Eastgate Street, along with Northgate Street, Bridge Street and Watergate Street, is one of the four original streets built inside Roman Chester. All four streets meet at the High Cross, and each contains part of The Rows. Hemingway writes of it that it:
- "..is tolerably wide and forms a direct line from the Cross to the Eastgate being somewhat more than 200 yards in length. Some good buildings have lately been erected here but still it may be said that the venerable appearance of many others present to the eye as it were a model of every thing antique in the universe where in some places new built houses arc intermixed with the old ones the appearance is motley and grotesque. To see a modern mansion just finished standing between two gothic structures the youngest probably not less than two hundred years old, gives the beholder an idea if the allusion may be allowed of the picture of an exquisite of the present day placed between the portraitures of a brace of beaux of the last century or if the hyperbole be too strong of a splendid family mansion flanked by a couple of mud-wall cowhouses."
- 1 Buildings (Listed or Otherwise)
- 2 North Side (High Cross to St Werburghs Street)
- 3 North Side (St Werburghs Street to Eastgate
- 4 South Side (High Cross to Eastgate)
- 4.1 Number 4
- 4.2 Number 6
- 4.3 Number 8
- 4.4 Number 10
- 4.5 Number 12
- 4.6 Number 14
- 4.7 Number 16
- 4.8 Number 18
- 4.9 Number 20
- 4.10 Number 22
- 4.11 Number 24
- 4.12 Number 26
- 4.13 Number 28-30 (Crypt Building)
- 4.14 Number 32-34 (Brown's Original Store)
- 4.15 Number 36-38
- 4.16 Number 40-44
- 4.17 Number 50
- 4.18 Grosvenor Hotel
- 4.19 Number 60
Buildings (Listed or Otherwise)
Eastgate Street has changed a lot since Hemingway was writing, as quoted above. The early image by Francis Frith, as reproduced below, shows a street that some might not recognise immediately.
Those who paid "execution rent" in Eastgate street are identified by Hanshall as the occupants of:
- Mr Finchett's house east side of the Honey steps, the house occupied by Mr Alderman Bowers, Mr Jackson's house east side of Newgate street adjoining the Royal Hotel, Mrs Gardner's house adjoining the Old Talbot near the Eastgate.
Hanshall observes that there is one house less in Eastgate street than was mentioned in an earlier record and offers the solution that two houses might formerly have stood on the site of that occupied by Mrs Gardener.
North Side (High Cross to St Werburghs Street)
A gallery of buildings along this section of Eastgate street shows the changes over the years. Some of these images are further discussed on the page "Art of Louise Rayner".
Oakes placed an "ad" in Hughes (1856)
These images show no evidence of a Row between the High Cross and "The Boot" on the north side of Eastgate street. However, the row was still there, but had become the "Dark Row" due to building on the stall-board.
This is a largely 20thC building with some small amount of 18thC brickwork at the Row and Row+1 level. The Row walkway is on solid ground and is not over-sailed. This is a medieval arrangement described as early as 1270, when this was already the site of the "buttershops". The cellar is rock-cut and appears to date from the 18thC. In the early 1990s the Dark Row on the corner of Eastgate Street and Northgate Street was reconstructed by the Biggins Sargent Partnership, a development notable for its expansion of the Rows system.
Batenham showing "The Boot" around 1816
Excepting some early 19thC brickwork at the rear, this rendered brick building is entirely of the 1860's or later. The cellar is rock-cut and does not extend under the row walkway. As can be seen from the prints on this page, the building was preceded by a a rather tottering, jettied, half-timbered medieval building
A Vernacular Revival building of 1874 by T.M. Lockwood for Mr Specer as a shop and tailors premises. It has a timber framed facade with herringbone brickwork, pargeting and an oriel window. Ther is no earlier fabric visible although the Medieval "Dark Row" arrangement was preserved. Two undercrofts which were originally separate have been combined to form a single modern shop. These are the most westerly undercrofts on Eastgate Street. This and the adjoining section of the street are described by Hughes (1856) as follows:
- "You will perceive that there is a covered Row also on the other side of this street similar in character though not in adornment to the one we have just been noticing This is popularly known as the Pepper Alley Row, a quaint but gloomy looking region rendered still more so by the projecting block of buildings displayed in our engraving. Here are the well known drapery establishments of Messrs Oakes and Ambrose Williams, and that curious old zigzag erection occupied by Mr Hill, Chester's enterprising boot-maker : behind which premises Pepper Alley Bow "worms its darksome way" into Northgate Street. In this Row are the rooms of the Church of England Educational Institute and the Excise Office."
A Vernacular Revival iron-framed building of 1900 designed by T. M. Lockwood as a department store for Richard Jones, and extended to each side by Lockwood's sons in 1915 (to the left) and c.1930 (to the right). This contains the "Dark Row" to the rear which is over-sailed by a 19thC structure. Evidence suggests that the Row was over-sailed from the late medieval period. The changes made as part of the "Dark Row" project are evident by comparing the photographs from the 1960's with more modern ones.
The Boot Inn
The Boot is, at and above Row level, a more or less intact timber-framed building dated 1623, with a rebuilt facade from the 19thC. The over-row parlour (which provides a seating area) is clad almost completely in 17thC wainscot. The pub has occupied the building since at least 1750, although the Row level "shop" has also been a barbers so that the pub was accessed by walking down a corridor.
One curio behind the bar is a stone shot which was found in one of the oak beams during a 1986 restoration. This could be from the Civil War, or it may be a home-made poachers bullet.
Purported to have been Chester's most notorious brothel, during the 1700’s to the early 1900’s, and a gentleman’s gaming club from the early 1920’s, it is supposedly haunted with occasional unexplained female moans and laughter, supposedly being of supernatural origin.
- The Boot on Wikipedia;
Number 17a was the site of a Medieval building but this has been largely replaced with a late 18thC or early 19thC brick building, which is itself hidden behind a mid 20th Century Neo-Georgian facade. At the rear is a completely separate early 19thC. building connected to the front at Row level only. The party wall between the rear yard of this item and the yard of the Boot Inn is partly of medieval sandstone masonry, marking the boundary of the burgage plot.
Numbers 19-21 were formerly two separate properties, and were rebuilt as a single broad-fronted brick town house in the early 19thC. No earlier structure is visbile although the third and fourth storeys are said to retain a relatively unaltered late Georgian interior.
