The Gorse Stacks area is located just outside the north-east corner of the city and is dominated by a bus-station and the St Oswald's Way section of the Inner Ring Road. The Shropshire Union Canal also passes through this area. The railway-line crosses diagonally to the immediate north of the area. More on the general are can be found on the page relating to Brook Street.
The name of Gorse Stacks originated from it being the location where kindling was safely stored, dried and supplied to the City, seemingly for the benefit of the city bakers. The adjacent suburb of Newtown originated in the late 1790's because of the location by the cattle market and along the Shropshire Union Canal. Newtown, together with Boughton and Hoole, provided most of the workers to Chester during the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century. With the development of the area after 2000 archaology revealed both Roman and Medieval remains.
Those excavations located to the north-east of the legionary fortress of Roman Chester were largely undertaken during the considerable urban redevelopment of this area of Chester during the first two decades of the current millennium. A Roman drain, perhaps running from the north-east corner of the fortress (King Charles Tower) has been found at the west end of the site, this perhaps fits with "folk tales" of Tunnels under Chester where a Roman culvert might be discovered and misinterpreted.
A Roman road and buildings, possible Roman clay extraction pits, a further late-or sub-Roman burial were found a little further to the west. The Roman clay extraction pits may be related to the debris from Roman pottery-making found in the area from 1970 onwards, and the kilns themselves could be situated nearby. This is an important discovery as the previous extramural settlements were to the west of the city in the area of Nuns Road and City Walls Road, and to the south along Foregate Street. Further outlying settlements were at Saltney and Heronbridge. The interaction of the legionaries of Roman Chester with the nearby civilians is a subject of ongoing study.
The medieval rural landscape was made up of open fields and woodland interspersed with farms, cottages and manors providing a wide range of raw materials for the urban market including foodstuffs, clay and other extraction processes as well as wood and animal products.
Gorse Stacks is said to take its name from the area being used as a place to store gorse for use by the city bakers as fuel for their ovens. Storing fuel within the walls being frowned upon due to the risk of fire. However, "Stakkr" is often a place-name element with Scandinavian origins, as the close-sounding "slakks". There was a "Stakk Field" in Handbridge, used for storing and drying hay (as in "haystack"). It was recorded as open land surrounded by heathland until the late 18th century when settlement began to encroach on the area.
St Anne Street
St Annes Lakes were located roughly where the enclosed wooded areas near the northern end of Hoole railway bridge now lie (they also gave rise to the name of the once proposed "St Anne's House" development, and before that to St Anne's street which runs from near Northgate towards Hoole). The area is commonly known as Flookersbrook.
The lakes were the site of a shrine errected for the convenience of superstitious travelers about to pass through what in medieval times was known as the "Valley of the Demons" (modern day Hoole) and especially Newton Hollows. Some believe that the statue was a re-used work from Roman Chester, whereas others believe that it was not a figure but a cross errected by the "Guild or Fraternity of St. Anne", which had close links with the vicars of St Johns, and was founded in 1361 and refounded in 1393 to say masses for the dead.
Newton Hollows, and its continuation of "The Street" follow the line of a minor Roman Road towards Warrington, a travel route which is still in use today as Hoole Way and Hoole Road and forms one of Chester's major transport links. Hoole Road, or at lease parts of it, was known as "St Anne's Rake" in 1600. The Roman Northgate was also known as the "Quartermaster's Gate" which implies that this was very much the gate through which supplies were brought, and it is believed that St Anne Street may have existed from a very early date.
The station, which was located on Victoria Road in the Newtown area of the city, was originally planned by the West Cheshire Railway in 1865. A year later the company was acquired by the Cheshire Lines Committee. It opened the station on 1 May 1875 for train services to Manchester Central on the Mid-Cheshire Line via Northwich. The CLC track crossed the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and Great Western Railway line over a flying junction at Mickle Trafford. The station closed on 6 October 1969. The site is now occupied by the Northgate Arena. Some of the original railway station railings can still be seen along the modern shop units on Victoria Road opposite the entrance to the Northgate Arena.
The £13 million Bus Exchange opened in 2017. Originally it was due to open in December 2016 but was delayed partly due to repairs to a concrete slab that protects the archaeology below. A key feature of the new U-shaped station is the 21m radius aluminium roof canopy that has been covered with a sedum "green roof". The construction of the Bus Station led to the re-appearance of Oulton Place, which was the home of John Romney (June 1785 – 1 February 1863) was an English artist in printmaking and watercolour who lived and worked in London and Chester. His best known original prints are a series of "Views of Ancient Buildings in Chester" from 1851-1854.
The site of the Bus Exchange was previously slated for the "Glass Slug" the derogatory nickname for what would have replaced Chester City Council’s Forum offices as part of an earlier version of the Northgate Development. By 2007 it was dead after the Tories delivered on their manifesto pledge to abandon the project.
