Foregate Street

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Sometime "Forest Street" (probably a corruption of "a'Fore East Gate Street") is now Foregate Street and is the continuation of Eastgate Street outside of the Eastgate. The Rows have never extended into Foregate Street, and there have only ever been some covered "arcades" here. The reason for the lack of Rows may be that the Roman construction here was never as substantial as that within the City Walls, and so upon its collapse did not form the raised areas which provided the basis of the Rows.

Foregate Street contains a rich and interesting mix of traditional Victorian and Georgian architecture, interspersed with modern insertions and a number of early 20th Century "black and white" buildings. Arcades are a common feature, providing a richness of experience at street level and providing natural shelter from the elements. However, the loss of natural light can create a rather dark and uninviting environment, particularly where long sections of the street are under cover. Brick, stone and timber facing are the principal materials for walling. Gable fronts are common, although there is no overall consistency in the roofscape, with traditional pitched and flat roofs also in evidence. Shopfronts are variable in quality, with many good examples but also (especially at the western end) a number of over-sized and poorly designed shopfronts.

Contents

Foregate Street

Roman Foregate

Archaological finds in Roman Chester show how there was a substantial settlement along Foregate Street.
Roman Roads around Chester. Foregate Street is the first section of the road which heads east.

In the Roman Chester, the civil settlement outside of the walled fortress was on the eastern side of the City and the spine of this development was an early form of Foregate Street. The aqueduct which supplied Roman Chester with water followed the route of Foregate Street from the spring sources at Boughton. The Fortress probably used about half a million gallons (2.5 million liters) of water each 24 hours. As it was outside of the City Walls the proto-Foregate Street would have been home not to the active military but to the houses, shops, workshops, taverns and other building errected and occupied by civilians, including the unofficial families of serving soldiers and retired members of the legion. The buildings were long, narrow plots with a street frontage of around 10 meters and stretched back about 30 meters - the Roman equivalent of medieval burgage plots.. There would be a shop at the front, a workshop in the middle and the living accomodation would be furthest from the road. By the end of the first century, when Roman Chester was about a generation old, Foregate Street appears to have been lined with buildings out to about 300 meters from the Eastgate, a little beyond present-day Love Street.

At the Bars 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).

A red sandstone Roman altar was found in 1653 during excavation for the cellar of Richard Tyrer in Foregate Street. It stood in Tyrer's garden until he donated it to the University of Oxford in 1675. It is now in the Ashmolean Museum. Inscribed on one side of the altar was a dedication (now illegible) which read:

  • "I O M TANARO / L ELVFRIVS GALER / PRAESENS [Cl]VNIA / PRI LEG XX VV / COMMODO ET / LATERANO COS / V S L M"

The altar employs commonly used abbreviations which would have been recognisable to most readers in Roman times. The Latin transcription runs:

  • "Iovi Optimo Maximo Tanaro / Lucius Elufrius Galeria / Praesens Clunia / princeps legionis XX Valeriae Victricis / Commodo et / Laterano consulibus / votum solvit libens merito."

In modern English this would read:

  • "To Jupiter Best and Greatest Tanarus. Lucius Elufrius Praesens, of the voting tribe Galeria from Clunia, princeps of the 20th Legion Valeria Victrix, when Commodus and Lateranus were consuls, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
One of the many Roman finds in Foregate Street is this red sandstone Roman altar found in 1653.

The first line records the name of the god being honoured. Dedications to Jupiter Optimus Maximus are common throughout the Roman empire, but the last name is unique. It could come from the Latin ‘tonare’ meaning ‘to thunder’. It could also be a misspelling for Taranis, a Celtic thunder god syncretised with Jupiter. The next three lines record his name, origin (Clunia in Spain) and rank (the princeps being the second most senior centurion in the legion after the primus pilus). Then comes the date, recorded in the standard Roman way by the names of the consuls for that year, in this case AD 154. The last line is an abbreviation commonly found on dedicatory inscriptions and refers to the nature of Roman religion (commonly referred to as "do ut des" – "I give so that you may give"), whereby the supplicant gives or promises to give an offering in exchange for a favour. In this case, Lucius Elufrius Praesens promised to dedicate an altar to Jupiter. The remaining three sides of the altar are decorated, each with a different image: a six-petalled flower, a five-petalled flower within a wreath, and a jug.

The East Gate from Thomas Pennant's "Journry from Chester to London" (1782). To the left can be seen the earlier buildings replaced by Lockwood and Wyatt. Interestingly, number 2 appears to have had an arcade before Lockwood set to work.

Medieval Foregate

In medieval times Foregate Street existed, as it does today, as the principal road leading directly eastwards from the principal road leading out of Chester. Frodsham Street was originally the commencement of a Roman Road which ran from the fortress, along the line of modern Brook Street, through the suburb of Hoole and on to Frodsham and beyond. Much of this Roman route remains in use to this day although some sections are now little more than footpaths (such as Newton Hollows). The Barrs (at the eastern end of Foregate Street) 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.

Much of the land on either side of Foregate Street came to be owned by the "Guild or Fraternity of St. Anne", which had close links with the vicars of St Johns, was apparently founded in 1361 and refounded in 1393. The wardens or masters of the fraternity seem often to have been drawn from the clergy of St Johns: between 1396 and 1420, for example, they included Ranulph Scolehall, chaplain of the Orby chantry. A "chantry" was a form of trust fund established during the pre-Reformation mediaeval era in England for the purpose of employing one or more priests to sing a stipulated number of masses during a stipulated period of time immediately following his/her death, for the benefit of the soul of a specified deceased person, usually the donor, who had established the chantry by will or donation. It was believed such masses would speed the deceased's soul through its undesirable and indeterminate period in Purgatory. The fraternity's own chantry seems originally to have been within the collegiate church, but presumably after the refoundation a separate building was established in the precinct east of St Johns. These social-religious guilds abounded (alongside trade guilds) in the period between the fourteenth and the sixteenth century. Many were set up shortly before the Reformation. They received royal charters that enabled them to hold property and devote some of it to the upkeep of a chapel and chaplain. This was a corporate imitation of the foundation of the chantry, which was made by private and wealthy individuals.

Guilds like this fraternity were so much feared as wealthy agencies supporting ‘superstitious uses’ that in the last year of Henry VIII and the first year of Edward VI two Acts were passed which suppressed them all, and appropriated their property to the Crown. The Fraternity of St Anne was dissolved in 1547 and their building was purchased by Sir Hugh Cholmondeley and converted into his town house (destroyed in the Civil War). Their property included:

  • "Possessions of the Fraternity of Saint Anne in the City of Chester." (First Account.) "Rents and farms in the City " Saynt Anne's House with houses, gardens, ftc., demised 12 Feb. 1 Edw. iv. for the term of 100 years. Foregate Strete. Cowlane. Seynt Johns Lane. Estgate Strete. Castell Lane. Iremonger Rowe. Northgate Strete. Parsons Lane. Watergate Streete." The messuages and tenements here mentioned are entered as leased to divers persons for terms of years, at various dates from the reign of Edw. iv." - "Rentes and farms in divers towns called Felde Renttes " Newton. Hole near Chester. Annes Heye near Seynt Annes Crosse" ("Hole" is "Hoole")
Foregate Street layout in 1910. The area bounded by St John Street, Vicars Lane, Union Street and Dee Lane contained so many buildings by John Douglas that it became known as "Douglasville".

A focus of activity in this area in the Middle Ages was the Jousting Croft. Located to the north of Foregate Street, presumably centred on the Kaleyards site - formerly the Roman parade ground, this space has a long continuous history of being undeveloped. It was here that jousts, tournaments and archery practice took place. All around the perimeter were erected the stalls, booths and amusements of the fairs and markets. Military exercises ceased to be performed around the close of the 16th century. The canal now flows through the old Jousting Croft and part of Queen Street covers the south of it today.

Both the Braun and Hogenberg map (1581) and the Smith Map (1588) show that Foregate Street was fully developed as far as the Barrs by the end of the 16th Century. 18th During the Century when the City Walls were converted into walkways, the medieval gateways were replaced by wider arched gateways that allowed traffic to enter the City more easily. Eastgate was the first gateway to be replaced in 1768.

Later Foregate

In Georgian and Victorian times, the area around Grosvenor Park was a popular location for the wealthy gentry to build homes (as was Lower Bridge Street) and it included the homes of several notable families. Forest House, on the corner of Love Street and Forest Street, remains as the last vestige of this area. The area bounded by St John Street, Vicars Lane, Union Street and Dee Lane contained so many buildings by John Douglas that it became known as "Douglasville".

The historical maps reveal the evolution of the existing street pattern over time. The most significant change has been the construction of the inner ring road and Grosvenor Street roundabout, severing the direct link between Seller Street and Foregate Street and reducing east-west connectivity between York Street and Bold Square. Queen Street extended through to the canal until it was recently severed by the Tesco development. Forest Street appears only after 1938, the grounds of the former school having previously included land to the north, preventing connection between Love Street and Bath Street. The link between Queen Street and Frodsham Street is shown to have only ever existed as a footpath (Union Walk).

While The Rows do not extend into Foregate Street, many sections of the footway are oversailed by a jettied upper storey to form an arcade supported on pillars at the roadway edge. Some of these arcades are original Medieval structures (possibly much altered) and some are modern.