Number 25 is an early Vernacular revival building from 1861 by TA Richardson. For Dutton and Miller, grocers. Twelve stone steps lead from Street to Row level giving access to Godstall Lane. JAAHS (Nov 1861) says the following of this building:
- Mr. T. A. Richardson, architect, sent for exhibition his front elevation plan of the new business premises then in course of erection for Messrs. Dutton and Miller, grocers, of Eastgate Street. The style adopted was a modification of the Elizabethan or early Stuart period of timber architecture, the old-fashioned lath and plaster giving way in this instance to the modern and more enduring white brick and Minton tile. Including the attics, which are situate in the gable, it is a five storied building, and notwithstanding its great height has the appearance of ample strength. Looked at as a whole, this building is one of the boldest and most picturesque thus far erected in Chester since the modern revival of the Elizabethan style of architecture. These premises occupy the site of the ancient "Goddestalls Liane", on the line of which, the Roman altar "Genio Sancto Genturiao" was discovered a few months ago.
Godstall Lane derives its origins from the layout of Roman Chester where it formed the eastern boundary of the legionary commanders residence - the praetorium. The term Praetorian derived from the tent of the commanding general or "Praetor" of a Roman army in the field — the praetorium. These were an elite recruitment of Roman citizens and Latins - a private force of soldiers to act as guards of the tent or the person. They consisted of both infantry and cavalry. In time, this cohort came to be known as the "cohors praetoria". In Roman Chester, which generally followed the layout of a Roman camp, the "cohors praetoria" are located next to the praetorium.
According to its Blue Plaque Godstall Lane is one of only four medieval lanes to survive within the city walls (the others being Leen Lane, Feathers Lane and ???? ). The name meaning "God's Place" is reputed to be from a tradition that a hermit lived thereabouts in the 12th Century. The hermit (see Hermitage) was identified by Gerald of Wales (Chapter XI), writing about 1200, as the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, although it is extremely unlikely that this was in fact the case as Henry's death in Utrecht is well documented. Gerald (who often records "dubious local tales") writes as follows:
- "Chester boasts of being the burial-place of Henry, a Roman Emperor, who after having imprisioned his carnal and spiritual father, pope Paschal, gave himself up to penitence; and, becoming a voluntary exile in this country, ended his days in solitary retirement.. .. the truth of circumstances was declared (and not known before) by dying confession."
Pope Paschal II was consecrated pope in succession to Pope Urban II (1088–99) on 19 August 1099. His reign of almost twenty years was exceptionally long for a Pope of the Middle Ages. In the long struggle with the Holy Roman Emperors over investiture, he zealously carried on the policy in favor of papal privilege, but with only partial success: Emperor Henry V marched on Rome with an army and imprisoned this pope in order to get himself crowned in St. Peter's on 13 April 1111 (Henry was excommunicated as soon as he had left Rome).
There is another connection between Chester and Paschal II: during the Investiture Crisis, Bishop Robert de Limesey (who translated his see from St Johns at Chester to Coventry in 1102) was one of the bishops, along with Gerard, Archbishop of York and Herbert de Losinga bishop of Norwich, who returned from Rome (in 1102) and informed Henry I that Paschal II had confirmed Henry could personally invest bishops, provided they were good men. The pope later denied what had been said and excommunicated all three bishops.
The "Holy Roman Emperor" story, as given in "The County Palatine Of Chester" (T. Cadell And W. Davies, 1810, page 538) is:
- Camden in noticing this tradition speaks of Henry IV as the emperor of whom it was told but all the circumstances mentioned by Giraldus who only calls him Imperatorem Romanum Henricum apply to Henry V. There has been a tradition of very old standing that this emperor led a retired life under the borrowed name of Godescallus or Godstallus and a lane near the cathedral called Godstall lane is said to have obtained that appellation from him. In an ancient Chronicle called the Red Book of the abbey of Chester was the following passage which seems to give some countenance to these traditions: "Anno 1110: Rex Henricus dedit filiam suam Godescallo imperatori Alemannþa qui nunc Cestriaz jacet". Notwithstanding the authority of this passage and that the time when Giraldus Cambrensis found the tradition current at Chester was but about sixty years after the death of Henry V Emperor of Germany yet it seems evident from the authority of the best historians that it was wholly void of foundation since we are told that the Emperor Henry V died at Utrecht.
Hanshall informs us:
- Voltaire says that in the letter which Henry IV sent to his son he entreats him to allow the Bishop of Leige to grant him an asylum. Allow me says Henry to continue at Liege if not an Emperor at least a refugee. Let it not be said to my shame or rather to yours that I am forced to beg lodgings in Easter time. If you grant me what I ask I shall be greatly obliged to you if you refuse me I will go and rather live as a poor Cottager in a foreign land than wander thus from one disgrace to another in an empire which was once my own if This may be considered by some as an allusion to his voluntary exile the circumstance also of a lane called Godstall lane.
A footnote in Hanshall reads:
- This lane is described in a survey of the streets from "the dais of King Henrie the third" in these terms: On the south side of the said streete is a lane that goeth out of the said streete by the house side of William Tanner and so into the Church yarde of St Oswalde's called Lean Lane and beneath it upon the same side nearer the Eastgate is a called St Goddellstall and so gocth out of the said streete ioto the said Cburch yard: this Goddellstall lieth within the Abbey Church in Chester and he was an Bmperour and a virtuouse disposed man in bis liveing and lane lietli betweeno the house sometime of Robert Cbamberlaine and the bouse late in tho holding of William Humphrey. And upon tbe same side nearer the Eastgate there a lane called St Warburge's lane and goeth into the aforesaid Church yard &c It is probable therefore that Godstall lane was upon the site of the passage leading from East gate street to tbe Cathedral now called the London entry.
A possible reason for this story to be made up lies with Henry V's wife, none other than the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I on England and one of the protagonists in the Civil War during the time of Earl of Chester Ranulph De Gernon. After the death of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V (in 1125), Matilda married Geoffrey of Anjou and, on the 5th March 1133, gave birth to the future Henry II of England. Obviously, if Emperor Henry was still alive and a hermit in Chester when Henry II was born, then Henry II was illegitimate and some doubt would be cast on the rightfulness of the Angevin succession. In fact Hugh de Kevelioc, the next Earl of Chester, would have a reasonable claim via Henry I's eldest illegitimate son Robert of Gloucester.
