Whitefriars

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"Whitefriars" as shown on the Lavaux Map of 1745. It is not clear whether "The Dark Entry" is actually Bolland's Court or not.

Whitefriars contains some of the best preserved Georgian cityscape in Chester. Once a mix of housing with a few commercial premises, the street became largely offices concerned with the legal sphere and home to several dentist's surgeries. Many of the pairs of buildings have been combined into single premises. It recent years there has been a slight trend for back-conversion into housing due to the difficulties of staff parking and client acceess.

History

Whitefriars in 2018 seen from Bridge Street. Whatever would the Romans have thought of "Caffe Nero"?

The following is taken from the proceedings of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (1884):

" "But still more important discoveries were made at Chester, in May last. At that time Mr. F. Bullin was pulling down an old cottage named "White Friar's Cottage," situated on the north side of the street named White Friars, at the corner of another small street named Holland's Court. A new house was to be built upon the site, and in excavating the cellar for it the various remains now to be described were found. The first 3 feet from the surface yielded nothing of interest, but at that depth the workmen came upon what appeared to have been a fire-place with a moulded hearth-stone, and adjoining to it a floor paved with glazed mediaeval tiles, of a green colour, bearing a variety of geometric, and a few heraldic, patterns. The remains of this floor were slight, only about 3 to 4 square yards being left, and the tiles had evidently been disturbed, as there were comparatively few of them in proper sequence. They were nearly all broken, probably from the fact that the floor had, at some later period, been that of a coal cellar, judging from several inches of slack covering it. The tiles were several hundred in number, and have been identified as belonging to the church of the monastery of White Friars, and are of I4th century date. The excavation extended 10 feet backwards from the street. Between the depth of 4 feet to 7 feet, which was the lowest reached, several fragments of columns, 16 inches in diameter, occurred. At the right-hand furthest corner a portion of a column, 2 feet in diameter, was found at a depth of 5 feet; and inremoving it another portion of a column, of similar diameter but 9 feet in length, was found lying at right angles to it this latter pointing north and south. In the lefthand corner of the excavation a portion of a third column, of the same diameter, was found, pointing in the same direction. In lowering the ground further, a platform, built of massive stones, was brought to light, and upon it were two large stones which had formed the bases of the fallen columns. The stones of this platform, at the point where the bases of the columns occurred, rested upon 2 feet of concrete, which was composed of boulder stones, lime, coarse sand, and gravel, but no pounded tile was in it. The boulders varied from 4 to 18 inches in size. In the other parts the platform foundation was formed of close-laid rough blocks of sandstone, with a layer of sand between them and the rock. The stones forming the bases of the columns weighed about a ton and a half, and the columns were about 14 feet apart. The platform stones were 4 to 5 feet square, and about 2 feet in thickness. The building fronted the present street called White Friars, which was found to be superimposed upon a Roman street, running in the same direction, and the latter was come upon at the lowest level reached, i.e., seven feet. It was composed of broken Roman tile, sandstone, and pebbles, but its width was not ascertained. The portion of the frontage of the building laid bare was 24 feet, but it was traced 14 feet further to the south, under the adjoining house, the builders of which, rather than remove the massive stones of the platform, had thrown an arch over them. In the soil which covered the platform various fragments of a cornice and capitals were found, from which the building would seem to have been in the Corinthian style. The portions of the columns, &c., were very little worn; and from this it has been argued that the building was erected during the latter half of the Roman occupation, and thrown down soon after the departure of the Twentieth Legion from Chester. That it was destroyed by violence seems certain from all the surroundings. In places just above the platform level, a layer of wood charcoal was found, indicating probably that the roof and other woodwork of the building were destroyed by fire. From there being a foot of soil between the mediaeval pavement and the highest part of the Roman level, we should infer that the remains were covered to that depth with soil at the time of the erection of the monastery. Besides the architectural fragments, which were found in the soil covering the platform, there was a great quantity of broken Roman pottery of all descriptions. Samian ware amphorae, mortaria, &c., occurred, but no perfect specimens; also a number of tiles, bearing the stamp of the Twentieth Legion, all more or less broken, and one or two annillae and fibulae, of bronze. Lastly, in the same superincumbent soil thirty-five coins were found, all, with the exception of a "second brass" of Carausius, of the "third brass" series. They were in wretched condition, and only the reverse of one could be made out. They appear to be of the following reigns: Gallienus, 253-268 (1); Postumus, 260-269 (1); Victorinus 269-271, (2); the Tetrici, 271-278 (8); Claudius Gothicus, 268-270 (3) - (one with reverse of CONSECRATIO); Carausius, 286-293 (3); Constantine the Great, 306-337 (5); Constantinopolis, (1). It will be seen that these coins cover a period of about sixty years, between A.D. 260 and A.D. 320. This seems to confirm the idea that the building was not erected until a late period. What was its use? Present appearances would seem to point to the fact that it had been a temple. "