The south side of Foregate Street in 2015. Eastgate is on the extreme right. What was once the entrance to the Blossoms Hotel is in the center and both the baroque entrance and the "half-timber" sections to either side are by the Lockwood's.

South Side

Where a building is "listed" the street address is linked to the record, either at English Heritage or one of the mirror sites.

Number 2-4 "Old Bank Buildings"

Lockwood's 1895 "Old Bank Buildings". The "Chester Old Bank" was eventually forced to combine with Lloyds after an audit discovered "imprudent and suspect banking practices".

Part of a block of shops and offices from 1895 by T. M. Lockwood. The building is timber framed on the three storey elevation to the front and that facing the City Walls. The ground floor is arcaded, with a timber bracket to the Eastgate and has vase-topped, carved wooden pillars which probably conceal iron supports. The shallow first-floor jetty has a running vine carved onto the fascia. The first floor is close-studded with three six-light mullioned and transomed windows, the central four lights of each forming a bowed or canted oriel on carved brackets, two of which are in the form of dragons. The close-studded second floor has a bold jetty on six "dragon"-brackets and two mullioned and transomed oriels, left and centre, with broad central lights, each of which is round-topped, a feature which Lockwood uses often. The right bay has composite casement in form of a cross-window to each side of a "Palladian"-style window. All glazing is leaded. The two left bays have close-studded front gables and are inscribed with the date of contruction. The corner turret is timber-framed with a copper cupola roof (a common feature of Lockwood's designs) with tall finial. The interior has a broad open-well stair with ornate cast-iron balustrades to first floor.

Lewis Wyatt's 1803 building for Williams, Hughes, Williams and Granville's Bank. Wyatt later went on to complete Tatton Hall, generally considered his best work.

The "Chester Old Bank" occupied this building. This private bank was established in Chester by Owen Williams in 1792. Initially it was closely connected with Anglesey’s copper mining industry (Parys Mountain dominated the world's copper market during the 1780s, when the mine was the largest in Europe), and the bank survived the collapse of that industry around 1805 to become Chester's premier bank for much of the 19th century. Owen Williams was of the same family as (but not to be confused with the son of) Thomas Williams, who had transformed himself in less than 20 years from a prosperous Anglesey solicitor into what Matthew Boulton described as "the despotic sovereign of the copper trade". The turning point in his career was his retention in 1769 by the two local families of Lewis and Hughes, to fight a legal action against Sir Nicholas Bayly, father of the 1st Earl of Uxbridge, over possession of the recently re-discovered Parys Mountain copper mine at Amlwch. When the litigation ended in 1778, Williams emerged as the active partner in the Parys Mine Company. Thomas Williams had built copper works at Flint and Penclawdd where he made copper and brass products. Many of these materials were for use in the African slave trade. These copper trinkets etc. were largely exported to Africa for use as payment for slaves, who were then transported to the West Indies and sold. The proceeds were then used to purchase commodities (such as sugar) for import into Britain. Williams claimed to have invested £70,000 in this trade and petitioned parliament in 1788 when a bill was being discussed to prevent British ships from carrying slaves. Williams is said also to have introduced the use of copper bolts to fix the copper sheeting to naval vessels and it would appear that he sold them to all sides in the naval conflicts.

Lockwood's "National Provincial Bank of England" on the corner of John Street.

Williams and Co took over the Caernarfon bank, Roberts & Company (est. 1792) in 1796. The firm expanded by opening offices throughout north Wales, eventually becoming one of the largest banks in the area. Branches were opened in Caernarfon (1796), Bangor (1823), Llanfairfechan (1884), Port Dinorwic (1886), Llangefni (1889), Wrexham (1889), Connah's Quay (1889), Hawarden (1890), Penmaenmawr (1891) and Amlwch (1881). The business, which was Chester's last independent bank, was acquired by Lloyds Bank in 1897 and ceased trading as an independent entity around 1915. The take-over was "forced" as an auditors report in 1894 criticised the bank's owmers severely for imprudent and suspect banking practices.

Previous building on the site were demolished during the Civil War, but the site was later occupied by the "Maidenhead" Inn and later the "Elephant and Castle". The latter was demolished in 1792 to make way for the original Owen Wiliams bank building.

sources and links

Number 8 "Lloyds Bank"

The door of the Lockwood's corner building as it originally was - compare with the photograph opposite.

Said to be by Lewis Wyatt and built in 1803, extended to south 1897 by Thomas Meakin Lockwood. Yellow ashlar sandstone to front, stone-dressed orange-brown brick to St John Street, left: grey slate roof with lead to hips. The almost symmetrical Greek-revival style stone front has Tuscan columns, and is set on a plinth such that the door is reached by a short flight of steps with simple iron railings. The bank stands on the site of Richard Tyrer where the red sandstone Roman altar mentioned above was found in 1653. Tyrer was the son of the John Tyrer whose father had established the waterworks at the Bridgegate in 1600, and who himself was granted land at Boughton in 1621 to improve the supply to the cistern, and built a second water tower outside the Bars. Even earlier, in 1297, it had been the site of the house of "John the Goldsmith".

Lewis William Wyatt (1777—1853) was a British architect, a nephew of both Samuel and James Wyatt of the Wyatt family of architects, who articled with each of his uncles and began practice on his own about 1805, so this is a very early example of his work. He published A Collection of Architectural Designs, rural and ornamental, executed…upon the Estates of the Right Hon. Lord Penrhyn in Caernarvonshire and Cheshire (1800–1), but he is best known as a designer of country-houses. He completed Tatton Park, Ches. (1807–18), begun by Samuel Wyatt, and built Willey Hall, Salop. (1813–15 — probably his best work), both in a Neo-Classical style. He used the Tudor style at Cranage Hall, Cheshire (1828–9), and Jacobean at Eaton Hall, Congleton, Ches. (1829–31—demolished). Wyatt's work is said to have influenced that of Penson and Thomas Harrison

Lockwood's 1897 rear wing is a single storey building with stone-dressed openings: a round window, a 3-panel oak door with overlight and 3 unequal 9-pane sashes. This had been a garden before Lockwoods construction, but before that had apparently been the site of almshouses.

Lockwood's original entrance to the Blossoms Hotel onto Foregate Street.

Hemingway writes:

  • "..Nearly opposite on the other side of the street is a pretty stone building where the respectable banking concern of Messrs Williams, Hughes, Williams and Granville is carried on: this establishment was commenced in 1793 and the present building erected about 1803. Immediately adjoining the bank is John street a clean neat and commodious street in which there are many genteel residences and amongst others those of the Hon Edwd Massy Mrs Sloughter Mr James Dixon and Mrs Freeman."

St John Street

The "Old" Blossoms Hotel from Hughes (who has only good things to say about it).

Number 10-18

The west part of this building (the old entrance to the "New" Blossoms Hotel) dates from 1896 by Thomas Meakin Lockwood. The east part dates from 1911 by Lockwood's son, W. T. Lockwood for the National Provincial Bank of England. The west part of the front to Foregate Street and the face to St John's Street have 3 storeys plus attics, the east part has 2 storeys and attic. The whole of the ground storey and the entrance bay to Foregate Street are of stone in the Classical manner of a 17th Century country builder while all other parts of the upper storeys are timber-framed in late 16th to early 17th Century style with close studding, shaped panel-tops and some shaped panels and herringbone braces. The eastern part of the building has less detail, without the shaped panel tops.

The ground floor has a canted doorway at the corner with St John's Street which originally had panelled double doors, but now has an elaborate wood case. The concave ceramic overpanel to the corner door is inscribed "NATIONAL PROVINCIAL BANK OF ENGLAND" in raised capitals. The stone entrance bay on Foregate Street itself (originally that of the "Blossoms Hotel") has a putto cartouche with cherubs beneath a 4-light mullioned and transomed leaded casement with moulded sill and a curved broken pediment beneath a moulded semicircular gable, dated 1911 in a carved wreath.

Prior to the banking Act of 1826, English banks were permitted to have no more than six partners – hence the expression "private banks". The banking Act of 1826 permitted the establishment of joint stock banks but bank-note issue was only allowed outside a radius of 65 miles of London. The National Provincial Bank of England was launched in 1833. For more than thirty years the Bank operated as a country bank, with its headquarters in London, but not transacting banking business in the capital. National Provincial was specifically structured to be a branch banking enterprise prepared to concentrate on a large number of smaller accounts rather than a small number of large accounts. The merger of National Provincial and Westminster Bank in 1968 to form a new company, the National Westminster Bank, which became part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group in 2000.

The main hotels, notably the Blossoms and the Talbot, were centres of social and political life in late Georgian Chester. Initially occuplying the conrner plot and the frontage to Foregate Street the Blossoms claims to have occupied the site from 1650, when presumably it was built on the site of a building destroyed during the Civil War. Professor Raphael Dorman O'Leary stayed at the Blossoms in 1910. This was apparently standard practice and "all Americans .. began their English tour" there, after arrival at Liverpool". O'Leary complains about the Blossoms in much the same way he complains about most other hotels he stays in:

The "New" Blossoms Hotel from the early 20th C. The row of shops to the left includes a garage.
  • "Paid bill at Blossoms, one pound and six shillings, two nights lodging and one plain breakfast. The re-let our rooms while we were gone, and piled baggage out in hall. Memo: tell our friends to avoid Blossoms Hotel when in Chester" (£1/6s in 1910 money is about £85 in 2015 money)

Number 20-30

The Edwardian style shop front is of some interest, but its all somewhat modern down to "Ye Olde ROYAL OAK" which can just be seen on the extreme left.