Number 27 was rebuilt in the 18thC and extended to the rear in the mid 19thC. The third and fourth storey windows are probably in 18thC openings, but have mid 19thC "Jacobethan" embellishment.
Number 29 is an 18thC. building altered in the 19thC. Externally it is simple painted brickwork with stone quoins and internally, apart from a 19thC. staircase from Row to Row+1, no visible structure survives.
Number 31 was rebuilt in Vernacular Revival style by John Douglas in 1888, although he had submitted plans to do so in 1867 (and George Williams submitted plans in 1864). It replaced a building which was destroyed by fire. Rayner's illustration on the right shows the earlier building.
Number 33 (The Old Bank)
Number 33 "encloses" the Row which ends with a staircase forming part of the frontage of the bank. The bulk of the yellow sandstone structure comes from 1859-60 and was designed by George Williams. Dixon and Co was a private bank established in 1813 by Thomas Dixon, a local collier. The bank may have been a reformation of the Shrewsbury bank Rowton, Rordkin & Marshall (est. 1808), also known as Chester & Shrewsbury Bank, which had failed during the financial panic of 1810 (see Commercial News Room ). The bank's partners were Thomas Dixon, Thomas Dixon, William Dixon & William Wardell by 1846; Thomas and Ambrose Dixon and William Wardell from 1860; Thomas Dixon, Ambrose Dixon and Robert Nicholson from 1870; and Thomas Dixon, Ambrose Dixon, Robert Nicholson and Thomas Henry Dixon from 1876.
Parr's Bank Ltd (c.1788-1918), was established in Winwick Street, Warrington, in 1788 as Parr & Co by Joseph Parr, sugar refiner, Thomas Lyon, brewer and sugar refiner, and Walter Kerfoot, attorney; it was also known as Warrington Bank. A member of the Lyon family later wrote:
- "In 1782 the late Mr. William Turner, of the firm of Turner and Kerfoot, solicitors in the town, in conversation with the late Thomas Lyon, spoke of the want of a bank in Warrington, and said to him; "You have the money, so has Walter Kerfoot, my partner. Now Joseph Parr (who was a sugar boiler in the town) has a trade which is leaving him, and doing him no good. He has business habits, and may manage the bank"."
The bank was styled Parr, Lyon & Greenall from 1825 to 1851 and Parr, Lyon & Co from 1855 to 1865. Branches were opened in St Helens (1839) and Runcorn (1853). In 1865 the bank was reconstructed as a joint stock bank with limited liability, Parr’s Banking Co Ltd. The partners in the old business were paid £100,000 and the paid-up capital of the new bank was £100,000. Joseph Parr's son Thomas Parr was appointed chairman and the bank recruited John Dun, from Bank of Scotland, as its first general manager. Dixons & Co was acquired by Parr's Banking Co in 1878.
In 1918 Parr’s Bank Ltd amalgamated with London County & Westminster Bank Ltd of London, to form London County Westminster & Parr’s Bank Ltd.
St Werburgh's Street
St. Werburgh Street which leads from Eastgate Street to Chester Cathedral,was converted after 1845 from a "narrow and incommodious" street, "occupied principally by deformed masses of unseemly buildings", into a fitting approach to the cathedral. Its improvement began with the demolition of the old linen hall, by then dilapidated and used for warehousing and workshops. Between 1867 and 1874 the dean and chapter and their lessee completely redeveloped the property opposite the cathedral, while the entrance from Northgate Street was enlarged by demolition on the south side and setting back the frontage of the new King's school building of 1876 on the north side.
In the 1890s, the Chester City Council decided to widen St Werburgh Street, and arranged for the demolition of a row of old shops on its east side. The council intended to sell the vacant land in separate lots, but Chester architect John Douglas bought the entire length of the east side of the street and planned to create a series of buildings in a unified architectural design. Douglas originally intended to construct the buildings in stone with brick diapering in Gothic style. However, he was persuaded by the Duke of Westminster to include black-and-white half-timbering in his design.
- St Werburgh Street at English Heritage;
- St Werburgh Street on Wikipedia;
- Old Music Hall at English Heritage;
- St Nicholas Chapel (the old Music Hall) on Wikipedia;
- St Werberghs Row at English Heritage;
North Side (St Werburghs Street to Eastgate
There are no Rows in this section of Eastgate Street, and records show that there never was any Row Walkway. Instead, there was oversailing of a street level pavement. All of these pavements were built upon, mostly during the 1750's after a flush of petitions filed after 1740.
Number 37 was rebuilt 1892 by Charles A. Ewing for Messrs Dickson.
Number 39 has effusive pargeted decoration dating from the early 20thC. This was previously the site of the "Green Dragon" inn which had occupied this site for hundreds of years. Hemingway records the following events took place during the elections of 1826:
- One evening towards the close of tbe election while Lord Belgrave was addressing his friends from tbe front of the Royal Hotel, and thanking them for the high station he occupied on the poll, a fellow bellowed from an upper window of the Green Dragon on the opposite side of the street the following offensive terms:- "you haw brought your votes from the gaol." The honour of this polite address is divided between two young men in respectable stations, one a cheese-factor and the other a bookseller. Which of them or whether either of them will be ambitious enough to claim credit for his temerity, we know not: but this we do know, that if the same insult had been offered to the tenacious Independents, under similar circumstances, every window of the Green Dragon would have paid the forfeit of such an uncalled-for end truly insulting insinuation. For drunken vagabonds, whose senses are drowned by the intoxicating draught some excuses are allowable, but when men who affect something more than the common decencies of life, are guilty of such an act of indecorum to a candidate, at the very moment he is surrounded by his friends, deserve not that their general respectability or character should protect them from exposure or reprehension. The offensive expressions were caught by a considerable portion of the immense multitude before the Hotel: but although there was an evident expression of indignation excited their resentment was repressed by the offender retreating from the Green Dragon window. It is not easy to say whether the Grosvenor party deserve more praise for their good temper or the mischievous intruder censure for his impudence.
The Green Dragon later moved to Foregate Street and the building was taken over by Dixon the Seedsman, who already used the buildings to either side.
