped and projects forward of the hip to the main roof. The central bay has a "catslide" dormer.

The original occupants may well have been the firm of Hughes and Lancaster which had been in existence since the year 1865. They were known to have had a works in City Road, near to the railway station and on early maps Meyer House, and its workshops appears to be the only possible candidate. In the year 1892 the requirements of the firm had outgrown their Works at Chester, and a move was made to new Works at Acrefair, near Ruabon, North Wales.

Part of the east side of City Road in the early 1980's. The spire of the Methodist Central Hall (demolished 1982) is just visible on the right.

Number 40

A showroom dating from early 20th century. The building is two storeys of six bays under a longitudinal slate roof. Of simple composition, each bay is defined by brick piers, and the ground floor is fully glazed direct to the brickwork. The first floor is rendered with four oriels and two plain windows overall. This is the only retail business on City Road between the canal bridge and [Chester Station]

Number 38

The vacant lot behind the wall comprises a disused car-park. The shot-tower at the Leadworks can be seen in the distance.

A 1970's office block in brick. Formerly the offices of an insurance company, later an engineering company but as of 2017 empty due to relocation.

Vacant lot

Following the vacant lot is a 1930s or immediate post war two storey building of domestic appearance. It has elements of timber framing and a jettied upper storey with a hipped roof. As of 2017 the building was boarded-up.

Number 36

HBOS. North West Securities Building. Boarded up and vacant in 2017. This office with workshops behind was originally built for Bradleys Clothing Manufacturers. Bradleys began as a pawnbroking business in Brook Street founded in 1878 by Mr. William Bradley. In 1882, an outfitting business opened in Foregate Street and new premises were built on the corner of Seller Street in 1888, known as 'Bradley's Corner'. Branches were opened in other towns and wholesale warehouses and a clothing factory were established before World War I. In 1908, Joseph Banks acquired the business on the death of Anthony Bradley. In 1927, new headquarters opened in City Road which closed in 1971.

It is an inter war build in “department store” Georgian. The frontage to City Road is of brick within Portland stone detailing. It consists of three principle bays each divided into three sub bays, separated by brick pilasters, with Portland Stone to ground floor and rustic brick above with heavy Portland bands and cornice. Some unimpressive fossils are visible in the Portland stone.

It is adjoined by a single storey shack-like building, also boarded-up as of 2017.

The North West Securities building - originally built for Bradleys Clothing Manufacturers.

Vacant Lot

Site of demolished Victorian Central Methodist Hall beside canal bridge. The Methodist Central Hall was opened in City Road in 1873 and became a major centre of Wesleyan Methodism in Chester. Until 1959, it formed part of the St John Street Circuit; from 1959 to 1963, it was on the Grosvenor Park Circuit and from 1963, it was on the present Chester Methodist Circuit. In September 1982, the Central Hall was closed for public worship and was subsequently sold and demolished.

Beyond canal bridge

Numbers 32/30/28/26

Mid Victorian boot and shoe manufactory with retail to City Road frontage. 4 storeys and 10 bays to Canal Side 3 and 12 bays to City Road.

Simple but well detailed, mill like brick building with tall narrow windows between slender brick piers, stone cill bands and heads to windows, wide band below, 3rd floor, likely to have displayed advertisement/proprietors name, stone cornice with leaded parapet blocking course. Hipped slate roof, stacks. Windows to canal side elevation multipane iron of 3 x 5 panes with small swivel opening light in stepped reveal. To City Road 2 over 2 sashes, single reveal to 1st and stepped reveal to 2nd floors. City Road has 4 shop units each with surviving heavy cornice, and panelled pilasters with Corinthian capitals supporting twin consol brackets all in plaster work. Most shop fronts have some elements or original material surviving 30 retains original frame, symmetrical with central flush door and to either side single plate glass panes with radiused corners. 28 / 26, the restaurant has shop fronts surviving but partly concealed behind modern deep fascia, central panelled doors survive.

A relic of Mowle & Co., on the canal bridge on City Road.

The Old Harkers Arms was a Victorian factory before it was converted into a pub in the 1990's. It takes its name from the fact at one time it had been a canal-boat chandlers cum rope and twine factory run by a Mr Harker. It has had other uses: between 1864 and 1866 William Collinson started a large new factory here housing 'vast amounts of machinery' and employing 250 hands who turned out 2,000-3,000 pairs of boots a week. Collinson did not, however, stay in manufacturing. Around 1875 the factory was taken over by Alfred Bostock & Co., a Stafford shoe firm, but by 1892 Bostocks had left and the premises were occupied by Mr Harker the rope and twine manufacturer.

Harker's City Road window display of string and twine.

The adjacent City Road bridge (1863) has ironwork which was produced at the Egerton Iron and Brass Foundry, which was operated by James Mowle & Co. in 1871 and Mowle and Meacock by 1892. The foundry was located between Crewe Street and Albert Street, but had been demolished by 1910 when Egerton Street school was built on the site. Mowle and Co appear to have partly specialised in lead-manufacturing equipment (they were quite close to the Leadworks) as in 1880 they provided a horizontal single-cylinder steam engine driving a lead rolling mill at Sheldon, Bush and Patent Shot Co, Bristol.