Despite Chester having largely missed-out on the Industrial Revolution until the arrival of the railways, the area around Gorse Stacks can be seen as an industrial center of some regional importance. It was the home of several engineering firms, some of which were involved in manufacture of goods using lead from the nearby Leadworks. These included the manufacture of leaded lights and casements, many of which can be seen in older properties in Chester. A measure of the industrial development of the area might be gained from White's Gazetteer, the entry for 1860 showing five engineering works and four foundries where at the turn of the century there had been none. The Egerton Iron and Brass Foundry, operated by James Mowle & Co. in 1871 and Mowle and Meacock by 1892, lay between Crewe Street and Albert Street, but had been demolished by 1910 when Egerton Street school was built on the site. The Providence Iron and Brass Foundry of H. Lanceley and Son, founded in George Street around 1869, moved later to a group of mostly single-storeyed buildings on the west side of Brook Street previously used by a tannery. Egerton Street Saw Mill was a threestoreyed range incorporating offices at the street end and works with an arcaded ground floor at the rear, probably built in the mid 19th century; by 1906 it was occupied by paint manufacturers.
Williams Bros. began c. 1859 as a timber business in the Kaleyards, but later switched to making metal windows and relocated to Victoria Road. The firm of Williams and Williams was founded in 1910 and also made metal window frames, at premises in the old engineering works on the corner of Victoria Road and George Street. It later became a company of national significance. During WW2 it manufactured a very large quantity of "Jerry Cans".
Before 1529 the livestock market was apparently held in Bridge Street and Lower Bridge Street, but in that year it was confined to the latter, presumably because of the nuisance caused by the animals. Evidently they remained a problem, because in 1596 a proposal was put to the Assembly to take a toll of ½d. for every calf brought to market in return for cleansing the site. A horse market was held on the Gorse Stacks in the late 16th century, and a swine market in Eastgate Street until 1640. The horse market formerly held in Northgate Street was relocated near the Bars in Foregate Street in 1677. By the 18th century the cattle market was established in Upper Northgate Street, where by 1820 it was obstructing the road. The 1845 Improvement Act provided for the purchase of land, and in 1850 a new site, the Paddock, was found in George Street, adjoining the Gorse Stacks. The weekly market continued to be held there on Saturdays, and the site was also used for monthly cattle fairs. The market was roofed over with corrugated iron in 1950 and remained in use until 1970, when a new cattle market was opened by the city council in Sealand Road, adjacent to the corporation abattoir built in 1964 to replace one opened in Queen Street in 1925. While Chester’s main cattle market was at Gorse Stacks local livestock sales were held at The Ermine Hotel, in Hoole just outside the city limits. The 1876 Flookersbrook Improvement Act stipulated that provision should be made for the watering of horses and cattle at the large pit located there. Cows were driven up and down Hoole Road and Lightfoot Street on a regular basis,
The cattle market even had its own bank. Martins Bank briefly operated a number of successful cattle market branches, many of them inherited from the various banks that came together to form the modern-day Bank in 1928. The Chester cattle market branch was opened at 33 Brook Street on 7th November 1922 and opened on Tuesdays and Thursdays (for counter service only). It closed in 1928 around the time of the merger of the Lancashire and Yorkshire with the Bank of Liverpool and Martins.
In 1711 sales of coal and lime were removed from the main streets to specialized market places established in Handbridge and between the New Tower and Watergate Street, both of which lay close to the river and so were more convenient for such bulky commodities. The arrival of the canal in Chester later in the century led to the abandonment of dedicated market places for coal, and in 1840 three of the coal merchants operating in the city had riverside premises, five were by the canal, and one had already moved to Brook Street to be near the newly built railway. Ten years later all but two of Chester's eleven coal merchants and colliery agents were in Brook Street. New premises, the Coal Exchange, were built for them on Black Diamond Street, just off Brook Street, in the 1850s. The Exchange was a plain brick building, domestic in appearance, three-storeyed in the centre and two-storeyed to either side, which contained offices for the different firms. To its rear, approached through two arches in the central block, were extensive coal yards and railway sidings. Further offices were built in the yards in later years. Between 15 and 20 coal merchants, some also dealing in bricks, lime, gravel, and other building materials, were based there until the 1950s. With the fall in the domestic use of coal thereafter their number had fallen to five when the Exchange was demolished in 1970 as part of the inner ring-road scheme. For many years it also housed a grocery store run by the Chester Co-operative Society.
Church of England
The church was built to replace an earlier church dated 1838 on the site which had been designed by Thomas Jones. It was rebuilt in separate stages by John Douglas. The chancel dates from 1893, the southeast chapel from 1897, the nave was completed in 1900, and the northwest baptistry was added in 1904. A southwest steeple was planned but was never built. The porch was built in 1936, in place of the planned steeple. Sir Charles Nicholson designed the gilded reredos, the organ case, and the side screen, between 1900 and 1910, and the rood beam in 1920, and also possibly the gates to the chapel. The reredos in the chapel, dating from 1897, was designed by Charles Eamer Kempe, its figures being carved by Joseph Mayer of Oberammergau (a village known for its long tradition of wood carving). Kempe also designed much of the stained glass. The paintings of 1910 on the organ screen are by Gertrude Siddall.