The wall of massive masonry at the rear of 1 Whitefriars (seen from Grosvenor Street). This may be original Roman wall or re-used Roman stone.

Roman Whitefriars

The original street is most likely a survival of the "Via Sagularis" - The "Way of the Cloak" from Roman Chester: although it may not follow its route exactly. This road is sometimes called the 'intervallum road' as it lay in the space between the rampart and the buildings in the interior of the fort, the intervallum. The via sagularis thus ran around the entire perimeter of the camp within the rampart, encircling the interior buildings. It was possible to use this road to move troops rapidly around. It continues in one direction as Weaver Street and in the other, rather less precisely, by the now vanished Pepper Alley which lay to the north of Pepper Street.

On display at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester is a stone with a figure bearing a shepherd's crook. It is probably Attis, rather than Mithras, and was found built into a cellar wall in White Friars in 1851, close to 169. Most descriptions of the statue claim that he is holding an inverted torch, but Haverfields catalogue states:

  • "170.-Figure of a boy, erect, with legs straight, wearing a Phrygian cap and a tunic to the knees, the right hand on the chest, the left holding up a staff with a curled end; carved in low-relief on a rectangular block 29 inches high by 14 inches wide by 10 inches thick. Found in 1851 in White Friars, built into a cellar wall near that in which another rtifact (Haverfield 169) was found. Like 169 it is possibly Mithraic; more probably sepulchral. One detail is uncertain: the hand laid on the chest seems to hold something which hangs down. This does not resemble (as some have thought) an inverted torch, but its real character is not easy to decide."

His story is related in different ways. Cybele, the ancient Phrygian Mother of the Gods, was a primal nature goddess worshipped with orgiastic rites in the mountains of central and western Anatolia. The Greeks identified her with their own mother of the gods: the Titaness Rhea. According to Ovid (Fast. iv. 221), Cybele loved the beautiful shepherd, and made him her own priest on condition that he should preserve his chastity inviolate. Atys broke the covenant with a nymph, the daughter of the river-god Sangarius, and was thrown by the goddess into a state of madness, in which he castrated himself. When in consequence he wanted to put an end to his life, Cybele changed him into a fir-tree, which henceforth became sacred to her, and she commanded that, in future, her priests should be eunuchs. Like Britannia she is often depicted as riding, or next to, a lion. Cybele's temple in Rome, the Temple of Magna Mater, was a prostyle Roman hexstyle Corinthian temple, with columns across the front but without columns along the entire length of both sides.

However, it is unlikely that the building in Whitefriars was a temple of Cybele. The fortress at Chester was always a military base and given the essentially "standard" design of the fortress this is more likely the site of the hospital.

Saxon Whitefriars

A Saxon period (probably tenth century) decorative tongue-shaped bone plaque with tree of life design carved in relief, forming the tag-end for a belt, was found in 1964 during the construction of the inner ring road which also revealed the south-west angle tower of the Roman fortress.