"Thornton's" Chocolate shop is said to be one of the most haunted locations within Chester, with ghost stories including:
- a jovial man wearing an apron who smiles politely at customers before disappearing in plain sight;
- a lady named Sarah: due to be wed and "stood-up" at the altar. She supposedly hung herself within the upstairs of the shop, and has since been blamed for pushing people on the stairs, and destroying chocolate displays (the Valentines Day display in 1991). She is even said to have pelted a burglar with chocolates, driving him to flee in fear and leave fingerprints everywhere.
Number 41 was at one time the home of "Woolworths".
Number 47 was originally a Gentlemens Club and bank. It was constructed 1883-4 and designed by Douglas and Fordham, it was enlarged in 1908. The bank was a Welsh bank (The North & South Wales Bank, established in 1836), hence the first storey frieze bears shields with (supposedly) the arms of twelve of the thirteen former shires of Wales (excluding Monmouthshire). The HSBC group archives contain the following information on the N&SWB:
- "The provisional committee, composed mainly of Liverpool merchants, manufacturers and business men, appointed a deputation to visit Welsh towns and London in order to obtain support of nobility and gentry and of Welsh Members of Parliament. In order, as described in the Minutes of the Meetings of the Provisional Committee, "to convey the impression of this Bank being as it ought to be national in its principles with the intention of national in its practice", the committee recommended that trustees should be selected from the Welsh nobility and gentry and that most of the shares should be reserved for Welsh investors. The Bank opened in April 1836 in temporary premises in Cook Street, Liverpool pending the erection of a new building in James Street. Arrangements had already been made to take out a note licence covering 22 towns in North and mid-Wales. Deputations were sent through Wales with "full powers to treat with any bank or bankers for the purchase of the business of their establishments and also for the appointment of any clerk or clerks they may think fit ... with a view to open banks". A meeting of the shareholders of the North and South Wales Bank was called to decide whether Liverpool branch should conduct business. This was agreed to because "Liverpool is treated as the commercial metropolis of North Wales". Six branches were soon opened in North Wales and a deputation was sent to South Wales.
The idea that Liverpool was "the capital of North Wales" was not confined to the N&SWB. At the beginning of the 19th century there were at least 90 Welsh chapels and mission halls on Merseyside, there were three clear ethnic Welsh communities in Toxteth Park, Vauxhall and Everton. Saunders Lewis, a founder of Plaid Cymru (who was born in Wallasey) once said:
- "The notion that I was born outside Wales is totally incorrect. I’m fairly certain there was a Welsh population of about 100,000 in Merseyside during my boyhood and I would say that at least half of those were monoglot Welsh speakers."
The N&SWB was financed by the Welsh builders who prospered in Liverpool during its rapid period of growth, and largely staffed by Welshmen, who were usually familiar with the bank's customers. Almost all of the clerks were either born in Liverpool or in the market towns of north Wales (Wrexham, Holyhead, Llanrwst) where the bank opened branches. It merged with the Midland bank in 1908 and in 1999 the Midland became the HSBC.
The "Welsh Arms" on the frontage of the Grosvenor Club
The "Manchester Hall was located hereabouts. Writing in 1828 Seacome describes it as follows:
- THE HALLS are large quadrangular buildings having squares in the centre with the exception of the Manchester Hall which consists merely of three double rows of shops erected against the walls of the adjoining tenements with narrow passages in front for public convenience. The Halls are opened during Chester July and October Fairs for the convenience of traders and manufacturers who resort thither with their goods from all parts of England and Ireland. The MANCHESTER HALL is situated in Eastgate street opposite the Royal Hotel. It consists of 44 shops and is employed for the sale of Manchester goods.
By the time Hughes writes the Manchester Hall had apparently become ruinous and the Corn Exchange was erected upon the site in 1859
This was a pub in the narrow, now gated, alleyway at the very end of Eastgate street between the last building and the gate itself. The pub closed in 1978, but the interior fillings of one of the rooms were removed wholesale and re-errected in the Grosvenor Museum where it forms thee Museum cafe. The room had a curious history - Some versions of the tale (see Cooke) state that in 1688, Charles II, by an order in Council removed nearly all the members of Chester Corporation, and the same year by Letters Patent, formed a new one, with Sir Thomas Stanley as Mayor. In the following October he issued a proclamation restoring to some Corporations (Chester among the number) their "ancient charters, liberties, rights, and franchises" (including, in the case of Chester, the Great Charter of Henry VII). William Streete was restored to the Mayoralty, Sir William Williams, Baronet, to the office of Recorder, and the other expelled members to their several positions. It is true that a William Streete was mayor of Chester 1666-7, 1683-4 and again 1688-9, but there is no record of Sir Thomas Stanley having actually served as mayor (there was a Charles Stanley, Earl of Derby as major in 1668-9, and a second Earl of Derby, William Stanley as mayor in 1702-3). Of course, the biggest problem with this theory is that Charles II died on the 6th February 1685.
At this same time the influence of the Grosvenor family was growing (see Charters and Grosvenors). In 1677 Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Baronet, at the age of 21, was granted the freedom of Chester and later the same year he became an alderman (in the same year he married Mary Davies, then aged 12). Two years later he was returned as a MP for Chester for the first time (in the so-called Habeas Corpus Parliament); in all he was to serve in six parliaments. In 1684 he became Mayor of Chester (following William Streete) and in 1685 raised a troop of horses to support James II in the Monmouth Rebellion. The Grosvenors of Eaton Hall, derived enormous wealth from landed property in Cheshire, and by developing the London residential suburbs of Belgravia, Mayfair and Pimlico. They returned at least one of the two Chester Members of Parliament continuously from 1715 to 1874, and frequently both. From 1734 the method of electing the mayor and the freemen's sheriff was adjusted, thenceforth entirely excluding the freemen; later mayors were normally chosen in order of seniority of their membership of the Assembly. As the Grosvenor's controlled the tenancies of numerous Chester properties they exerted great influence over the 24 incorporated trades (Guilds) and the self-electing corporation or assembly of 24 aldermen and 40 common councilmen. Several times the mayoralty was held by the Grosvenors or their aristocratic or gentry allies in the county, two serving successively in 1736-8, and three between 1759 and 1762. By then the next mayor but one was also being formally designated at the time of his predecessor's election.