While one of the windows features a rather Cestrian looking golden wheatsheaf this is actually Kempes makers-mark taken from his Coat of Arms.
The church and the adjacent curate's house were designed by John Douglas in 1877, originally as a mission church, financed from public subscription, to serve the workers living near Chester Station. From 1985-1987 the church was used by the Greek Orthodox Christian parish of St Barbara's before the community moved due to the dilapidated state of the building (during rain the congregation needed umbrellas indoors}. They moved out to the redundant cemetery chapel in Overleigh Cemetery. The congregation is mainly composed of English converts but also includes Greeks, Russians, and Romanians. The Sibel Street building is now used as a private residence.
The church was originally built for an offshoot of the Welsh Congregationalists, who had started off in Frodsham Stret before moving to Back Brook Street where it remained until 1894 when what was soon to become the Penri Memorial Chapel, of brick with a Decorated Gothic west window, was opened in Gorse Stacks. In 1898 the pastor, Ezra Johnson, sold the chapel to the Welsh Baptists, allegedly without the consent of the trustees, and the congregation evidently dispersed in acrimony. Thereafter it became the "Penri Addoldy Y Bedyddwyr Caerlleon".
In 1861 some of the congregation from the Steam Mill Street chapel decided it was time to leave, perhaps because the chapel was located in "a discouragingly violent neighbourhood". Hemingway is particularly disparaging about Steam Mill Street being "not of the most reputable description" and also appears to have a poor opinion of the Methodists:
- "..an opening leading to the canal in the olden time designated Horn lane but now called Steam Mill Street. It is said to have received the former appellation from one or both of its boundary banks having been formed of the hoofs and horns of cattle brought there from the various tanneries with which the neighbourhood abounded; its latter cognomen is derived from a corn mill at the top of the street occupied by the Messrs Frost's who have built on the opposite side of the way an extensive warehouse with which the mill is connected by a stage thrown across from the respective upper stories in each building. In the description of the city in the fourteenth century this was called Chester lane and by Webb somewhat more than two hundred years ago we have it named Starre lane. The houses in this street are in general small and paltry and the neighbourhood not of the most reputable description. A small chapel has lately been erected here used as a place of worship by the Primitive Methodists more generally known by the appellation of Ranters."
Hemingway is being a bit unfair here as the "Ranters" were originally one of a number of dissenting groups that emerged around the time of the English Commonwealth (1649–1660). In the mid-19th century, the name was often applied to the Primitive Methodists, with reference to their "crude and often noisy preaching".
The Methodists looked for a site in Newtown and found one at the junction of George Street and Gorse Stacks. The foundation stone of a new building – a chapel with schoolroom beneath, of brick with Gothic details – was laid on 12 August 1862 and the chapel was opened on 8 March 1863. In 1885 a new site was purchased in George Street, opposite the existing premises. A new chapel, designed by T. M. Lockwood in a Gothic style, of brick with stone dressings, with a squat tower and spire, opened there in 1888 and became the headquarters of the First circuit; the former chapel became a temperance hall, later commercial premises and now houses a department of the university.
Gaumont Palace, a 1997–seater auditorium with an opulent interior behind the black-and-white entrance front in Brook Street, opened in 1931. The Gaumont closed in 1961, the latter becoming briefly a ten-pin bowling alley, then a bingo hall.
An earlier cinema was the Collins Cinema De Luxe in Brook Street, initially owned by fairground operator Pat Collins which made its debut on 18th April 1921. After alterations and redecorating it re-opened as the Majestic on the 12th July with ‘Lady Robin Hood’. The hall later became the Majestic Ballroom, opening on the 15th March 1957. The first music was provided by Roy Williams and his orchestra. In 1965 it became a bingo hall. Bingo was transferred to the Gaumont in 1970, and the auditorium of the Majestic was demolished to allow for road widening.
The "supertrees" are a community based, environmental project, with a stated aim to improve the bio-diversity, wildlife and air quality currently present within the City of Chester. The inspiration came from the Supertree Grove in Singapore, which were completed in 2012 and range between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft) tall. The Chester trees are on a much smaller scale and were funded by public subscription.
Italy's Pavilion in Expo 2015, featured a structure called "Albero Della Vita" (or "Tree of Life" in Italian), which proved visually similar, and similar in size, to Singapore's Supertrees. This sparked accusations of plagiarism, which fell somewhat flat when it was pointed out that these were both somwhat similar to the 1997 Bougainvillea "rebar trees" at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles created by artist Robert Irwin (which are almost identical in size to the design in Chester). In 2020, Singapore requested that Chester rename the trees (and the roundabout) as it claimed rights in the name "Supertrees". The name "City Forest Garden" was chosen (which is also the name of a development in Chengdu, China).