20-24 City Road: Site of Royalty Theatre

The Royalty Theatre, which stood on Chester's City Road, was opened on Boxing Day in 1882 with the pantomime "Aladdin", closed in 1966, was demolished in 2001 and later replaced with a hotel. The Royalty was on the site of an earlier makeshift wooden structure known initially as the "Oxford Theatre" and later as "The Prince of Wales Theatre" which had been used for a variety of entertainments including the circus, "Monsieur Dace’s Waxworks" and "Madame Beatrice’s Frou Frou Company" (which suggests "Can-can" style dancing). This was taken down and the new theatre erected in its place. The Chester Chronicle was entranced by this new addition to the city:

  • “..it is a perfect bijou theatre (one of the prettiest in the provinces I should say) capable of housing 2,000 persons..the galleries curve round the interior in the most beautiful lines and their fronts are bowed forward in swans neck curves and are covered in rich tracery of buff and gold.”

Two statues graced the side walls above the boxes – representing music and drama - and the curtain was of crimson velvet. Entrance from City Road was by five double doors – the two centre ones opened into the dress circle and box vestibule which was a "lofty and spacious" room on the further side of which was a "handsome" balustrade staircase. This led up to an "elegant" reception area with a refreshment room and cloaks. The first production was the pantomime Aladdin which opened on Boxing Day 1882. It was written by the stage manager John Bannister who also played the part of Abanazer. Many music hall greats appeared on the large stage including Marie Lloyd, Sir Harry Lauder and Sandy Powell. The celebrated actor Sir Henry Irvine also performed there.

The modern Harker's is on Canalside in the basement of this large mill-like building next to the canal bridge.

The Beatles played there in May 1963 and performed seven songs: Some Other Guy, Thank You Girl, Do You Want To Know A Secret, Please Please Me, You Really Got A Hold On Me, I Saw Her Standing There and From Me To You.

The Theatre was the home of the Chester Operatic Society, whose first performance ("Yeomen of the Guard") took place there in May 1922. The early years of the Society were dominated by Gilbert and Sullivan productions and by Harold Mitchell, who was both Producer and principal male singer.

Former theatre manager, agent, director and performer Dennis Chritchley who died on January 15 2010, was the last manager of the city’s Royalty Theatre, a position he held from 1957 until the theatre’s closure in 1966. Ironically the last pantomime to show there was Aladdin. He directed plays at the Royalty and wrote and directed many pantomimes and summer shows for major venues all over the UK. With the closure of the Royalty, he ran a theatrical agency in premises above the Theatre Shop (just across the streeet), which was managed by his wife Joyce. In addition to presenting plays, musicals and variety throughout the year, he enjoyed writing and directing the annual pantomimes. In 1963 he gave Freddie Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers his first role in pantomime (Cinderella), and it was in his production of Babes in the Wood that local Chester lad Keith Harris (21 September 1947 – 28 April 2015) made his first stage appearance.

During the fifties and sixties, many variety stars such as Ken Dodd, Frankie Vaughan and Helen Shapiro (aged 14) appeared at the Royalty to be followed by ‘pop’ singers and groups including the Rolling Stones, Beatles (as noted above) and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

After closure as a theatre the Royalty became a cabaret club, a bingo hall, a wrestling arena, and a skateboard hall before ending its days as a nighclub of the "drink, dance and pull" variety in various incarnations (as "Blimpers" and "Alchemy").

The set of four shops by Lockwood - now converted to a frequently renamed pub. Next to it is the last building on the east sie of City Road, originally a bank, again by Lockwood.
Their workshops were in City Road possibly at Meyer House.

Numbers 4-10

Oeiginally four shops with living accommodation above of 1900, later converted to public house with one shop unit retained. A fine example of Chester’s timber framed vernacular revival by T M Lockwood (who died the same year), 3 storey, sandstone plinths and detailing in Ruabon brick, tiled roof. 4 prominent jettied gables, with small framed panels and alternating shaped panels with herringboning, gables have moulded bargeboards and drop finials. 1st floor close studded frame and below each gable are oriel windows, to outer two bays canted and to inner two bays bowed, all with 4 light mullion and transom windows with leaded lights. 1st floor is jetted above ground floor. Ground floor shop fronts with intermediate stone piers with timber consol brackets. Shop fronts of plate glass with single large pane, recessed entrance with canted single pane window.

The blank end wall once abutted the "Four-in-Hand" pub: now demolished.

Number 2

Former Liverpool Union Bank later Williams Deacon Bank of 1892 by T M Lockwood of yellow sandstone ashlar masonry with red clay tile roof, executed in late 16th century Baroque style, 3 storeys with attic. 3 bays to Boughton and 3 to City Road. Canted corner to City road junction with belvedere with copper copola on Doric columns. Pedimented gables to each street with balastraded parapets between cupulas and gables, hipped and shaped gables to end walls. Mullion and transome stone windows and timber cross casement windows all with leaded lights. Entrance door to City Road is pair of six panel doors with fanlight above with pediment above with armorial shield.

The Liverpool Union Bank was established on Brunswick Street, Liverppol, in May 1835. It was set up to serve the needs of local merchants and brokers associated with the Port of Liverpool. This trade formed the majority of the Bank’s business for its first 50 years. The Liverpool Union was cautious in outlook, and maintained a prudent reserve policy. This stood it in good stead. It survived the mid-19th century banking crises, which saw many regional banks fail. Such was its conservative nature that the Bank did not open its first branch until 1877. But by 1899, it had 14 branches, stretching from Chester to the Isle of Man.

When the Manchester & Salford Bank acquired William Deacon's in 1890 it changed its name to the cumbersome Williams Deacon & Manchester & Salford Bank only to shorten it to Williams Deacon's Bank in 1901. The major part of the bank's business remained in Lancashire and the decline in the cotton trade after World War I posed particular problems for the bank. The cotton industry's reconstruction scheme crystallised bad debts and threatened a reduction in the dividend. The Bank of England arranged for talks between the bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1929 and the following year Williams Deacon's was duly acquired by the Royal Bank

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