This is a three storey Edwardian style property, with stone lintels and pediments, parapet and sash widows with stone surrounds, designed in 1932 by Norman Jones and Leonard Rigby two Manchester based architects. The building has some elements of Modernism and Art Deco. Norman Jones and Leonard Rigby designed several stores for Marks and Spencer - as Norman Jones Sons and Rigby, they designed the Marks and Spencer store in Exeter in association with Marks and Spencer Architects department. They also desigmed the Aberysthwyth, Ceredigion, Wales, and Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire stores. This Marks & Spencer building is clad in Caen limestone, a plain creamy-white stone with only a very few fossil shell remnants evident.

The Chester store was extended to the west in a fairly sympathetic manner - and uses green migmatitic gneiss in decorative panels. The "odd" feature of this building include the art deco "torches" mounted on the second storey. The art deco parapet on the M&S building is interesting as from angles down the street it can be seen to be quite high compared with the roof. An advert for the:

  • "completion of extension to store at 22-26 Foregate St, Chester, opening Thursday, July 1st, 1937. Nothing over 5/-. Ask at the desk for particulars of our weekly clubs"

appeared in the Chester Chronicle on 26th June 1937. Michael Marks' "Penny Bazaar" has come a long way since 1884!

"Nothing over 5/-" - the then new Marks & Spencer in 1937. Image courtesy of the M&S archive in Leeds.

M&S were kind enough to provide the following information on the Chester branch:

No-one thinks of M&S as a precursor of "Poundland": but then again not many people know that Karl Marx is buried opposite Herbert Spencer.
  • Marks & Spencer first came to Chester in 1909 when a Penny Bazaar was opened at 103 Foregate Street. With the main frontage measuring 13 feet, 6 inches and a total store area covering 500 square feet, it was a good example of one of the “Marks & Spencer Ltd Penny Bazaars” of the early twentieth century. These were not the major retail stores of today, but sold a range of items such as sewing equipment, biscuits, and sheet music. M&S Penny Bazaars retained the policy used by Michael Marks in his original market stall in Leeds of selling almost everything for one penny, apart from a few luxury items. The open displays of items on tables and the “Admission Free” sign outside encouraged people to browse, a marked contrast with most shops at the time, in which customers had to ask the shopkeeper for goods stored behind the counter. In the late 1920s M&S first began selling food and clothing. Whereas many other retailers in the 1920s and early 1930s were struggling, M&S had built up such a large customer base, who loved its own-brand products, that the Company was able to undertake an ambitious programme of expansion. Larger premises were required in Chester and, for this reason, a new Marks & Spencer “superstore” was opened on 12th August 1932 following the closure of the Penny Bazaar. The new address was 22,24 & 26 Foregate Street and it comprised 10,350 square feet. On 1st July 1937, the store was extended. A further extension was opened on 23rd November 1953. The extension to the rear of the store increased the sales area to 10,600 square feet. On 21st November 1957 the rear was extended further giving the store a total area of 15,500 square feet. The main frontage measured 62 feet. In November 1962, stage I of an extensive building programme began with an extension to the rear of the store. This increased the store's selling space to 17,500 square feet. The front right of the store was extended not long after the rear extension, and opened on 6th December 1962 as part of the stage II building programme. The main frontage covered 86 feet while the total selling area increased to 18,200 square feet. On 13th March 1969, the rear was extended again to create 22,000 square feet of selling space. A first floor sales area opened on 26th September 1978. The total store area now measured 36,200 square feet (the ground floor and first floor comprised 22,000 and 14,200 square feet respectively). This new first floor was extended on 25th March 1985 to 17,500 square feet and the total area was now 39,500 square feet.
The last part of the Union Hall just prior to demolition in October 1992.

The "Union Hall" stood hereabouts on the south side of Foregate Street. It was erected in 1809, opened in July of that year, and contained sixty single and ten double shops, exclusive of an immense warehouse in the upper floor. It was built by local builder and iron-founder Thomas Lunt, who raised a subscription to fund it and was chiefly used for the sale of Manchester and Yorkshire cloths. It was quadrangular in shape, with three stories of lock up shops or store rooms. Having the appearance of an old inn yard, it was, if anything, more patronized than the other Commercial Halls, and continued to be closely associated with the horse fairs, held at its front entrance (see the painting by Louise Rayner below) In olden times it was customary to sound a bugle on the Northgate at the opening of the October fair, it was later moved to the Cattle Market in George Street, in 1884. Merchants paid further subscriptions to sell their wares, but were not allowed to sell eleswhere or at times other than the annual fairs. Similar arrangements existed for those who sold goods at the Commercial Hall on the north side of Foregate Street and at the Linen Hall - it was very much the last of the monopolies which the Chester guilds tried to preserve under their ancient Charters.

sources and links

One of a row of decorative keystone "masks".

Number 32-42

There is comparatively little interesting historical architecture on the south side of Foregate Street in this section. However the more modern buildings, which include a late 19th century (possibly early 20th century from photographic evidence) terraced row, over three storeys, have a decorative brick front and brick mask keystones ("mascarons") on the middle floor. In architecture, a mascaron ornament is a face, usually human, sometimes frightening or chimeric whose function was originally to frighten away evil spirits so that they would not enter the building.

Number 44

Originally built as a town house over two storeys, it was completely rebuilt in a somewhat similar but more elaborate style by F. Davies in 1920. It has been a public house, "Ye Olde Royal Oak Hotel" (amonst others), and also been used as a shop. It is presently shop premises. The building is timber-framed with plaster panels, and has a slate roof. It is in three storeys, and has a front of three bays, with a gable over the lateral two bays.

In the ground floor is a modern shop front, although it retains the pargeted sign "Ye Olde Royal Oak Hotel". The top floor and the gable are jettied, with dates on the gables: "1601 AD: REBUILT 1920 AD". There are oriel windows in the left and middle bays, and casement windows in the right bay. The right bay was previously over an archway which gave access to the rear of the premises. Given the date of "1601" it is almost certain that this building was destroyed in the Civil War when the inhabitants of Chester removed any building outside the walls which could offer shelter to the enemy. The "Royal Oak" occupies the site which was previously occupied by "The Crow", known to have existed in 1580. Prior to the reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries, the land belonged to the Fraternety of St Anne's.

The south side of Foregate Street in 2015. Eastgate (covered for renovations) is center right with various Lockwood "Chester Look" buildings just to the left of it. Ye Olde ROYAL OAK is on the extreme left (the pargeted sign "Ye Olde Royal Oak Hotel" being visible). The more "modern" buildings are generally unobtrusive and the long brick fronted terrace has some interesting features including the decorative use of brick and the mask keystones.

Number 46-52

A stone-dressed brick terrace with regular sash windows (slighly smaller on the two wings) over modern shopfronts. According to documentary evidence this was the approximate site of a Civil War battery built in Foregate Street in 1645 by the Parliamentarians during their siege of Chester. Of the 10th December 1645 Randle Holmes gives the following desciption of a bombardment of the area around the Eastgate from a battery in Foregate street:

  • "..eleven huge grenados like so many tumbling demi-phaetons threaten the city, if not the world, on fire. This was a terrible night indeed, our houses like so many split vessels crash their supporters and burt themselvs in sunder through the very violence of these descending fire-brands. The Talbott, an house adjoining to the Eastgate, flames outright; our hands are busy quenching this, while the law of nature bids us leave and seek our own security. Being thus distracted another Thunder-crack invites our eye to the most miserable spectacle spite could possibly present us with - two houses in the Watergate skippe joynt from joynt, the main posts josell each other, while the frightened casements (windows) fly for fear. In a word the whole fabrick is a perfect chaos lively set forth in this metamorphosis. The grandmother and three children are struck stark dead in the ruins of this humble edifice, a sepulcher well worth the enemies remembrance..."

"Grenados" were metal containers filled with gun-powder and fired on a high arcing path from a mortar, such as the one surviving as "Roaring Meg". This had a 15.5 inch caliber barrel and fired a 100kg hollow ball filled with powder. It has been suggested that "Roaring Meg" was actually used in Chester, but no actual evidence for that appears to exist.

The Classic Cinema 1964: showing Tom Jones and The Spanish Sword.

Number 54-60

Compare this 2015 image with the Louise Rayner painting below - dated almost a century and a half earlier from 1869-1889

A 1970's building with an arcade over the pavement and some attempt at boldness with the arrangement of brick and slate "towers" on the front - fortunately partly concealed by trees. It is possible to see the bedding of the original fine muddy sediment before it metamorphosed to slate. Given the colour and grain of the slate it posssibly originates from Blaenau Ffestiniog area located in the Ordovician deposits - c. 460 million years ago.

