Dee Lane

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The area around Dee Lane from the Lavaux Map (1745). According to Hemingway, Mr Kenricks garden at the lower right was once the property of John Stockton and Elanor his wife who in 1698 and 1710 left a total of eleven shillings to the poor of St Johns parish payable off the annual rent of the garden.

Dee Lane goes down to the River Dee from Foregate Street. It first appears on the Smith Map, at which time it may have been known as "Peene's Lane" according to Hanshall. It forms the north-east boundary of Grosvenor Park.


At the Bars (the upper end of Dee Lane) was the site of pottery kilns on the fringe of the Roman vicus (dated before 132 AD), indicated by wasters and over and under-fired pottery of the late 1st to early 2nd century. After these buildings the road would have been lined by funeral monuments (mostly cremations).


The Barrs, at the eastern end of Foregate Street and at the head of Dee Lane, was once the location of a outer defensive fortification for the City. In the Middle Ages it was Chester's principal industrial area. Industries associated with transport were concentrated here, including cartwrights, wheelwrights, saddlers and blacksmiths. There were also a very large number of breweries. Duttons list of Chester streets at the time of Edward III lists:

  • "In FOREGATE STREET There is a lane the north side sometime called Cooles lane and called Cow lane and it stretcheth in Henwalde's lowe and near the barrs upon the south side there is a named Love lane and it putteth upon Barker's lane goeth eastward into the fields and without the there is a gate that goeth down to the water of Dee is named Paynes loode and upon the other side of said street more eastward is a lane called Chester and it putteth upon Henwalde's lowe."

Civil War

On the corner the Lavaux Map locates a house, which in some fashion survives today, as that of Robert Walley. The town house, had the mid 18th Century left bay and east side to Dee Lane either rebuilt or refurbished in 1907 by W. T. Lockwood.

Daniel Lysons (Magna Brittanica) writes:

  • "The township of Saughton or Saighton anciently called Saltone, Salghton or Salkton lies about five miles SE from Chester; the manor was given to the abbot and convent of St Werburgh by their founder Hugh Lupus. Since the dissolution it appears to have passed for the most part through the same hands as that of Huntington and it is now the property of John Brock Wood Esq. Saighton Hall a castellated mansion was the chief country residence of the abbots of Chester the large square tower now remaining was built by abbot Ripley about the year 1489. The hall and demesnes which had belonged for some generations to the Calveleys were sold by the sequestrators during the interregnum in the seventeenth century to Charles Walley of Chester, inn keeper and mayor whose great-grandson, Robert Walley Esq, dying without issue, they were purchased of his widow and executrix about the year 1755 by Foster Cunliffe Esq grandfather of the present proprietor Sir Foster Cunliffe Bart: the hall is inhabited by a farmer."
House on the corner of Dee Lane and Foregate Street, possibly including elements of the home of Charles Walley. It was captured during the Civil War (and with it the civic sword and mace) and became the parliamentarian commander Brereton's headquarters.

During the Civil War the limits to support for the royal cause were marked in the mayoral election of 1644. The first nominees of the aldermen J.P.s were Sir Francis Gamull (newly made a baronet) and Sir Thomas Smith, the city's M.P.s who by then were disabled from sitting. Eventually, however, Charles Walley was chosen with strong support from the freemen; a former mayor, he was a reluctant candidate who held no military or political post and was likely to put local interests first.

The final phase of the siege began on 20 September 1645 when parliamentarian troops under Colonel Michael Jones and Major James Lothian overran the eastern outworks and captured the eastern suburbs, including Boughton up to the Eastgate, a loss which the governor later blamed on the slackness of Mayor Walley and Gamull. The mayor's house on the corner of Dee Lane and Foregate Street was captured (and with it the civic sword and mace) and became the parliamentarian commander Brereton's headquarters.

Following their victory at Rowton (24th September 1645) the parliamentarians responded by occupying the northern suburbs, including Hoole, and by supplementing their battery at St Johns with newly acquired siege guns placed in Foregate Street and opposite the battery on the north wall, where the defenders' large cannon (at Morgan's Mount) was soon destroyed and a breach made; breastworks were built near the gates for musketeers, and the besiegers used the captured outworks for their own protection. The guns at St. John's were turned on the Dee Mills, the Bridgegate waterworks, and the south-east corner of the walls. On the Welsh side the royalists still held the fort at Handbridge, from where they assailed parliamentarian troops in the villages beyond. In response the parliamentarians built a battery for a large artillery piece on Brewer's Hall hill, and linked their positions on either side of the river with a bridge of boats from Dee Lane to the Earls Eye, protected by gun emplacements at the south end.

Disturbed ground across the River Dee from the foot of Dee Lane marks the location of a Civil War gun emplacement which protected a "bridge of boats".

After the surrender of the City (1646), the purge of royalists from the corporation was made official in October 1646. No fewer than 14 of the 24 aldermen were displaced, together with four sheriffpeers and three councilmen. Those dismissed became liable to sequestration and fines: Recorder Brerewood was fined £387, Thomas Thropp £177, Richard Broster £170; Sir Thomas Smith compounded at £3,350 and Sir Francis Gamull at £940. Governor Jones reported that Mayor Charles Walley had sent intelligence to the besiegers and helped to bring about the surrender; although Walley was fined £537 he soon made his peace with the victors and entered their service.

It is not known whether the property on the corner of Dee Lane also passed to the Cunliffes. Foster Cunliffe (Sir Foster's grandfather) built up a thriving business as a Liverpool merchant. He was a leading figure in the city of Liverpool and was mayor three times. By 1720 Foster had built up a trading business with the plantations in Virginia. The company owned four slave-trade ships and twelve cargo ships. Sir Foster's father, Robert Cunliffe, took on the role of director of the company, while Sir Foster's uncle, Sir Ellis became MP for Liverpool, though he actually spent his time in Sussex. Robert appointed Richard Morris as manager. Morris concentrated on importing low quality tobacco from Virginia and selling it to the French, as the French were prepared to smoke tobacco that no one in England would touch.

Deva Terrace, facing the River Dee at the foot of Dee Lane.

By 1750 the Cunliffe company had five trading posts in Virginia and 26 ships working the Triangular Trade. They traded Cheshire salt, pig iron, white servants and slaves from Africa. They even won the contract to ship Jacobites into exile after the failed rising of 1745. It was not all plain sailing. The French traders wanted the Cunliffe Company's business and skirmishes were common. In 1750 Morris was killed in an accident involving a cannon on deck. The Cunliffe Company's fortunes faltered after Morris's death. In 1759 the company ceased trading. By then the family were wealthy enough to live off their investments and to settled down to the life of the landed gentry. A relative, Foster Cunliffe-Offley was later MP for Chester (1820-1832), so there is a direct connection with Chester.

Listed Buildings

Deva Terrace: a terrace of 17 brick houses with slate roofs in late Georgian style, facing the River Dee. They are in three storeys, and most have a single-bay front with gables. They have doorcases with pilasters and entablatures. The windows are sashes. The garden walls and steps are included in the listing. Inside, awkwardly related to the facade, the rooms (apart from the end houses) have one window only, near the corner of each main room.

Sources and Links