Medieval Whitefriars

Fulcards/Fustards Lane (later White Friars) existed by 1200. A "Fuster" was a maker of the wooden substructure of a saddle, known as a "saddle tree". In the mid 13th century it became known as Alexander Harre's Lane after an important citizen who is almost certainly to be identified with Alexander the clerk, son of Earl Ranulf de Blondeville's nurse Wymark. Alexander owned a chapel, houses, and a garden to the north, in or near Pierpoint Lane. By then the area may have been a fashionable place to live, for another grandee, Ranulph the chamberlain, owned a stone chamber in Alexander Harre's Lane by c. 1240.

Monastic Whitefriars

Although the White Friars were established in Chester by 1277 when they were given alms for food by Edward I, it was some years before they acquired a permanent home.

The King's Head Hotel stood at the corner of Grosvenor Street and Whitefriars until demolished.

The Carmelite priory occupied a site between Commonhall Street, Weaver Street, Whitefriars and Bridge Street; Hollar's Map of Chester shows that the church stood directly on Whitefriars. A tile floor and part of an apse have been found near the eastern end of Whitefriars and Peter Broster, writing in 1797, states that some remains of the priory gates had "until recently" stood in Bridge Street.

The house was surrendered to Richard Ingworth, bishop of Dover, on 15 August 1538 'without any counsel or constraining but very poverty'. An inventory was made and the visitor removed a small chalice before handing the property over to the mayor. The inventory shows that the house was not as poverty-stricken as that of the Greyfriars and the church was well-equipped with service books, vestments, and altar cloths; there were five altars in the chancel, including Our Lady's altar, two pairs of organs in the choir, three bells in the steeple, and the contents of the vestry included a purse of relics. The buildings yielded little lead, apart from some guttering. Debts amounted to only £8 9s., less than those of the two other friaries. The house owned property outside the precinct which was let out on long leases. It included seven tenements and gardens, an orchard and a barn in St Martin's parish, and also the carpenters' house which may have been within the precincts. In 1539 rents of the conventual buildings and property amounted to £2 7s. 10d. a year and two former friars were listed among the tenants when the property was sold in 1544 to John Cokkes of London. The site was immediately resold to Fulk Dutton and the buildings were occupied as a dwelling house during the second half of the 16th century; in 1592-3 the site was acquired by Thomas Egerton, the attorney-general, who demolished the church and built a new house. The antiquarian Webb lamented the loss of the church (of which the steeple was used as a navigation aid until it was taken down in 1580) in the following terms:

  • It was a great pitie that the steeple was put away, being a great ornament to the citie. This curious spire steeple might still have stood for grace to the citie, had not private benefit, the devourer of antiquitie, pulled it down with the church, and erected a house for more commoditie, which since hath been of little use, so that the citie lost so goodly an ornament, that tymes hereafter may more talk of it, being the only sea-mark for direction over the bar of Chester.
"The Old House" in Whitefriars.

Joseph Hemingway writes of secret passages linking Whitefriars to Chester Castle:

  • A very popular opinion has long prevailed, that there anuiently existed' subterranean passages between the castle and various public buildings in the city, though for what purpose, or why or when discontinued, is wholly unknown. This idea received the authority of the author of the Polycronicon, who says," In this cyte been ways under erthe, with vowtes and stotie-werke ivonderly wrought; three chambred werkes." In remarking upon this passage, Mr. Pennant observes, that of these not a trace, nor even the least memory is left, notwithstanding the most diligent search and inquiries have been made. None, says he, have ever been discovered, by the frequent sinking of cellars for new buildings on the site of the old ; tradition has delivered no such accounts to us; nor is their exit to be traced beneath the walls in any part of their circumference. It should be recollected, however, that Mr. Pennant wrote upwards of fifty years ago [before 1780], and that since his time, a greater number of reliques of antiquity has been discovered, than before his time. I am not prepared to speak decidedly on the question, but confess I am less sceptical on the affirmative part of it, than formerly. There is some difficulty in accounting for the blocking up of passages and arches several yards below the surface of the ground, without admitting the existence of continuous ways for some purpose or other; and if we cannot ascertain their direct object, yet the palpable fact is not to be denied or evaded. But what has most tended to incline me to a persuasion of the existence of these hollow ways, were the appearances of a subterranean passage, discovered on sinking the cellars for the buildings now standing on the site of the old Lamb-row. Here was found a distinctly marked road, about five feet wide, and more than five yards deep from the level, running the whole length of the building in an oblique direction, and without termination at either end. The road seemed to proceed in a direct line from the site of the old Friary, situate between Commonhall-street and White Friars, taking a slanting direction across the latter, and pointing obliquely across Bridge-street. At the time of sending this sheet to press, the author is engaged in prosecuting a closer research into this subject, the result of which will be given when he comes to notice our antiquities.