The incestuous control of municipal affairs and offices was resented and had spawned an independence party, but only twice, in 1744 and 1784, did open division among the aldermen permit the freemen to vote. This largely unelected Assemby was also systematically robbing local charities, including those of Owen Jones and St John's Hospital. Some time around 1770 a group of tradesmen met in King's Arm's Kitchen to form a 'mock' City Assembly of their own. This satirical imitation of the Corporation was known as "The Honorable Incorporation of the King's Arm's Kitchen" and had an elected mayor, recorder, town clerk, sheriffs, aldermen and common councilmen. The location was said to be that of a place where Charles I is supposed to have hidden for a month after the defeat of his army at Rowtonon 24th September 1645. This is almost certainly untrue as Charles withdrew from Chester the next day with his remaining 2,400 horse, heading to Denbigh Castle before moving on to Newark-on-Trent. The Sporting Review of 1869 reports an even more unlikely tale:
- "The King's Arms Kitchen" as it was called, was errected in 1861, on the site of a tavern dating back to the days of the First Charles, who is traditionally said to have established the mimic Corporation still kept up in the house."
In 1784 when Richard, 1st Baron Grosvenor, was made an earl, the independents unsuccessfully put up John Crewe of Bolsworth against the sitting Members, Thomas Grosvenor, the earl’s brother, and Richard Wilbraham Bootle, a Lancashire landowner, both of them former participants in the abortive St. Albans Tavern venture who were now supporting William Pitt the Younger. For the next six years the independents, led by Ralph Eddowes (1751-1833), a merchant, fought a legal battle to try to establish their right under the city’s original charter, to participate in the election of members of the corporation. Eddowes was educated at Warrington Academy under Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), whose life-long friend he became. Ralph Eddowes then became a tobacconist at Chester, in partnership with his maternal uncle, Thomas Moulson. He was made freeman at Chester 4 Jan. 1780, and lived in a house on Pepper Street. Although the independents obtained a favourable decision in the Lords early in 1790 (Journal of the HOL, 31 Geo III), they were financially exhausted and in too much disarray to enforce the ruling, which the corporation simply ignored. Eddowes, on whom most of the cost had fallen, gave up the struggle in disgust and later went to live in America. His friend and fellow-liberal, Dr. Priestley, emigrated to America the same year. The "The Honorable Incorporation of the King's Arm's Kitchen" soon degenerated into a gambling and drinking club, but not before the room was fitted out in fine style as can still be seen at the Grosvenor Museum. It is said that the oak panels were previously pew doors from St Johns Church.
In 1823 Henry Hunt (1773-1835), making a private visit to Chester, was "hoaxed and subjected to vulgar abuse" by members of the Kings Arm's Kitchen. Hunt was one of the scheduled speakers at a rally in Manchester on 16 August 1819, which became the Peterloo Massacre. Arrested and convicted, the incident cost Hunt more than two years in prison. The last "mayor" of the club was elected in 1897. Despite the King's Arms Kitchen being supposedly one of the 'must see' sites of Chester, it is hardly mentioned by the past writers on the city. Hemingway mentions it briefly in 1831, when discussing the layout of the city as described by Webb (writing in 1778):
- "...One of the two lanes here described by Webb probably occupied the present site of the house now held by Mr Moulson tobacconist and the other a space adjoining the walls where the King's Arms Kitchen now stands."
- The King's Arms Kitchen on Virtual Stroll;
South Side (High Cross to Eastgate)
Number #4 was rebuilt in 1888 by T. M. Lockwood for the first Duke of Westminster in a very opulent and richly detailed Vernacular Revival style. It is contemporary with number 1 Bridge Street by the same architect.
Number #6 was probably built in the 1830's. The third storey has a pair of Edwardian square 4-light oriels with patterned lead glazing above transoms, separated by a basket arch, all of painted timber, with base-beams, friezes and cornices. At the time that Hughes was writing this was the shop of J. D. Farrer Chemist, and Hughes described it as follows:
- "The other house depicted upon the right of our view its front bearing the arms of the Apothecaries Company is the well known establishment of Mb J. D. Farrer Chemist. 'Farrer's Cestrian Bouquet' and 'Floral Extract' are perfumes too well known to the fair elite of Chester to need more than a passing notice here. Strangers and visitors however will thank us for the hint that these and other like gems of the toilet fragrant mementos of rare old Chester are prepared and sold only by Mr Farrer."
- "In the centre of our view looking affably down on its two gabled neighbour is a bold and substantial building of white freestone erected in 1837 on the site of an older and more picturesque house. This is the business retreat of our publisher and by the same token the oldest book establishment in the city. Here are procurable in almost endless variety, Guides to Chester and North Wales, local prints books of views, &c. to suit every imaginable taste and requirement. Perhaps no city in the empire has been so fully and faithfully illustrated as Chester, - Prout, Cuitt, Pickering, Sumners and others equally celebrated in the walks of art, have plied their pencils in its honour, while the genius of the engraver and the enterprise of the publisher have given permanence to their works."
Number #10 was built in 1861 by George Williams in the manner of James Harrison, following a Proto-Vernacular Revival Style. Hughes (writing in 1856) can only describe the earlier buildings, which were far more modest and had the typical Shop/Row/Row+1 (with optional attic) structure, rather than the five (or more) storey structures of the "Chester look" period:
- The ancient and the modern in domestic architecture here stand forth in curious juxtaposition. To the left rests a building of venerable mien the builder of which flourished probably in the sixteenth century when Harry the Eighth or Elizabeth swayed the sceptre of England and when wood and plaster was the chief ingredient in houses of this description.