Prior to the 1970's this was the location of the "Swan Inn" (Chesterwalls has more on this) and the Art-Deco Classic Cinema (origunally the "Tatler" cinema - again with more on "Chesterwalls") designed by J. W. Barrow for Warrington architects William & Segar Owen. During the excavations of the foundations of the cinema (1936) four Roman "Samian-Ware" vessels were discovered and these were, for a time, exhibited in the foyer of the cinema.

The Tatler was one of the few provincial newsreel cinemas but in 1957 it was taken over by the Classic chain and switched to feature films and pornography. It seated 530 and had a white-tiled neo-classical exterior. The cinema closed on 18 December 1970. The last seven day picture was Donald Sutherland in the (1970) cinematographic version of "M.A.S.H." (script).

"The Chester Horse Fair" by Henry Charles Woollett, painted in 1877, again shows a fairly accurate depiction of Foregate Street.

sources and links

Number 62

Plain brick-faced terrace (late 19th C.) with modern tiled shopfront. Old photo's show a "half-timbered" building with a much more elegant stone shopfront.

Number 70

A small town house, now shop, probably of mid 17th century date (1633-1666) with later alterations, and almost certainly badly damaged if not completely destroyed if built before the Civil War. An early photograph shows that it once had a date marked on the gable end but the quality of the photograph is too low to make out the actual date.

It is timber framed with plaster panels, a later brick wing to the rear and a roof of small grey slates. The building consists of a cellar and two storeys in one bay and has an arcade with stop-chamfered end posts and a round-cornered central post on sandstone bases. An early 20th century shopfront has cellar vents beneath a row of small framing. This building was something of a favorite for the Chester-based artist Louise Rayner, who features it several times in her water-colours (see example below).

"Haswell's Tea and Dining Rooms".

This building was once "Haswell's Tea and Dining Rooms", a popular meeting place for the "Votes for Women" movement at the beginning of the 20th Century. In 1918 it was the venue for a meeting addressed by Elizabeth Macadam - the first lecturer in social work from Liverpool University. The meeting was chaired by Mary Crossland Taylor, wife of the founder of the Chester-based and quite sizable Crosville motor-bus company, who in 1919 she was to stand unsuccessfully as a Labour Party candidate in the municipal elections. Also present was Phyllis Brown - wife of the Mayor of Chester H. F. Brown (of the "Brown's of Chester" department store) and the first female councillor in Chester (in 1920). Mrs Brown was president of the Chester branch of the "Women's Freedom League".

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Number 72

The viewpoint in this Louise Rayner picture is at the junction of Love Street with Foregate Street. The watercolour depicts what had become a major centre for shopkeepers during the 19th century. The half timbered building on the left is 70 Foregate Street 'Lee Louise' ("Haswells" in the water-colour), with the first floor extending over the pavement which still stands, but has been extensively restored. Most of the buildings described on the left of the picture have been lost to 20th century redevelopments - the most prominent of these being the present day Primark store and Marks and Spencers. The absence of the horse-tram tracks (laid 1879 - the presence of gas lights shows that details are not omitted) probably dates this to 1869-79. The "Swan Inn" can be seen but does not have the Queen Anne frontage seen in later photographs.

Another mid 19th Century building with clean lines and a detailed pediment. The recent (2015) shop-front is a significant improvement on the previous shop-front.

The horse fair in Foregate Street was held hereabouts and was the last remaining of Chester's traditional fairs held in a street. Pressure from shopkeepers had forced livestock fairs off the streets and into specialised markets, and the development of wholesalers and retailers through the 19th century had made the cloth fair obsolete. Horse fairs continued in Foregate Street until about 1880 when it ceased due to pressure from the street's retailers, for whom it was highly disruptive for trade, and the tram drivers for whom the presence of numerous horses, sellers and buyers blocked the newly-laid lines of the horse-drawn trams.

The ABC REGAL opened in 1937. In 1959 the name Regal was dropped and it was referred to as ABC until 1987, when it was renamed Cannon before closing in 1990. Empty for a while it became Brannigans of Chester, a nightclub since 1995 which closed it's doors in early 2010 citing the knock on effects of the economic downturn and an increase in nearby competing clubs as the causes of closure.

Number 76

The former "REGAL" cinema built by Associated British Cinemas Ltd in 1937 has an oppressive presence along Love Street, somewhat overshadowing the public realm. Its blank side elevation provides a negative view looking west from Forest Street. Nevertheless, it is rare example of an original cinema in Chester, with a strong Art Deco style and curving corner. The building relates well to Foregate Street in terms of its height and "restrained modernist" horizontal detailing.

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Love Street

Hemingway, writing in the 1830's, claimed that:

..or worse, while Handbridge as a whole was dismissed as "almost exclusively inhabited by the lower orders".

The south side of Foregate Street in 2015. The 1914 extension to Douglas' Co-op building is center right. To the left, are a range of varied Georgian and Victorian buildings, as well as some modern buildings. The clock, just visible on the extreme left, has been there for very many years.

Number 78-94

The Chester Cooperative Society department store, now a range of shops, has a distinctive coupola and domed "lantern" on the corner of Love Street.

Originally the Chester Co-operative Society department store, built 1904-5, by Douglas and Minshull. The success of the Chester Co-operative Society, founded in 1884, depended in part on the Co-operative Wholesale Society's ownership of factories producing goods for member societies and managed to prosper despite the generally depressed economy period between 1873 and the 1890s. Prior to Douglas' building this was the site of the entrance to "Forest House" in Love Street (then Love Lane).

The building was extended eastwards in 1914 and converted in the 1980s to a range of separate shops. Built of stone-dressed brick and baroque in manner, the ground floor has Roman Doric bay columns of cream stone, altered shop-fronts and a blank fascia. The upper floor has broad display windows in decorated and arched openings. These display windows have stained, patterned leaded glazing above the transoms. Above the cornice and eaves are the attic windows, with timber surrounds in a quasi-Palladian style. On the corner of Love Street is a lead roofed cupola with a lantern.

As this was not in any of John Douglas's normal Vernacular Revival styles with many flourishes, the design "shocked" the City Council Improvement Committee ("CCIC"); the addition of the partial leaded glazing on the upper floor windows was the price paid for CCIC approval.

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Number 100-102

Small town house, now shop and storage. Late 18thCent, with 20thCent alterations. Flemish bond brown brick, part rendered. The windows are sashes with wedge lintels and keystones. At the top of the building is a cornice and a parapet.

The brick building to the extreme right and the somewhat quirky building with the round window on the left are both listed.
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Number 110

Town house, now retail and storage above. Probably 17thCent origin, but refurbished in the early 20thCent. Timber framing to front with plaster panels and slate roof. The front has somewhat quirky, freely expressed, planted Classical features, probably added 1900-1910. The modern shopfront has four pilasters. The upper storeys are close-studded with only one cross-rail at attic floor-level. There are four planted timber pilasters rising from fascia-cornice to eaves. The tall first floor has an unpierced central bay and a flush casement of two six-pane lights in pedimented cases standing proud of wall-face in each side-bay. The short attic storey has a nine-pane circular central window breaking the cross-rail and a moulded timber string above the cross-rail and curving above the window.

Bath Street

Building by Douglas (originally for the Prudential) on the corner of Bath Street. Douglas work continues down Bath Street and includes St Werburgh's RC Church (by Edmund Kirby) seen in the background.

As part of "Douglasville", John Douglas's 1–11 Bath Street terrace stands at the north end of Bath Street and the houses are built in buff sandstone with grey-green slate roofs in two storeys. The frontage is asymmetrical and includes a wide variety of features, including two large plain gables with their upper storeys jettied on corbels, two smaller dormers with shaped gables, and three round turrets with conical roofs. The cottages containing dormers are set back from the rest, have bay windows in the lower storey, and small forecourts with wrought iron railings in front. Over the door of No. 11 is a cartouche containing the date (1903).

Number 122

Office, later shop, now cafe. Built 1902, by John Douglas for Prudential Assurance Ltd. It is constructed in tooled, squared, snecked red sandstone rubble and has a red clay tile roof. The design is Douglas's "Germanic 17thCent" manner. It has also been used by the Lombard Bank (founded in 1947, became part of NatWest in 1970) hence the name "Lombard House" over the door. The corner of the building between the streets is angled with an arched doorway on the ground floor. The upper storey is slightly jettied and carried on consoles over pilasters flanking the door. The upper storey contains a mullioned three-light sash window over which is a cornice and a carving of the Chester City coat of arms.

Statue of woman with snake ("Prudence") on the "Prudential" building.

The front facing Foregate Street contains three arched windows on the ground floor, the middle one being narrow than the others. The upper storey has eight sash windows over which are a frieze and a cornice. Over the easterly six windows is another Baroque-shaped gable similar to that over the entrance door, but larger. The front facing Bath Street has two arched windows at the north end, then an arched doorway. Beyond this in the south bay, are two sash windows. In the upper storey are nine sash windows; over the pair of windows in the south bay is a cartouche. Over the south bay is a plain gable with coping and a short finial. In the roof facing Foregate Street and in that facing Bath Street is a lucarne (a small gabled opening in a roof or a spire) with a finial. Two brick chimney stacks rise from the roof. A stone screen with a balustrade links the building to the house at number 1 Bath Street.