Despite many attempts, no-one has ever found these reputed tunnels. That with "the appearances of a subterranean passage .. in a direct line from the site of the old Friary, situate between Commonhall-street and White Friars" may well have been the drain from the hospital of Roman Chester, if it existed at all.

Whitefriars in 1877 from Rimmer's "Ancient Streets and Homesteads of England". The pulley-block of the joiner and builder's warehouse is visible in the upper right.

Buildings (listed or otherwise)

Evidence for the outer lip of the Roman fortress ditch was encountered during limited archaeological investigations at the King’s Head/Whitefriars site in 1987. Prior to the building of the hotel the site was occupied by St Bridget's church, of which a single-celled, probably late-medieval building survived until c. 1690, when it was totally reconstructed in local stone with funds raised largely by briefs granted in 1684–5 and 1694. The new church was repaired in 1727 and again in 1785, when it was refaced in stone under the direction of Joseph, Turner. By 1825, however, the whole structure was unsafe. Hemingway adds:

  • "About the middle of the seventeenth century the church was taken down previous to which its appearance is represented by the wood engraving copied from a sketch made by Randal Holmes. On the removal of this structure the church was rebuilt when a wall was erected round it which enclosed several feet of the streets on the east and north sides then used as a burying ground. In the year 1745 ground was purchased by the parish behind the church, the interred bodies were removed, and all the ground on the north and east of the church thrown to the street, much to the public inconvenience".

The church surrvived until 1829 when it was removed during the construction of the Grosvenor Bridge and Road. A replacement church was built to the west of the new Castle Esplanade.

South side (Bridge Street to Weaver Street)

Friars Gate

From around 1673 the site on what is now the corner of Whitefriars amd Bridge Street was that of the "Horse and Bags" later (before 1750) the site of the "White Horse Inn". In 1810 the White Horse Inn moved to Eastgate Street and the building became the "King's Head Hotel". It was eventually demolished in 1986 and replaced with an office and shop development. Prior to the railways there was also a dense network of road carrying services throughout north Wales, running weekly or less frequently to market towns as far distant as Beaumaris (Ang.), Caernarfon, Pwllheli (Caern.), Bala (Merion.), and Welshpool (Mont.). They used a different set of inns to the carriers to elsewhere, especially the King's Head in Whitefriars and the White Bear and The Falcon in Lower Bridge Street.

One "claim to fame" of the Kings Head Hotel was that it was where the American ex-confederate soldier John McCafferty (variously: M'Afferty) stayed before his planned attack on Chester Castle in 1867. He took rooms in the name of Frederick Johnstone. Hughes seemingly familiar with every pub in Chester writes of it as follows:

  • "The large and well conceived street upon the right hand is Grosvenor Street, capable, under proper management, of being made the finest street of the city. It is flanked on the right side by White Friars formerly Foster's Lane in which the Church and Monastery of that fraternity was at one time situate. At the junction of White Friars with Grosvenor Street stands that capital well conducted establishment the King's Head Inn. This is one of those quiet cosy looking houses in which the moment a traveller enters he feels himself "at home" and certainly under the presidency of Mr and Mrs Bedson he will find that - deny it who can! - domestic comforts are still to be enjoyed in an old English inn."
Grosvenor Street an the King's Head Hotel as pictured in Hughes (1856).

According to local tradition the "demolition" of the hotel was due to a mistake by the builder. The plan was apparently to leave the skin of the building largely intact and infill with a new interior. Unfortunately wires got crossed and the whole thing came down.