Number #12 is (together with Number 10) the second of a pair of Proto-Vernacular Revival buildings by George Williams in 1861. This half of the pair was built for Messrs Beckett and Co. A 13th/14C. two-bay vaulted undercroft collapsed during the construction of the building by accident. A proposal to demolish the undercroft had come to the notice of the Archaeological Society early in 1861 and an urgent plea sent to Beckett and Co. asking that it be retained (JCAS 1863, 405). At a subsequent meeting of the society it was revealed that while Beckett had instructed Williams to save the undercroft, it had unavoidably collapsed and all was destroyed (JCAS 1863, 410). The event was criticised by John Hewitt in the JCAS, but does seem to have been a genuine accident as the JAAHS records:
- Mr. WYNNE FFOULKES early in the evening announced that, in conformity with a suggestion at the last meeting, the Council of the Society met, and agreed upon a form of memorial to Messrs. Beckett Brothers, of Eastgate Row, requesting them to re-consider their determination to remove the very curious and beautiful crypt under their new premises. Mr. Ffoulkes read to the meeting a very civil letter from the Messrs. Beckett, explaining that immediately on receipt of the Councils memorial they sent for their architect from Liverpool and charged him so to remodel his plans as, if possible, to save the crypt. The gentleman referred to made the necessary examinations, and expressed his opinion that by taking out the paneling he could reduce the keystones to such a level as would save the substructure : but on attempting to carry this plan into effect, arch after arch gave way, until it was pronounced unsafe to allow any portion to remain, and thus one other splendid relic of old Chester's ancient glory was swept away and destroyed. The Council desired at the same time fully to recognise the great willingness and anxiety evinced by Messrs. Beckett to carry out the wishes of the Society, and they could only lament that the attempt made in such excellent faith had proved such a consummate failure. The crypt, it will be remembered, consisted of a double row of arches, the junctions resting on massive but elegant columns. It is presumed that an arcade ran originally around the inner walls of the crypt, from the fact that on excavating immediately behind the structure, a number of round marble shafts, resembling Purbeck, were lately found lying heaped together in a square stone chamber, the four sides of which were built on an inclined plane in a most unusual manner. One of the shafts referred to had been polished under Mr Pullan 's superintendence, and was found to possess a very rich grain.
Number #14 is a late C19thC Vernacular Revival building of four storeys and an attic. The Row and second storeys, a bookshop in 2014, retain the form of an open-gallery hall with a 2-storey pediment-on-pilasters feature against the west wall (not visible in 2014). No earlier fabric survives.
Number #16 is a late 18thC. brick building with no evidence of earlier features visible on casual inspection.
Number #18 was once the "Crown and Glove" and still has the wooden carving of the same hanging outside. The premises were for many years occupied by a jewellers, established by William Pyke in Market Street, Birkenhead, in 1876, but that firm (who opened the Eastgate Street shop in 1978) went into administration on January 3rd, 2014 after 135 years of business. The "Crown and Glove" ceased being a public house in the 1920's. The "Crown and Glove" sign has been associated with the Gloverstone and the tradition of hanging a glove from the Pentice or St Peter's during Chester's Medieval fairs to indicate that the normal prohibitions about who could trade in the City were suspended.
Number #20 is actually two 17thC. buildings: one of which forms the back and the other the front of the building, although they were built independently. Some "wattle and daub" survives and a glazed panel in the Row shop entrance shows an angle brace and wattle and daub of the east party wall, in situ.
Number #22 is a modest three storey building with the initials "16:CB:10" on a jettied gable. It was altered in the 18thC. and further modified by T. M. Penson for the second Marquis of Westminster in the 1850's. Much of the structure behind the facade is however c.1610. The Row stall-board is completely occupied by a 19thC. cabin.
Number #24 is a Vernacular Revival building from the late 19thC, with a cabin occupying the Row stall-board.
Number #26 was rebuilt in 1858 by T. M. Penson for Butt's Jewelers in proto Vernacular Revival style. This building is reputed to be on or near the site of the "Honey Steps". These are described by Randle Holme III as follows:
- "..a broad pair of stone stairs with hand rails, on the south side of Eastgate street which belonged to the great stone building which in the front to the streetward is supported with five arches and strong pillars on the steps, at honey time, the country people bring their honey in ye combes in vessels of wood to be sold..." (BL Harl Ms 7568 fol 154)
The parlour above the Row has an oak wainscot on all walls with two rows of panels beneath the dado rail and above it three rows of vertical proportion with a row of broad panels beneath the oak cornice. The carved oak fireplace has architraves flanked by foliar motifs and a frieze with a fine pictorial panel of old Chester and the Dee in relief, between swags. The timber-framed front to this item is one of the earliest of the forerunners of the Vernacular Revival in Chester.
Number 28-30 (Crypt Building)
Number #28-30 was rebuilt as an extension to the adjoining department store of William and Charles Brown of the Browns of Chester family of drapers, in 1858, by T. M. Penson. The style of the building is "Gothic Revival", and it fronts two Medieval plots. The tower set off-center in the frontage contains a spiral stair and separates three arcaded bays to the east and a single wider bay to the west. There is a blank scroll at the front of tower and recessed panels inscribed W.B. (William Brown) on the east face of tower and C.B.(Charles Brown) on the west face. A scroll on the rear face is inscribed "AD 1858: CRYPT CHAMBERS".
The plot to the west has one of the most impressive surviving vaulted undercrofts in the Rows. It is around 13m by 4m having a four bay quadripartite vault structure of well-finished sandstone. The plot to the east may have been occupied by "Stephen Box - Gas Fitter, Brass Finisher and Bell Hanger".
Number 32-34 (Brown's Original Store)
Number #32-34 is a Greek Revival building from 1828 which was the first element of what was to become Browns Department Store (N.B. Wikipedia states the oldest part of the store dates from 1858). Following the Commercial News Rooms (1807-8, which also involved a Brown), this second neo-classical building was the first purpose built store in the City. William Brown was a successful druggist and was married to Susannah Towsey, an ambitious milliner, and they began to import the latest fashions from London. Susannah (who was christened at St Peters in 1758) ran a little drapery and haberdashery shop with her sister, Elizabeth, at the corner by the Cross. Her family had been connected with the hattery and hosiery business in Chester from the early 1700's. In the 1780's Susannah and Elizabeth would take the stage coach down to London twice a year to select the new season's fashions from the City wholesalers. On returning to Chester they would place an advert in the local mewspaper inviting the public to come and view it.
Susannah married John Brown, who had his druggist's shop a few yards down the street, in 1788. Children of John & Susannah included William Brown b.10th Apr 1789 and Henry Brown b. 25th Jul 1795. Pigot's Directory of Cheshire 1828-29 lists 'Brown Wm & Hy Milliners Eastgate Street Row Chester'. The plans for the new shop were laid before the Assembly in 1828 and it was built by 1831.
Browns directly employed 150 women in their own dressmaking workroom in the 1870s.