The side facing Foregate Street features a niche containing a statue of a robed woman holding a book and a serpent. This is "Prudence" (the Virtue, who dates back to Classical Greece) and who became Prudential’s icon in 1848. She is often portrayed with a snake (and either a book or (as in the Prudential's current corporate logo, a mirror). "Prudentia" is modelled as a standing young woman, fair and pure of face, for Prudence goes with clarity of purpose and intent, looking downwards, thus prudential in outlook. She wears long draperies hanging down to the ground, thus with appropriate dignity, and a certain modesty, for a semi-nude or entirely unclad or figure might indicate purity, but would hardly imbue ideals of prudence. She carries a book, for Prudence is founded in part in (learned) wisdom, and in her other hand, a long, writhing snake, which is described in the words of Edmund Burke, as ‘There is a courageous wisdom, there is also a false reptile prudence, the result not of caution but of fear’ (Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter I., 1796).

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Number 128-132

This terrace of three town houses, now 4 shops/restaurants and accommodation was built in 1777 (the rainwater pipe between Nos 130 and 132 has upper bracket dated 1777), with 19thCent and 20thCent alterations. It is contructed in brown brick, using Flemish bond to front and has grey slate and clay tile roofs. All upper storey windows have painted stone sills and wedge lintels. There is a vehicle entry to the street on the ground floor. The right and central houses have ridges at right-angle to street, the left house a tiled roof, ridge parallel with front.

Number 134

Notable because it is the last scrap of arcade in Foregate Street, this building features an oriel window and a detailed pediment. At a previous time this was "Slades" motor garage and petrol station.

Grosvenor Park Road

Douglas's County Police HQ - from 1884. The Baptist church in the background (now "Zion Tabernacle") is also by Douglas (1890).

Number 142

An architect's drawing (possibly by John Douglas himself) of the County Po;ice HQ. The date on this one is 1883.

Former Police Station designed as such by John Douglas in 1883/4 for the Cheshire County Constabulary (rather than the City Police, who were based at the Town Hall). The two forces were amalgamated in 1932 and again in 1946 after the Police Act of that year had abolished 45 non-county borough forces. It was used as the police headquarters until 1967 when a new (particularly ugly) building for the purpose was constructed near Chester Castle (it has been demolished). Cheshire Constabulary’s first headquarters were established quite nearby at 4 Seller Street in 1847 (since demolished). In 1862 it moved to 1, Egerton Street (since demolished) and in 1870 to 113 Foregate Street (remodelled by John Douglas as part of "Parkers Buildings").

The "Official" police history gives the date of this building in Foregate Street as 1893 "on the site of an 11th century Benedictine Nunnery" (the date is wrong, and the "nunnery" was possibly either the "fraternity of St Anne" - who owned much of the land hereabouts - or a reference to the nunnery near Chester Castle where the 1960's HQ was built).

This rather elegant building in Foregate Street (almost as good as the old "Scotland Yard") is built in Douglas' Flemish/Dutch manner of Ruabon brick with stone bands, terracotta and stone dressings, and a slate roof. The building is in three storeys with an attic (with an 1884 date set out in brick on the frontage to Foregate Street). On the fronts facing both Foregate Street and Grosvenor Park Road are tall, stepped gables with cyma, quadrant and square steps, crowned by the police force's cartouche. In the ground floor are three sash windows, and in the storeys above the windows are mullioned and transomed. The west side was rebuilt in a plain manner when the road junction was widened, and the building to the west (a half-timbered pub) was demolished.

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Number 156-158

A mid 18th century town house, the left bay and east side to Dee Lane rebuilt or refurbished in 1907 by W T Lockwood. It is constructed from brick with stone dressings and a slate roof.

Dee Lane

Roman pottery - C2nd - found 1953-4

North Side

Early morning at the end of Foregate Street by the Eastgate (on the left) in 2015.
J McGahey's sketches for his "Balloon view of Chester" lists many of the businesses in Foregate street and even shows his own premises (demolished to make way for the Inner Ring Road.

Number 1-3 (Eastgate Buildings)

An old postcard showing the Eastgate end of the north side of Foregate Street in the 1940's or 1950's.

The present building was built in 1928 as a purpose-built branch of "Burton's" menswear manufacturers and retailers to a design by Harry Wilson. Wilson was the Scottish-born, but later Leeds-based architect to the Montague Burton tailoring chain in the 1920's and 1930's. Wilson favoured a cautious Art Deco style and the use of white faience, a ceramic material. Faience was used in the construction of the tomb of King Djoser (2630-2611 BC) at Saqqara, known as the Step Pyramid, was the first Egyptian pyramid tomb, and the earliest stone building of its size in the world. In Chester it was also used at "St Michael's Row" by the Lockwood's.

The post-card on the right shows the building after 1934 (the year when "Belisha Beacons" were introduced) and after World War II it became clear that the desire for this type of shop was waning and they proved a relatively short-lived fashion. We can also tells that the postcard does not date from World War II as the vehicles have no "blackout" covers on the headlamps.

Burton's was established in 1903, in Chesterfield by Montague Burton (he was born in Lithuania and originally named Meshe David Osinsky). Burton's originally traded under the name of The Cross-Tailoring Company. His firm made a quarter of the British military uniforms during World War II and a third of demobilisation clothing. The "demob suit" consited of a jacket, trousers, waistcoat, shirt and underwear. It has been speculated that this is the origin of the phrase "The Full Monty" (much easier to say than "The Full Meshe").

Another old postcard showing the Eastgate end of the north side of Foregate Street. This one dates from the Edwardian times. The electric trams started in 1906 and were discontinued in 1930

Between number 3 and number 5 is a narrow alleyway with the name "Old Post Office Yard". Public letters were carried by the government's horse posts from 1635. In May 1666 the London mail started from Chester at noon on Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays, and could take as little as 40 hours. Packets were sent weekly from Chester to Dublin. Stage coaches provided a slower service by 1675: they left London and Chester every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and took between four and six days.

The Eastgate from another early 19th Century postcard. The Georgian brick building with a stone corner dressing was later replaced with what is now W. H. Smiths.

Until the mid 19th century almost all provincial post offices were run from the postmasters' own premises. In 1787 and 1830 several generations of the Palin family kept the Chester office at a house in a yard off the north side of Foregate Street just outside the walls, later called Old Post Office Yard. In 1792 the Chester postmaster's salary was among the top six in England, commensurate with Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester, but by 1840 it ranked only 22nd. In 1833 the office's revenues came mainly from the provincial post (70 per cent) rather than the services to London (25 per cent), Dublin (3 per cent), or the local penny post (2 per cent).

William Palin built a new office in 1842 on the east side of St. John Street behind the Blossoms Hotel, evidently to cope with the greatly increased business occasioned by the introduction of the national penny post in 1840. The Post Office opened a new head office for the town in 1876 on the other side of St. John Street, where it remains in 2015.

Hughes described the Post Office as follows:

  • "At the rear of the Blossoms in St John Street is the Post Office a neat stuccoed building erected in 1842 at the sole expense of William Palin Esq the present post master. Prior to this the business of the Post Office was conducted in a dark and dreary building situate up a court still known as the Old Post Office Yard. It was to Edwland Hill and his wonder working penny stamp that the citizens owed this satisfactory change from darkness unto light."
Photo showing the Eastgate end of the north side of Foregate Street in the 1940's or 1950's. Visible are the Georgian building later replaced in modern brick but the previous building on the corner of Frodsham Street has already become the half-timbered bank.
sources and links
  • Harry Wilson at the Dictionary of Scottish Architects;
  • Buildings approval;
  • HO 33/1/34 Folio 112 - April 25 1812 "Letter from Stephen Palin, Chester Post Office, referring to a copy of the Chester Chronicle in which it reports that several rioters from Stockport and Macclesfield have been committed to Chester Castle. The city is currently peaceful."

Number 5-7

The Eastgate from a 1904 postcard. The buildings on the north side of Foregate Street, between the Eastgate and Frodsham Street have yet to become "half-timbered" and retain their then Georgian facades. The Georgian brick building with a stone corner dressing was later replaced with what is now W. H. Smiths.

The WHSmith company was founded by Henry Walton Smith — yes, WHSmith was originally HWSmith. This small news vendor’s business was first started by Henry Walton Smith (1738-1792) and his wife Anna Smith (nee Eastaugh, c.1756-1816) in around 1790 in Little Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, next to Berkeley Square in London. Upon Henry’s relatively early death, Anna took control and later their son, William Henry Smith (1792-1865, the first W.H. Smith inherited the business, along with his brother Henry Edward Smith (1787-1846). In 1820 the business took its first steps in newspaper wholesale distribution. The firm took advantage of the railway boom by opening newsstands on railway stations and manged to obtain a monopoly on the sales of newpapers at railway stations. Having in 1848 got the job of running book stalls on the stations of the London & North-Western Railway, W H Smith have a claim to be England’s first retail chain. Their move on to the High Streets of Britain came rather later – there was a major expansion at the end of the Victorian period, some further growth in the first decade of the 20th century, and a series of outstanding shop makeovers between the two world wars. The poster of a newsboy was first created by the artist Fred Taylor sometime prior to 1907, and the shop sign in Chester is one of the few remaining original signs.

While the "half-timbered" front of this building dates from the early 19th Century (W. H. Smiths had become half-timbered before 1929), everything behind the front dates from 1986, when the entire building (apart from the front) was rebuilt.