Number 1

Non-conformist Matthew Henry is believed to have lived at No 1 Whitefriars ("The Old House") during his tenure at Chester (there is no "blue plaque"). Much of his writing was done in a summer house in Bollands Court, which was still standing well into the twentieth century, but has now gone. His chapel was in Trinity Street (see that page for more on Henry) and was demolished in the 1960's.

The Summer House where Henry worked. The tower in the background may be Chester's second lead-shot tower.

Originally constructed in 1588 and extended in 1658, part of the cellar of the building is said to incorporate stonework of the original Roman walls. Have a look at the photograph above and decide for yourself. As for the interior the cellar has sandstone steps with winders, squared sandstone rubble walls, some flat oak joists and a former opening to the street, now blocked. The first storey has a replaced flag floor, wall-framing exposed, 2 cross-beams with chamfers stopped at east end, oak joists and a brick corner fireplace, south-east. The kitchen has 2 chamfered beams and replaced joists. The oak newel stair has top winders and shaped splat balusters to landing. The east bedroom has a Tudor-arched stone fireplace with heraldic carving in relief on the overmantel; the east wall has large framing of heavy timbers; the south wall timbers are of smaller scantling; the framing in the west bedroom includes a jowled corner-post and a windbrace.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 1 as the home of a Miss Woods.

Numbers 3, 5 and 7

A row of three brick cottages, originally circa 1800, rebuilt 1889-90, on a sandstone plinth with a slate roof. They are in two storeys; No. 3 has two windows in the upper storey, and the others have one. There is an entry into a passageway between No. 3 and No. 5. The doorways have pilasters and fanlights. The Proberts, in the 1877 Charles Moston case had got themselves a defence lawyer, Mr J P Cartwright, of Joseph Frank Postlethwaite Cartwright and Thomas Charles Cartwright, solicitors, of 3 Whitefriars, Chester. Cartwright's firm was involved in many cases involving canalboatmen. Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 3 as the premises of Francis Wood Masssey, solicitor and number 5 as the home of a Mrs Roberts.

9-11 Whitefriars.

Number 9

Two town houses later recast as one, now office. c1720 with cellars probably of late medieval origin. Brown brick in Flemish bond to front, with grey slate roof hipped to the front. The first storey has a boot-scraper recess, and a door of 6 fielded panels in a panelled case with eared architrave and shaped cornice. The central rainwater head, with upper part of pipe, is lead inscribed JJ 1720; the west rainwater head inscribed FWM 1725 and the pipes are lead. The building is listed in Pigot and co.'s national commercial directory for 1828-9, as being the offices of Joseph Thomas Faithful Strengthfellow, Attorney. By 1887 lawyer, Mr J P Cartwright is listed as having his offices here. Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists the occupant of number 9 as W. S. Waymouth B.A.

Number 11

Early C18, town house now office, altered; cellar of medieval origin. Brown brick in irregular bond; grey slate roof has ridge at right-angle to street, hipped to front. 3 storeys plus cellar and attics, 4 windows; flush sashes with painted stone sills and segmental brick heads. The first storey has two 12-pane sashes, 2 stone steps to door of 2 short, 4 long and 2 short fielded panels in a late Georgian pedimented case of painted wood with fluted pilasters.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 11 as the home of E. Thomas.

Number 13 ("Exchange House")

An 18th Cent. house, later used as an office, with probable medieval material in the cellars. It is built in brick on a rendered plinth and has a slate roof. The building is in three storeys with a symmetrical three-bay front. The central doorway has fluted pilasters, a pediment, and a fanlight. The windows are sashes with stone sills and wedge lintels.

Once the home of Georgina F. Jackson, author of "A Shropshire Word-Book". In 11 years of travelling the county Georgina F. Jackson noted 11,000 Shropshire words, and their pronunciation, for posterity. Prior to Ms Jackson the property was occupied by Mr R. Walker, surgeon dentist. Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 31 as the premises of "Miss Jackson's ladies school", and we can safely assume this is the same Miss Jackson.

Numbers 15 and 17

The south side of Whitefriars in 2018. The inset windows of number 25 replace the earlier bay window.