- Browns on Wikipedia;
- William Brown mayor of Chester 1841;
- Debenhams have Browns established in 1870;
Number #36-38are shops on the site of undercrofts and town houses. They were designed in 1857, by T. M. Penson, for William and Charles Brown, although they did not become part of the department store until 1912. The tenant of No.38 Eastgate Row was Bolland, wedding cake maker by appointment to Queen Victoria. This was Penson's first substantial work in the Vernacular Revival style. Hughes (1856) mentions it briefly, but is more concerned with the cakes than the architecture:
- "A few yards farther up the street our eye rests on the gabled facade and handsome shop front of Mr Bolland, Confectioner, Bride Cake Manufacturer to her Majesty the Queen. What ! you are about to get married are you? Well then "a word to the wise is sufficient for them",- give an order to Mr Bolland for a Chester Bride Cake, and tell him it must be of the quality once supplied to Queen Victoria, and you'll never forget this "sweet and luscious reminiscence" of your approaching wedding-day."
CR 38/73 (3 March 1855) of the Brown Family Deeds in the Chester and Cheshire Archives is a:
Lease for 28 years from Mary Ann Dennill Lee of Bedward Place, Chester, spinster, and Richard Bolland of Eastgate Row, Chester, confectioner, of: (a) A house, shop and bakehouse in the Row on the S. side of Eastgate Street in the tenure of the said Richard Bolland; (b) A shop in the said Row in front of (a) in the tenure of George Prescott, watchmaker, together with adjoining stall, and, (c) A shop in Eastgate Street being underneath (a) with cellar, late in the tenure of John Dennis, then of the said Richard Bolland. To hold for the annual rent of £94, the said Richard Bolland having permission to remove (b) and make alterations etc.
..which implies that there was a partial enclosure of the Row with a cabin built on the stall-board and a short "Dark Row" behind. Bolland's ("established 1846") now occupy a "cabin" on the opposite side of Eastgate Street at Row level (near "The Boot" in the "Dark Row").
There is a minor historical mystery here. The "established 1846" seems curious if they made Queen Victoria's wedding cake, as she was married on 10th February 1840. Also, Victoria's enormous wedding cake (“consisting of the most exquisite compounds of all the rich things with which the most expensive cakes can be composed, mingled and mixed together into delightful harmony by the most elaborate science of the confectioner”) was supposedly made by the Queen's "Confectioner in the Royal Establishment at Buckingham Palace" in London.
Bolland and Platt - a gallery of past images
Bolland from Hughes, engraved plate (1856)
- Bolland at Grace's Guide to British Industrial History.
Number #40-44 (Nos.40, 42 & 44 Street and Nos.42-48 (even) Row) are "second generation" Mock Tudor. The previous building on this site was one of the first Proto-Vernacular Revival buildings by Penson having been constructed in 1852. Hughes (1858) writes:
- "And now for our own brief sketch of the Streets and Rows. This house near by with the eccentric gable and grotesquely carved front is the notable establishment of Messrs Piatt and Son chemists. The shop itself which is one of the most chaste and elegant in the city deserves something more than a mere passing notice and is worthy the careful inspection of every true lover of the beautiful. 'This shop', says the Chester Courant, 'exhibits one of the most perfect and beautiful examples of the application of architectural and artistic skill and taste to the purposes of business that we have lately witnessed. It is the joint work of Mr Penson and Mr J Morris whose combined talents in the constructive and decorative departments have produced a most successful and elegant illustration of the manner in which the antique character of our domestic architecture can be preserved with every regard for modern requirements and comforts. The wood work has been well executed by Mr Hankey the floor is paved with fancy tiles from the celebrated manufactory of Messrs Minton in Staffordshire and all the details and fittings of the establishment have been carried out with characteristic taste and propriety. We should hope that the good sense effected in such utter disregard of the architecture of the Rows seeing how beautifully their original appearance might been preserved to maintain the unique characteristic of the city.'"
However what can be seen today, is the work of Philip and William Lockwood from the early years of the 20thC.: alterations to No.42 Row by PH Lockwood for Phillipson and Golden were approved 15/9/1909, and plans for rebuilding No.48 Row by W Lockwood for R Bolland, Sons and Co. 3/4/1912. Lockwood's second wife was Isabella Bolland, who he married at St Johns on 22nd September 1888. He had no children in his second marriage. Isabella's occupation is given as "confectioner" so she was probably of the same Bolland family who had the cake shop.
Number 50 was formerly an early 18thC building but was rebuilt 1963-65 with a facsimile facade, to Eastgate Street only, by Sir Percy Thomas and Son as part of the Grosvenor-Laing precinct. The Row walk descends to street level at the east of number 50's frontage.
Early photographs show this to be the shop of John Little, a "Family Grocer and Tea Dealer", who sells "Superior British wines, spices, pickles, fish sauces etc" - and - "Genuine Smoked Cumberland Hams". This is confirmed by an advert placed (like so many others) in the back of the Hughes guidebook. This would have been once the corner of Newgate Street (Fleshmonger's Lane) which used to run from Pepper Street to this point, but has now been swallowed up by the Grosvenor Shopping Arcade.
Formerly the "Royal" and before that the "Talbot" Broster (in 1781) writes:
- The Talbot in Eastgate Street adjoining to which are the New Assembly Rooms built by Subscription in 1777. The Dancing Assemblies are once a Fortnight and the Card Assemblies once a Week during the Winter. Gentlemen Subscribers pay one Guinea. Ladies Half a Guinea. Non Subscribers Gentlemen pay Four Shillings and Sixpence. Ladies Three Shillings and Sixpence except at the Races and Affixes Gentlemen pay Six Shillings Ladies Three Shillings and Sixpence.
The "Golden Talbot" was recorded as being "ancient" in its 1751 mention in one of the local weekly newspapers (Adam's Weekly Courant):
- That ancient and well-accustomed inn which is now fitted up in the neatest manner and held by Thomas Hickman (late agent to the Hon. Colonel Lee deceas'd) where all gentlemen, ladies and others who shall be pleased to make use of the said house may depend on the best accomodations and most civil usage.
Reputedly the building had been in operation during the reign of Elizabeth I. In 1784, the "Talbot" was demolished to make way for The Royal Hotel, built by the politician John Crewe of Crewe Hall. It became the headquarters of the Independent Party, who were the party opposed to the Grosvenor family (later to become the Dukes of Westminster). In 1815 it was purchased by Robert Grosvenor, who was at that time Earl Grosvenor (and who later became the 1st Marquess of Westminster). It became the city's "premier place to stay".