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Number 9

Modern brick building with some attempt at a Tudor feeling - but in this setting might be considered as an "epic fail". This replaced an earlier, Georgian building, which was for a time the home of the National Provincial Bank Of England, until they moved across the street to new premises in 1911. Prior to that the premises were occupied by "DAVID WILLIAMS, FURNISHING IRONMONGER, GAS FITTER BRASS FINISHER, AND BELL HANGER, Tinplate Worker, Brazier, and Whitesmith."

Number 11-13

A bit of a mystery, this old photo is said to be in Foregate Street (circa 1920). The sign on the pony reads "I WAS SAVED FROM THE TITANIC.." - but there were no ponies on the Titanic when it sank in 1912 (and so none were saved), the tramlines are absent and the surrounding building pattern seems wrong in parts. However that does appear to be the Hop-Pole (compare with image below left) in the background, given the shape of the windows.

Initially The Globe Tavern, in 1782 this became The Hop Pole Inn. The Globe existed before the Civil War, but like almost everything outside of the City Walls was destroyed during the Siege of Chester. In 1657 city alderman William Edwards, who had leased the land from the Corporation as early as 1630 rebuilt the Globe. Edwards had fled Chester during the Civil War due to his support for the Parliamentarian faction, in which he became a captain. At first he was well rewarded by Parliament (he became an MP) after the first Civil War:

  • ..and whereas some Citizens of London and others have Debts owing unto them by Delinquents, within the County of Chester, and the County of the City of Chester, and have also some Debts owing unto them by well-affected Persons in the said County and City, who were of sufficient Abilities, but are of late plundered and destroyed in their Estates, by the Commissioners of Array in the said County and City, for their Adherence and good Affection to the Public Cause of the Parliament and Kingdom, some of them having suffered long Imprisonment, and others fled for their Safety, with Loss of their Estates: Be it therefore, on the said Captain's Behalf, and for and towards his better Satisfaction, Ordered and Ordained, in case any such Creditors shall now advance, by Way of Loan, to the said Captain Edwards, for and towards the said Recruit and Satisfaction of his said Arrears, the Value of the Fifth Part of such Debts as are to them owing as aforesaid, the said Captain Edwards shall have, and hereby hath, full Power and Authority to receive the same,..
The Eastgate from an early Magic Lantern slide (around 1910). The buildings on the north side of Foregate Street, between the Eastgate and Frodsham Street have yet to become "half-timbered" and retain their then Georgian facades. The "ladder"-like object on the roof of one building is a telephone pole. The telephone exchange was transferred to a new building next to the main post office in St. John Street in 1908.

At the time of the second Civil War, in June 1648 a plot was discovered to betray the garrison at Chester into the hands of the royalists. While this proved abortive, it formed the basis for William Brereton MP - a long-time adversary of the City administration to bring it under the control of the County of Cheshire. Chester's MPs Edwards and John Ratcliffe informed the mayor of Brereton's own plot (which failed). However a later plan succeeded and Brereton became governor of Chester. In December 1648 Edwards was ejected from Parliament by Colonel Thomas Pride during "Prides Purge" - the only military coup d'état in English history. This marked the end of Edwards brief ascendancy in the City.

During the Summer and Autumn Fairs, the hop fairs were held at the Blossoms Hotel and the Hop Pole Inn. In Britain, hopped beer was first imported from Holland around 1400, yet hops were condemned as late as 1519 as a "wicked and pernicious weed". In 1471, Norwich, England, banned use of the plant in the brewing of ale ("beer" was the name for fermented malt liquors bittered with hops; only in recent times are the words often used as synonyms). Hop used in England were imported from France, Holland and Germany with import duty paid for those; it was not until 1524 that hops were first grown in the southeast of England (Kent) when they were introduced as an agricultural crop by Dutch farmers.

The inn was recorded as one of the prominent inns by Broster:

  • "There are about one hundred and forty inns and public houses. The principal inns are the White Lion in Northgate street where the coaches and machines come to; the Hotel in Eastgate street; the Plume of Feathers and Red Idion Bridge street; Pied Bull Coach and Horses Northgate street; Blossom's Inn, Hop Pole, Golden Lion - Foregate street; Green Dragon Eastgate street; Yacht VVatergate street."

In 1880 the "Hop Pole Paddock" (which extended back along the outside of the walls for some 240 feet) was bought by Chester Corporation as a location for the horse fair. Previously this fair was held further down Foregate Street and frequently blocked the streets new horse-drawn trams. In the 1890s the Corporation wished to build on the site of the paddock, but the Archeaological Society protested successfully against plans to build the new city baths on the Hop Pole Paddock. Instead, the Baths were built in Union Street. During WW1 the proprietor of the Hop-Pole Hotel was fined the then huge sum of £50 (about a quarter of the average annual wage) for not keeping invoices, and using quantities of sugar and meat in excess of the average amounts prescribed in the "Public Meals Order 1917". This was considered a "very grave case" by the local authorities. The property was acquired by shoe and boot makers Stead & Simpson in 1921 and turned into retail premises.

Advert from Hughes "Stranger's Guide".
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The 1875 Ordnance Survey map showing the layout of the junction of Foregate and Frodsham Streets prior to 1896 when the NPBOE moved across the street.Batenham described the Commercial Hall as follows: "Near Queen street are the Union and Commercial Halls; two very extensiVe buildings erected for the accommodation of manufacturers and shopkeepers who attend the two great fairs before mentioned, the interior of each forms a square with shops three stories high on each side to which you pass by galleries having an airy spacious area in the middle".

Number 15 (Bank)

Bank, by Francis Jones (1921), originally for the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank Ltd. Extended 1964 by Saxon Smith and Partners and now occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Steel frame clad in sandstone and timber frame with plaster panels; Westmorland green slate roof. A well-executed late example of the Vernacular Revival. The Manchester and Liverpool District Bank was formed in 1829 and it became one of the leading provincial joint stock banks; it first established a branch in Foregate Street in 1908. Its name was shortened to District Bank in 1924. The Bank was acquired by the National Provincial Bank in 1962 but kept its identity until the latter’s merger with Westminster Bank.

Frodsham Street

The Eastgate after 1908 (because of the telephone wires) and before 1921 (no bank on the corner), but a building on the right has clearly been demolished. Both this photograph and the one below right appear to be from the same negative.

Previously "Warrington Street" and before that "Cow Lane", Frodsham Street runs perpendicular to Foregate Street, leading towards the canal and performs a "secondary" retail function. Frodsham Street has retained much of its historic form. Buildings contain the street well, forming a predominantly continuous frontage. Incident is provided by a number of gable fronts which articulate the skyline. Buildings are a lesser scale than on Foregate Street, being predominantly two stories.

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Number 23-25

A late modernist style building dating from the late 1950's, built on a location on the corner of Frodsham Street and previously occupied by the "Bear's Paw" (demolished 1956) - its name probably derived from the "Bears Paw" (it is actually a Lion's Paw) said to be used in the coat of arms of the Savage family, Lords of the Manor of Frodsham from the early 17th Century. John Savage, 2nd Earl Rivers, a Catholic Royalist and past mayor of Chester, had his seat at Halton Castle and the great manor house at Clifton near Runcorn, called Rocksavage. When Earl Rivers returned to Cheshire after the Civil War with Rocksavage being ransacked and uninhabitable, and Halton Castle dismantled, Earl Rivers retired to Frodsham Castle where he was stripped of the family honours and estates. He died on 10th October 1654. A few hours after his death with his body lying within Frodsham Castle was set on fire and burned down - it was completely destroyed.

The popular Holborn Cafe on the site of what for many years was part of M&S. Only half of it survives today as the westernmost gable of the range. Both "half-timbered" buildings to the left are by the Lockwood's. The pub opposite (with the lantern over the door) is the "Golden Lion". This photo must date from after 1906 as the electric tramlines are clearly present.

The side of the building used to bear a "benchmark" used during the "First primary levelling", of England & Wales, and was levelled with a height of 76.4540 feet [23.3032 metres] above mean sea level (Liverpool datum). It was included on the Warrington to Pembroke Docks levelling line. The surveyor's description was "No. 69. Mark on corner of the Bear's Paw Inn, at junction of Frodsham-street and Foregate-street, Chester ; 3.35 ft. above surface" (p521). The adjacent leveling marks are Number 70 in the Cathedral and Number 68 which was at the old Cow Lane Bridge (but has been destroyed).

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Number 29-35

The late M&S used to be a Littlewoods, which was extended (you can see the join).

Late C19th galleried row, previously part of "Marks & Spencer". The columns on the shop fromt are Portland Stone - a limestone from the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic period (152-145 Million years ago) quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. A characteristic gastropod fossil from this time is the "Portland Screw" - Aptyxiella portlandica - only encountered in the coquina facies called "The Roach", and there is an excellent example of this circa 150 Million year-old fossil in one of the columns on the shop-front (see photo). There are some other bivalve fossils in the pillars as well. Or there were - redevelopment in 2016 replaced the shopfront and the 150 Million year old fossil has gone.

