Park Street

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Actually built as recently as 1881 (by Edwards), but connected with Edward VI (died 1553).

History

Formerly named "Newgate Street". This is another surviving part of the "intervallum" in Roman Chester, which served to catch enemy missiles, as an access route to the wall (vallum) and as a storage space for cattle (capita) and plunder (praeda). In established fortresses, such as Chester, this space contained the "Via Sagularis", which also survives today as Whitefriars, Weaver Street and Trinity Street.

Park Street marks the site of a breach, battered through the wall by Parliamentary cannon, when Chester was besieged during the Civil War. By September 1645, Chester's loyal stand for King Charles I was nearing an end. The suburbs had been taken. The Royalist garrison and all the citizens took refuge inside the City Walls. Parliamentary troops mounted cannon in the tower of St Johns Church, just to the east of where the Roman Gardens are now sited, and bombarded the South Eastern defences. The tower was probably much weakened by this which contributed to its later collapse. On Monday, 22nd September 1645 this stretch of the City Walls were bombarded from 12 noon until 4pm. Thirty-two shots were fired, making a breach wide enough for ten men abreast to enter. Two Royalist soldiers were killed trying to fill the hole with beds and woolpacks. That night, the Parliamentarians tried to storm the breach, but were beaten back after fierce fighting. Lord John Byron himself described the situation thus:

  • "Thrice that night the enemy was upon the top of the wall, but at last quite beaten off. Seven of them were killed...who afterwards fell into the street, and were the next day buried by us. There were some of them taken alive, but much hurt, and so drunk that the scent of them was most offensive"

Hearing of the city's plight, King Charles I arrived in Chester with a force of cavalry on 23rd September. Following the defeat at Rowton Moor, Byron conducted a determined defence of the city, repulsing all attempts to take it by storm. When the Parliamentarians settled down to starve him out, Byron mounted frequent attacks and sorties against them. He finally surrendered Chester in February 1646. Byron left no children and the title passed to his brother Richard (1605-1679), who had been governor of Newark in 1643-5. Richard's descendant the sixth Lord Byron (1788-1824) was the romantic poet, "mad, bad and dangerous to know."

Seacome's nose was also "offended" in Park Street:

  • "Proceeding northward about two hundred yards we arrive at a paltry flight of steps leading into Park street. These steps are flanked on the left by an unsightly nuisance in the shape of a dunghill which being constantly and liberally supplied with horse litter and other odoriferous ingredients forms an odor which most rudely takes the promenader by the nose and gives him a sensation more readily felt than easily described "
A panorama of Park Street (photo 2015).

Architecture

As with much of Chester, Park Street contains many examples of things which are not quite what they seem to be - such as buildings which appear to be ancient remnants, but are actually either much restored or even built much more recently than it would appear at first glance.

A fountain of life

Edward VI coin - just because it is written in latin does not mean its Roman!

The apparently mediaeval house one passes at Number 4 Park Street was actually built as recently as 1881 (by W. H. Kelly - whose better work includes the 1883 Greysfield House, at Barrow) and bears the legend, "The Fear of the Lord is a Fountain of Life". This is sometimes said to be the inscription on an "ancient" (some say Roman) coin found on the site, - it is also found in Proverbs [14:27] (so unlikely to be on a Roman coin).

However, almost the same words: "TIMOR . DOMINE . FONS . VITAE" were struck onto a (now incredibly rare) issue of silver shillings of Edward VI in 1549, as well as on the gold half-sovereign of the same year (and some groats amd other coins). Edward VI was 9 years old when he was made King in 1547. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch raised as a Protestant. It was feared that ambitious men close to him may grab his power and use it for their own needs. Therefore the shillings of his reign were inscribed with this legend. He was dead within a few years, in 1553 (aged 15). In his "devise for the succession", Edward passed over his sisters' claims to the throne in favour of the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey - monarch of England from 10 July until 19 July 1553, and executed the following year at the age of 16. It is far more likely that the "ancient coin" dated from the time of Edward VI than being from Roman Chester.

Parish boundary marking plates on the wall of the "Nine Houses" (count them and you will see there are six). The parish boundary markers ("SOP-SMP") indicate the previous boundary between St Olave's and St Michael's Parishes.
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The Nine Houses

The "Nine Houses" (of which there are six) are the only surviving pre-16th-century almshouses in Chester. They were built in about 1650 (as part of the restoration of Chester following the Civil War) and extensively repaired and renovated in 1968-9, when the buildings were in serious danger of collapse. They are not the "oldest council houses" in the country - the first recorded almshouse was founded in York by King Athelstan; the oldest still in existence is the Hospital of St. Cross in Winchester, dating to circa 1133.

The "Nine Houses" consists of (only) six adjoined cottages in two storeys. Each cottage consists of a single bay. The lower storey is constructed in brick on a low sandstone plinth, with stone dressings around the entrance doorways that contain oak-boarded doors. The upper storey is timber-framed and jettied, and has a gable that is jettied further. In the lower storey of each cottage is a 12-pane horizontally-sliding sash window. Each upper storey contains a 16-pane vertically-sliding sash window.

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The wording of the sign outside the Albion changes, but here is a typical version.

The Albion

Albion Street in 2015.

At least until 2015 the "infamous" advertising hoarding outside The Albion informs passers-by on the City Walls that this hostelry is “family hostile”, does not serve meals with chips, has no gaming machines and does not allow pub crawls and stag parties (unfortunately, it is reported that at least one group of tourists has been mistaken for a "stag-do" and asked to leave). Built in the late 1880's and was close to the Drill Hall volunteer recruiting centre. The Albion is a "restored" Victorian public house dedicated to the Great War. The Albion has had it’s original appearance restored by it s brewery owners, encouraged by a token conservation grant. In particular, external soil pipes have been removed from the front elevation and etched glass inserted in the windows. Many items of memorabilia have been collected by the landlord are housed within the bar, including a 1928 Steck pianola (sometimes called a "player piano") - from the Gothaer Piano-Hofmanufaktur in Germany. At the time of the Great War, it was popular with the young men about to leave for France and Flanders. Great War veterans used to visit it, especially on commemorative occasions.

Behind what is now Park House (1715) on Bridge Street were two acres of parkland, which were opened as formal pleasure gardens when it became the Albion Hotel. This closed in the 1850s and the park was developed for housing, including Albion Street. The Victorian terraces in the Albion Street area are two storey red/brown brick with traditional pitched slate roofs. They have simple door openings with fanlights, sash windows with a gently rounded brick lintel, and decorative brickwork in bands. Some steps have been taken to restore original features - for exanple, in two cases this involved building ‘dummy’ chimney stacks. They have been used as a "period" location for the making of dramatic video productions. The report "Chester - A Study in Conservation" by Donald W Insall and Associates, published in 1968, stated that this was:

  • "... a most pleasant and well—used corner, eloquent of the advantages that could result from future domestic use in favoured sites within the walled city".
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Sources and links