The Grosvenor Hotel was built 1863-6, being begun by T. M. Penson and completed (after the death of the elder Penson in 1864) by his brother Richard Kyrke Penson and Ritchie for the then second Marquis of Westminster. It was the elder Penson's last major work. It is in a bulky Vernacular Revival style and has no Row level walk-way, but instead a ground level colonnade. Hughes (in 1856) writes of the "Royal" as follows:
- "This arcade on our left is the Royal Hotel Row, and the massive pile of buildings of which it forms a part, and from which it derives its name, is the Royal Hotel. The "Royal" is preeminently the chief Hotel of the city; for besides being the most central and commodious, it is at the same time par excellence the first and most fashionable of all our Chester Hotels, and under its present efficient management is certainly not surpassed by any similar provincial establishment. Its capacious Assembly Room is, with perhaps one exception the finest room the city can boast, and is consequently in high repute for all literary and musical entertainments. The Royal Hotel enjoys the singular felicity of being in three distinct parishes thus; in a religious as well as a commercial point of view "it stands well"!"
The illustration of the Royal provided by Hughes shows which features of the frontage of the building were retained when the building was altered in 1863-6. It was then renamed the Grosvenor Hotel. The illustration also shows a slight view into Newgate Street (Fleshmonger's lane) which used to follow the line of the passageway forming the entrance to the Grosvenor shopping center.
Tucked away in the corner between the Eastgate and the steps up to the City Walls, the present Number #60 dates from around 1770 to the plan of either Joseph Turner (then of Hawarden) or Mr Heyden, then Surveyor to Grosvenor Estate. More on the puzzle of who designed it can be found in the section on Eastgate. The building extends over three storeys plus a cellar and a roof attic. The first storey has a 3-bay Tuscan colonnade to Eastgate Street abutting the Eastgate, and with a rectangular end-pier, covered frieze and a cornice. Previously, this was the site of "Huxley's Vaults", a long-vanished outlet of the Northgate Brewery. One interesting feature of the building is the insertion of a brass porthole high in the western side. Apparently, this is the legacy of a retired sea-captain, who had it inserted in the wall to remind him of his life at sea.
John Lowe on Eastgate Row
John Lowe, a goldsmith of Chester, gives the following description of the Eastgate Row, first published in The Chester Record November 24, December 1 & 22, 1860 (reprinted in the "Cheshire Sheaf", July 1884 with annotations, as shown in bold, by Hughes). Lowe's still have a shop in Chester and a later Lowe played a part in the loss of the Titanic:
To commence at the East;
- The respectable establishment of Messrs DAVIES & GRACE, grocers, etc., afterwards in succession Mr.W.SPRENT and W.HEATH; now carried on by Mr.BALL.
- Next the celebrated wedding cake & confectionery business of Mr.THOMAS, afterwards THOMAS & HIGGINSON, but now in the occupation of Mr.SPENCER, jeweller.
- Next Mr.RICHARD WILLIAMS, linen draper & silk mercer-now the business of Messrs PLATT & SON, chemists.
- Next Mr.ROBERT BOWERS, silversmith; now Messrs A & G McLELLAN, draper & silk mercer.
- Next Alderman POWELL's upholstery shop; afterwards Mrs.PATE's wonderful Toyshop, and now the elegant stationery establishment of Mr.HUGH ROBERTS.
- Next the antique toy shop of the Misses JONES; now the fashionable restaurant of Mr.R.BOLLAND.
- Next the unique glover's shop, without glass windows, conducted by Mr.FINCHETT, who would not permit man or boy to pass his shop whistling! - now the elegant and large establishment of Messrs BROWN, silk mercers. This firm previously held the shops higher up, afterwards held by Mrs JONES , shoemaker afterwards GEORGE LOWE, watchmaker; and Messrs WILCOCK & son, grocers.
- Next Mr.COLLINSON, boot and shoe manufacturer.
- Next Mr.GEORGE ALLENDER, hatter, afterwards Mr.GEORGE SUMNER bootmaker; now Mr.S.GARDENER many years afterwards BROWN & LAMONT, upholsterer and cabinet-maker whose splendid display of goods is not surpassed by any house in the trade.
- Next Mr.BEVIN, draper, without glass windows, now occupied by Mr.F.BUTT.
- Next was for a while Mr.PATE's toy shop;
- Next the extensive book & stationery establishment of EVANS & DUCKERS succeeded in 1859 by Messrs MINSHULL & HUGHES, the latter the Hon.Sec. to the City Volunteers.
- Next, memory fails the late Mr.J.WALKER, silversmith, afterwards ROBERT DUTTON, woolen draper, but now occupied by Mr.W.HARROP, miliner.
- Next Mr.LEADBEATER, bookseller, in after days, a farmer at Kinnerton. Mr.GIBBONS, confectioner, followed the old bookseller, and Mr.BILLINGTON succeeded him.
- Next Messrs STRETTEL & BEVIN, drapers, and afterwards STEPHENS, and now Mr.E.PARIS, The Bazaar.
- Next Mr.WRIGHT, silk mercer; now the enterprising concern of Messrs WHITLEY & ROBERTS, woollen drapers.
- Next Mr.SHAW, hatter; now the celebrated clothiers Messrs JOHN SMITH & son.
- Next Mr.ORME, woollen draper; now Messrs BECKETT BROTHERS' furnishing establishment.
- Next Miss GOLBORN, milliner, where a young lady was wooed & won and became a lady of title; this shop is now held by Mr.WARBURTON, shoemaker.
- Next Messrs PRATCHITT, hosiers; now Mr.ACTON, hosier.
- Next the picturesque premises of Mr.POOLE, bookseller; now the beautiful shop of Messrs CATHERALL & PRITCHARD, stationers.
- Next Messrs D. & W.ALDERSEY, cloth merchants, where each brother sat in the window, on each side of the door (of course not glass windows, but transparent as the air), and when a customer came in, they only had to turn on their seat, and were instantly behind the counter, without passing through the door; now the elegant pharmaceutical establishment of Mr.J.D.FARRER, the successful Rifle Volunteer.
- The last shop in the Row was that of Messrs T. & W.FRANCIS, where the glass of one window did not prevent one of the proprietors sitting therein for the arrival of customers. They were famed for good Lindsay petticoats, before the name crinoline was known; it (the shop) is now in the occupation of Mr.DEAN, clothier.