The building is a galleried row which has part-matching brick gables-ends at the ends of a uniform, simple, two storey, "half-timbered" range. The three-storey eastmost gable is more ornate with herringbone brick infil between timbers, an oriel window and a jettied third floor, while the four-storey western gable (from 1868) is without timberwork, has horned sash windows with stone sills and lintels and has stone pillars rather than the "wooden" supports used by the rest. The western gable appears to be a surviving part of the "Holborn Cafe" and has retained the stone pillars from that incarnation. The "Holborn" was a cafe frequented by the "Votes for Women" movement. H. F. Brown, store owner, solicitor and leading member of the corporation gave a series of talks on "problems for our new voters" at the Holborn just after WW1 - his wife was a major figure in the Womens Rights movement in Chester.

Careful inspection of the front of the galleried section shows that the front is not quite symetrical. The pattern is five windows separated by a single board, folowed by a gap of two boards and then return to the single board spacing. The reason for this is that the final section with the two windows to the east is a later addition than the rest of the front of the building and blocks what was once an entry-way to the rear of the building.

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Number 37-39

The north side of Foregate Street in the 1950's. The pub ("Nag's Head") is on the site of number 45-47 and its frontage survives as part of the frontage of Boots Chemists.
Aptyxiella portlandica - the "Portland Screw" - a circa 150 Million year-old fossil in one of the columns on the shop-front of the former M&S in Foregate Street. Unfortunately, redevelopment by Wilko seems to have removed it.

This steel, glass and concrete panel 1960's building replaces a Georgian terrace which appears to be present in the "Balloon View of Chester" prepared for John McGahey's New Chester Guide in 1853.

Number 43

Like most of Foregate street there were building here which were demolished during the Civil War - in this case the "Saracen's Head" inn, originally built as a town house. The inn was succeded by the "Wettenhall Mansion", which was notable enough for it to be included on the Lavaux Map (1745). The land here had like much of Foregate Street also belonged to the Nuns of St Annes. The ""feoffees", who held the Saracen's Head in trust for the school, apparently spent huge sums on repairs: compared with the annual rent of £2 13s and 4d (which does not seem to have changed from 1579 to 1634) in 1634 the occupier claimed to have spent £66 18d and 5d on repairs. An entry in 1638 records that the bailiffs were sent to Chester to survey the building and see:

  • "whether the wainscote, bedsteads, tables, formes, court-cupboards, shelves, grates, racks and mangers belonging to the house were to be had".

An inquisition held before the Bishop of Chester and others at Chester Castle in August 1630 heard that:

  • "..the house in Foregate Street now in the tenure of Peter Marshall is parcell of the lands purchased by Sir John Deane, clerk, & by him assigned unto feoffees in trust amongst other lands to & for the use of the free grammer schoole in Witton neere Northwich in the said county of Chester and hath bene commonly reputed & taken to be parte & parcell of the Sarazens Head & therewith by the said feoffees set, let, occupied & enioyed, & was parte of the dissolved monastery of St. Annes in Chester."
Foregate Street in the Lavaux Map (1745) showing the Wettenhall "Mansion" and gardens behind. Interestingly Lavaux appears to show three buildings and the Witton School records also refer to "three good houses with iron palasades"

In fact there appear to have been at least three inquisitions during the seventeenth century into the matter of whether the Witton school actually had rights to the building. It appears that this was often the most valuable property that the school owned. It was eventually ordered that the rents, profits & issues of the house should be paid to Witton School (now known as Sir John Deane's College) in future and "nothing otherwise".

Gabriel Wettenhall (a barrister) secured a long lease on the site in 1728 (from the Witton Grammar School at £10 a year) and it is presumed that this was when he had the house(s) built. He did not enjoy his "mansion" for long as he died in 1735 and was succeeded by his son Nathaniel, who owned the property, and dwelt there, at the time of the Lavaux Map. Nathaniel died in 1778 with no surviving children and his widow Arabella lived on there until her own death in 1798 - all despite various attempts by the school to claim the lease should have expired early.

The "Hermae" on the front of Number 43 ("Boots") include Kings, Queens and a Jester.

The adjacent plot was later the site of the "Old Nag's Head", and is now a shop ("Boots the Chemist") and ancillary accommodation. The building was rebuilt, approximately in its original "Nag's Head" form in 1914 for Peter Walker and Sons Brewery and continued in use as a public house until the 1970's, having been by that time passed to Ind Coope (1965). It was restored and converted to part of the shop premises in around 1980. The tie-beam to left gable is inscribed "BUILT 1597 AD"; the right gable tiebeam is inscribed "REBUILT 1914 AD". In 1788 the then owner went bankrupt, and the following advert appeared in "Adams’s Weekly Courant":

  • "To be sold by Auction, By order of the Assignees of Aaron Miller, a Bankrupt, at the Nag’s-head Inn, in the City of Chester, on Monday the 7th Day of January, 1788, at six o’Clock in the Evening, subject to such Conditions as shall be produced. ALL that well-known and accustomed INN, called The Nag’s-head, situate on the North Side of Foregate-street, in the said City, with the Brewhouse, Stables, and Appurtenances thereunto belonging; now in the Occupation of John Hammond"

In "Lectures on the History of S.John Baptist Church and Parish" it is recorded that in 1877: "The Old Nags Head in Foregate St. was changed by the Duke of Westminster from a Public House to a Cocoa House." However the author seems to have his Nag's Head's mixed up as the Nag's Head in question would appear to have been the "Little Nag's Head" which was on the opposite side of the street.

On the ground floor the end-posts and post between each opening survive and have Ionic reverse-taper pilasters and rather impressive and well-preserved "hermae" (human heads that continues as a square tapering pillar-like form) with varied expressions, carrying corbels. There is a polished gneiss (English Heritage says granite) plinth, carried up beneath each post. The jettied first floor has quadrant-braced small-framing, a central mullioned and transomed three-light casement and a canted five-light mullioned and transomed oriel on three ornate consoles to each side. The second floor has a central two-light casement above two arch-braced panels and herringbone struts in jettied gable on two hermae, to each side.

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Foregate Street at the corner of Queen Street. The tallest building carries a faded advertismant for the "Green Dragon" inn.

Number 51-57

A modern brick-built building with two floors and an arcade over the street. The brickwork is decorative and the eaves are tile-hung (see photo left). This replaced an earlier 1960's block on the same site.

Number 59

The Brewers Arms in Foregate Street was replaced by the four storey "Green Dragon".

The former "Brewers Arms" became the "Green Dragon". The Greenall & Whitley Brewery logo, the date (1920) and a bas-relief of two dragons flanking a shield carved in stone still exist on the frontage (on the side of the adjacent building). The building seen today dates, apart from the modern shopfront, from the 1920 rebuild (there is a conspicuous date-stone) which remodelled a building which was already over four floors. with a part jetied frontage forming an arcade. The earlier Brewers Arms also had the arcade but was only on two floors and the arcade featured a "cabin" which was later removed. The arcade dissappeared completely in the 1920 rebuild.

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Number 63

This building dates from the 19th Century and is in flemish-bond brick with a part stone-dressed arcade over the footpath. The piers of the arcade are part brick and part sandstone. The first floor of one bay has a three-part window with a central oriel. The second bay is simpler in contruction with brick arched sash windows rather than the stone lintels of the first bay.

Number 69

Possible pottery kiln identified in the area of Foregate Street, Chester. No insitu kiln remains have, as yet, been recorded but probable pottery wasters have been recovered. Pottery forms include drinking vessels in hard, gritty fabrics. Production took place sometime between the mid 14th century and the 16th century

Queen Street

Queen Street does not appear on the Lavaux Map of 1745, but does appear on Mutlow_and_StockdaIes_Map of 1795. The evidence points to Queen Street having been constructed fairly rapidly around 1777, with much development by two individuals in particular: John Chamberlaine and Roger Rogerson. The development of the street was connected with the development of the Chester-Nantwich canal which was announced in 1771 and opened in 1779. The undeveloped land upon which the street stands was in part the old parade ground of Roman Chester and later the "Jousting Croft" and an area for archery practice. Fletcher, writing in 1791 says of it:

  • "Queen street has been built within these few years its situation is pleasant and airy in it is a large well-built chapel - the place of worship of a sect of Independents, also a reputable academy for the education of youth, kept by Mrs Sellers."

Number 71

The north side of Foregate Street in early 20th Century. The "White Lion" has not yet aquired all of its "Half-Timbered" front, and substantial half-timbered building can be seen at number 73. Some of the buildings on left (south side) are still there. The Swan, which was demolished c1971 is just visible. The trams are electrified, so this is after 1903. The tree on the south side of the street is still there.

This building is a shop on the ground floor and a Masonic Lodge above. This stone dressed, Flemish bond brick structure dates from the early 18th Century and the frontage to Queen Street was re-done in 1883. There is a three bay arcade to Foregate street. Inside, the first floor is a dining room with a lodge meeting room above it on the second floor.

The University Lodge of Chester was formed from Temple Lodge Number 4477 in March 2011. Temple Lodge was founded on the 12th of February 1923 at the Masonic Hall, Oliver Street, Birkenhead as the Daughter Lodge of Baron Egerton Lodge No. 3513. In April 2011 the request to change the name from Temple Lodge to the "University Lodge of Chester No. 4477" was granted. The plan was to form a Lodge, in the university city of Chester, to become part of the Universities Scheme of the United Grand Lodge of England.