Two small town houses, now an office. Probably of late medieval origin but now early C19 externally. Brown brick in Flemish bond to the front; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with the street. Cellars and 3 storeys. Each house has a door of 2 flush panels beneath 4 fielded panels with a plain overlight in a timber pilastered case

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 15 as occupied by E. W. Davies and 17 as the premises of Mons. E. M. Melladew, professor of languages.

Numbers 19 and 21

Two town houses, now offices. Early C19 on cellars of medieval origin. Sandstone; brown brick above ground floor level, in Flemish bond to front; parapet hides roof. 3 storeys, 4 windows. Rendered plinth; the sashes are recessed with painted stone sills and wedge lintels with cambered soffits. The first storey has a door to No.19 of 2 doubly sunk panels in a plain pilastered case with hood on moulded cornice, four 12-pane sashes and a door to No.21 of 6 fielded panels with radial bar overlight in case similar to that of No.19. Second storey sillband.

In 1874 you could get French or German lessons at number 19 from Professor W. Georges-Schleinitz: "late French and Classical Master at the Military Academy, Berlin". Number 21 is listed in Pigot and co.'s national commercial directory for 1828-9, as being the premises of Joseph Brown, Pawnbroker. By 1897 it was the home of the Cathedral’s assistant organist, J. T. Hughes, a founder member of the Chester Orchestral Society. Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 19 as the home of Rev. G. H. Hobson and 21 as occupied by W. Brining.

Numbers 23 and 25

Formerly 3 town houses, then 2, now an office. The gabled east part of No.23 is C17, altered; the west part of No.23 and all No.25 probably formed a pair of early C18 houses converted 1753 into one. The cellars are of medieval origin, truncated C18 or later. Brown brick of C17 irregular English garden wall bond and C18 Flemish bond; grey slate roofs, that to the C17 house having gable to street, the rest having ridge parallel with street. The C17 part has 2 storeys of one window, the C18 part 3 storeys of 5 windows. The C17 house, east, has rendered plinth, altered first storey with inserted recessed bow "shop" window replaced by pair of windows matching number 23; second storey floor-band; a tripartite nearly flush sash with no sill, a flattish basket-arched brick head; most glazing bars removed; parapet with plain stone coping to gable. The C18 houses, west, have a rendered plinth. No.23 has door of 4 fielded panels with plain overlight and a painted wedge lintel with cambered soffit; a replaced 4-pane recessed horned sash with boxes exposed. No.25 has replaced 6-panel door with plain overlight in an eared panelled timber doorcase with cornice and hood, and an inserted recessed bowed window. Rainwater hopper bears the initials "RGA" and a date of 1753.

A watching brief in 2016 of geotechnical trial pits demonstrated that deep soil deposits survive to the rear of the properties. These soils may reflect fill deposits contained within the former defensive ditch that skirted the south wall to the Roman legionary fortress. Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 23 as occupied by a Mrs Wynne and 25 as the home of Rev. George Lewis.

Numbers 31 and 33

Pair of small town houses, No.33 now a dental surgery. Probably late C18 on cellars of medieval origin. Brown brick in English garden wall bond; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with front. Over three storeys of one bay to each house. Cellar vent, perhaps formerly an opening, under timber lintel to each house; door with plain overlights in pilastered doorcases with simple friezes and cornices. Window openings have no sills.

39-43 Whitefriars (2018). Inspection of the brickwork around the window in the centre of the image shows how it has been larger in the past.

Anne Harrison, daughter of Thomas Harrison lived at number 33 and from here wrote (18 September 1851) to John Gibson asking Gibson to make a monument to her father. Harrison had died aged 85 at his self-designed home, St Martin's Lodge, Chester, in 1829. He was buried in the churchyard of St Bridget's Church, Chester, but his remains were moved to Blacon Cemetery when the churchyard was cleared in about 1964. His monument was lost during the move. Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 31 as the home of Samuel Whaley (a captain in the Chester Rifle Volunteers) and 33 as the premises of M. A. Hand, milliner and dressmaker.

