Feathers Lane

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Upper Bridge Street before 1863, prior to W. T. and P.H. Lockwood's St Michael Row. The projecting pediment at number 17 can be seen towards the left. The building on the extreme right is St. Micheal's rectory aparently without its "half-timbered" frontage.

The Feathers Hotel on Bridge Street was demolished in June 1863. "Feathers Lane", a narrow alleyway a litle further down Bridge Street at Number 49, survives today and originally led to the stables behind this ancient inn. The Blue Plaque reads:

  • "Feathers Lane. This lane led to the yard of the Feathers Hotel, Chester's principal coaching inn in the early 19th century. Twenty coaches left here every day. The Feathers, situated just to the north of the lane, was demolished in 1866."

In 1658, the will of Thomas Heath left the land to his wife:

  • "my wife Anne Heath to have my messuage situate in Bridge-street in Chester called The Plume of Feathers, now in the possession of Edward Burrowes, innholder".

The Feathers was apparently one of the better inns of Chester and was said to have existed for over 300 years. It was noteworthy for the Roman Remains in the cellars, which were those of the baths. The inn was one of the largest houses in the city with large gardens, an orchard and courtyard. It was described 1863 as:

  • "a comfortable, old-fashioned, rather tumble-down looking hotel”

The Feathers in its heyday had been of prime importance in the city with its open galleries, oak staircases, bar parlours and smoke rooms. Indeed, in 1682 the Duke of Monmouth attended a public supper there and the local gentry were frequent visitors. A number of the city companies held their meetings at the Feathers and in 1717 the Smiths Company celebrated the anniversary of George I accession with festivities that cost them almost 18s. In 1768 Thomas Grosvenor and Richard Wilbraham Bootle were elected MPs for the city. They were carried in triumph through the streets to the inn for dinner where “a sumptuous and elegant entertainment was provided at which a numerous company of gentlemen attended”. Indeed, so much election strategy was plotted at the Inn that the parlour was dubbed the “Little Assembly Room”.

At some later time the building also seems to have contained the masonic temple of Lodge 209, as described by George Oliver in his 1883 book "Revelations of a square" (N.B. this was published after the inn had been demolished).

Upper Bridge Street in 2020. Feather's Lane (right) is partly blocked by bins. St Michael's Rectory (center) has gained a half-timbered front.

Hemingway describes Feathers Lane thus:

  • "A narrow and inconvenient passage lies a few paces below called the Feathers lane at the top of which are the stabling and coach houses of the inn The continuity of the row is broken by this passage on each side of which there is necessarily a steep flight of steps to connect the upper with the lower part of the walk which is both dangerous and unseemly As this road belongs of right to the proprietor of the Feathers inn it is too mnch to expect that it will be relinquished for the public convenience but it is a subject of surprise if not of censure that the police commissioners have not long since entered into some arrangement with the owner to block it up particularly as the back part of the premises might be easily approached from Pepper street As the value of the property from this lane to Michael's church is materially deteriorated by this interruption of the row it is not less wonderful that the owners conjointly have not seen it to be their interest to effect such a compromise."

Hemingway also records an attempt to end the traditional bull-bait in Chester when, in 1776, Major Broadhurt made an effort:

  • "..to suppress this nuisance but his utmost exertions proved unavailing and the lovers of the sport returned his endeavours to deprive them of it by forcing the bull into the row below the Feathers steps where his worship resided and fastening the end of the rope with which the animal was held to his knocker, drove on the horned victim, which bore away with him in triumph the brazen utensil. It is said the worthy magistrate was so alarmed at the transaction that he made a hasty retreat down a passage into Pepper street from whence he precipitately fled into the country nor made a moment's pause until he had secured a safe retreat at the distance of several miles."

It is one of the four surviving medieval "lanes" in Chester, they being Godstall Lane, Feathers Lane, Pierpoint Lane and Leen Lane.

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