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Number 73

A modern brick building replacing what (from old postcards and paintings) appears to have been a suubstantial half-timbered structure.

The Alleyway between numbers 73 and 75 has the name of "Masonic Place", presumably after the nearby Masonic Lodge at 71-72 Queen Street.

The north side of Foregate Street in 2015. The name "RICHARDSONS" can just be made out on the pediment of the while building on the right. The White Lion east wing has been replaced.

Number 75

Originally a small town house, later restored and used as a shop. It is dated from the 17th Century but was much restored in the 19th Century. Early paintings by Louise Rayner and Henry Charles Woollett show this building faced in bare brick rather than half-timbered. It is timber-framed with plaster panels and brick at the rear, and has a tiled roof. The building is in two storeys, and has a two-bay front. The ground floor contains a 20th Century shop front, and the upper floor projects over the pavement, forming an arcade and carried on two posts each with a sandstone base. In the upper floor is a five-light mullioned casement window flanked by Ionic pilasters. The panels are decorated with the fleurs-de-lys. The right side has herringbone braced small framing and a 2-light leaded casement (also shown by Rayner). The gable is jettied with bargeboards and a finial.

Number 77

A small town house, probably early 17th Cent., later used as a shop and storage. Has some 20th Cent alteration. It is timber-framed with plaster panels and has a red clay-lted tiled roof. It is in two storeys, and has a single-bay front. In the ground floor is a shop front, probably 19th Century. The upper storey is slightly jettied, with a middle rail and contains a three-light casement window. Above this is a coved jetty. Rayner shows this as being a timber frame building in paintings dated 1869-89.

Number 79

The north side of Foregate Street in the 1930's. The pub ("White Lion") has some surviving frontage but lost the arcaded east wing due to bomb damage in WW2. The postcard appears to show tramlines but no overhead tram wires, which would place it after 1930 when trams were discontinued.

The "White Lion" was an unlucky casualty of WW2 having been stuck by a bomb and partly destroyed. The exact type of bomb is not recorded, but it was possibly an incendiary as the buildings to either side show little damage when pre-war and modern photographs are compared. Just three people were killed by bombing raids in Chester during the Second World War, including a fireman named Cyril Dutton and a housewife called Elizabeth Moore who was killed at home on Kitchen Street. Throughout the war there were 232 alerts: 44 high-explosive bombs and three incendiaries were dropped on the city.

The north side of Foregate Street in 2015.

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The "Old Queen's Head"

This "half-timbered" building has the dates 1508 and 1939 on the frontage. The upper floor partly projects over the pavement to form an arcade which shelters the doorway. Early photographs appear to show it without the half-timberwork. Indeed, one photograph from the early 20th century (see below left) appears to show a quite different building, which may not even be a pub, on the site. Given that almost everything outside the walls was leveled during the Civil War and the photgraphic evidence it appears that this ia probably a late 1930's building which replaced an earlier Georgian building which looked quite different.

One could ask: which Queen? - in 1508 there was no queen (Elizabeth of York having died in 1503 - but not before she became the prototype for the "Queen of Hearts ("Judith")" in a pack of cards). Indeed, the modern pub sign shows the queen to be wearing a "cross crosslet" similar to that worn by Elizabeth Woodville in a portrait from 1546 (before she became queen). Moreover, it is also possible that the modern name of the pub was not adopted until recently, as the pub is not marked on John McGahey's comprehensive survey of 1853.

Elizabeth Woodville, The Pub sign and the Queen of Hearts. The same person, or just an early "urban myth?".

According to some folklore, the "queen ... in the parlour" in the children's nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" is Elizabeth of York, while her husband is the king (Henry Tudor - who had a reputation for miserliness) counting his money. Henry VII improved tax collection within the realm by introducing ruthlessly efficient mechanisms of taxation. In this he was supported by his chancellor, Archbishop John Morton, whose "Morton's Fork" was a catch-22 method of ensuring that nobles paid increased taxes. There are however other versions of the origins of the rhyme.

The first Marks & Spencer in Chester opened in 1909 - note that the "Old Queen's Head" - just visible next door - looks quite different.

Other folklore holds that Elizabeth of York was so fond of card games that – after her early death on her 37th birthday, after childbirth – the grief-stricken Henry VII ordered that her image become that of the Queen of Hearts, so that in this way she could continue in the pastime she had loved (and run-up debts with) forevermore. It probably isn't true: French card makers in the 16th century started to attribute mythological or biblical names to the court cards such as David for King of Spades, and Judith for Queen of Hearts. Despite the English adopting the designs from Rouen in France, there is no evidence naming English court cards after any certain personalities.

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Inside the first M&S in Chester.

Number 103

This smallish shop (it was once even smaller as it had an entry-way running through it) was the original home of "Marks & Spencer's Penny Bazaar" in Chester (see above for more detail on the shop). The building itself has been much restored and altered but retains a prominent set of stone arches which once formed an arcade supporting a jettied upper floor (see photograph left). However, these do not support anything anymore other than a small amount of brickwork and some plastic roofing.

Number 113

Shop and accommodation, remodelled in 1890-91 and designed by John Douglas for the first Duke of Westminster. While 113 is given as the site previously occuipied by the "London Hotel" in early Trade Directories, the way the street is numbered has changed and the London Hotel was actually on the opposite side. This building forms part of a single design with No.115 Parker's Buildings (see below) and No.117 (see below) Foregate Street. The design is executed in stone-dressed Ruabon brick with a red clay tile roof. The wrought iron sign bracket is dated 1890. The windows of the upper floors have ornate sandstone cases. The building has a shaped gable in "Queen Anne" style with a stone band, blue brick diapering, and stone volutes. It is by no means certain, but this may once have been the location of the County Police Force before they moved to John Douglas's custom built HQ just down the road, at 142 Foregate Street.

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Number 115 - Parker's Buildings

The gates to Parker's Buildings, were, like the buildings themselves designed by the firm of Douglas & Fordham. The gates feature a "W", for "Westminster", as the central element of Parker's Buildings was a block of thirty flats intended for occupation by the 1st Duke of Westminster's employees upon retirement from work at the Eaton Hall estate. The buildings themselves are in common brick with Ruabon brick dressing and some blue-brick decorative diapering. The end towards Foregate Street has a stair which is contained within the building but open to the elements. Over the entrance is a stone panel inscribed "AN'O D'NI: PARKER'S BUILDINGS: 1889". The sides have similar open stairs.

Parker's Buildings seen end-on from Foregate Street. This is actually a long, narrow block of small flats/apartments very similar in style to "artisan housing" in London.

Parker's buildings were constructed in 1888–89. The building work was supervised by the Duke's nephew and agent, Cecil Parker, and the finished building named after him. Douglas' relationship with Parker was not harmonious, and they frequently clashed over the design details. It is believed that the regimented and rather severe block which eventually emerged was the result of Parker's interventions as Douglas normally exhibits much less stark lines and more individuality to the various parts of his designs. When the block of flats was completed, Parker still took the opportunity to have another dig at Douglas as he complained about "poor materials and workmanship". In May 2007 some new signage was put up on Foregate Street to inform passers-by about the buildings and unfortunately the images of Douglas and Parker were interchanged, so that each has the other's name under his image. Given that the pair did not get on, both would have probably been mortified, if they were around to see it.

Slight goof-up on the signage to "Parker's Buildings" - Parker and Douglas' names have been swapped around.

Douglas based his design on flats being built for the working-class in London and Douglas (after arrangements had been made for the trip by Parker, with the secretary of the "Improved Industrial Dwellings Company") went to London to study the "Stalbridge Buildings" in London - being built on land belonging to the Grosvenors. The building, which originally had no internal bathrooms or toilets (there was a separate "wash house") was refurbished in 1982 by S. J. Lomas for the Northern Counties Housing Association and are now rented out as social housing to the over 55's.

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Number 117

A building of 1889–90 designed by Douglas & Fordham for the 1st Duke of Westminster and part of a common design with number 113, however this building is of somewhat better quality. Elements of the same design are used accross the inner ring road at The Barrs, where modern buildings take many cues from Douglas. In 1990 number 117 was converted (it was previously a bank) and attached to new offices by the Colin Stananought Partnership. Like number 113, it is constructed in red Ruabon brick with sandstone dressings, it has a red tile roof, and is in three storeys. The ground floor was refaced during building works in 1990. Near the rear corner, a 9-panel door on strap hinges hangs in a case dated 1889. On the front corner is a jettied porch.

In the first floor of the front facing the street is a three-light mullioned and transomed casement window, with a single-light transomed window on each side. In the top storey is a three-light casement window. Below this window, and to each side, is blue brick diapering. Between the storeys, and over the top window, are stone bands. The gable is in Queen Anne style and similar to that of number 113, being shaped with stone coping and finials. The side facing the passage to Parker's Buildings contains quoins, windows, two projecting shaped gables and two chimneys with spiral brick flues.

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Grosvenor Court

The Grosvenor Court development at the Barrs roundabout has a strong neo-Georgian character. On the opposite sides of the roundabout are a number of good quality buildings: Lockwood's bank and shops and Douglas's former Police HQ and former Prudential Building/Lombard bank to the south.

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