Number 35

Three storey town house, now office. Cellars of medieval origin; late C18, early C19 and late C20. Brown brick, Flemish bond to front; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with front. Painted stone plinth has boot-scraper recess. Door of 2 flush panels and 4 fielded panels and overlight with intersecting tracery in pedimented case with fluted pilasters and shaped dentils.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 35 as the home of John Smith.

Numbers 37 and 39

The end of the south side of Whitefriars in 2018.

Pair of town houses now, with No.41 part of an office. c1800 altered, on cellars of medieval origin. Pale brown brick in Flemish bond to front; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with the street. EXTERIOR: 3 storeys, each house probably originally of 2 windows. Painted stone plinth with boot-scraper recess; each house has door of 2 flush panels and 3 fielded panels, the top panel replaced in No.39; plain overlights, that to No.39 of 3 panes; simple doorcases with pediments on pilasters. The windows have painted stone sills and, where original, gauged brick heads. Replaced or repaired tripartite sashes, one recessed and the other flush, to first storey have glazing bars removed. 2 cast-iron plates inscribed "SBP 1877 and SMnsP 1877" (St Bridget's Parish and St Martin's Parish). The second storey has an inserted 4-pane horned sash above the door, a tripartite sash in place of a former Venetian window to No.37 and a "Venetian" window with bars removed except in fan to No.39. A Venetian window (alias Palladian, Serlian) is a large tripartite window which is a key element in Palladian architecture. It features largely in the work of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) and is almost a trademark of his early career. However this is not a true "Venetian" window as it lacks the characteristic pillars supporting the roots of the upper arch.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 37 as occupied by John Ellis and 39 by James Pye, teacher of music.

Number 41

The east and part of the central bay of a probably symmetrical town house, now with Nos 37 & 39 an office; the redeveloped west bay of the town house forms No.43 c1700, altered. Brown brick in irregular English garden wall bond; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with front. Fhe former central bay projects slightly with partly painted flush stone quoins at its east corner; both bays have painted stone plinth and bevelled floor bands, part cut flush, to second and third storeys. Windows have painted stone sills and wedge lintels with cambered soffits. The presence of the lintel and examination of the mortar lines in the brickwork show that the window was once much larger: in fact, this was previously a pawnbrokers. Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 41 as being in the occupancy of John Ellis, pawnbroker.

The Church of St Martin before demolition.

Number 43

West part of a 3-bay town house, now northern part of a later C20 office block facing Weaver Street. The front to White Friarsis probably later C18: the central and eastern bays of the former town house now form No.41 (qv). Flemish bond brown brick, C20 flat roof. 3 storeys of 2 windows. Painted stone plinth; 2 recessed sashes per storey with glazing bars removed; painted stone sillbands to first and second storeys; painted stone sills to third storey; wedge lintels with false keystones; plain stone coping to parapet.

The ancient church of St Martin once stood at the western end of Whitefriars. St. Martin's closed in 1963 and was demolished to make way for the Inner Ring Road around 1969 - a nearby part of which is known as "St Martin's Way".

North side (Bridge Street to Weaver Street)

2-6 Whitefriars (north side). 6 is the "wharehouse" style building with the 24-pane windowframes on a much altered frontage.

Number 2

Undercroft and town house, now shop and office, on site of the service bay of the large medieval town house whose hall is in Nos 48 & 50 Bridge Street; above undercroft level the service wing was demolished for a Georgian Town House, probably c1760; some C20 alterations. The "ground floor" is at row level.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 2 as being in the occupancy of a Miss Podmore.

Number 4

Four storey house, warehouse prior to 2000, probably originally a house: c1760 partly remodelled c1860. Brown brick in irregular bond, the first and second storeys, except the east bay, stuccoed; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with street. Plinth with ribbed top. The first storey has, from west to east, a 4-panel door; a pair of now 2-pane recessed horned sashes separated by a fluted square timber pilaster; a door of 3 short panels beneath 4 long panels with mock-arched heads and a blocked overlight in a timber case with fluted pilasters and ornate brackets to a hood with 3 Maltese crosses in its frieze; a pair of 2-pane sashes like those west of the door; a recessed 2-pane horned sash and a rear entry. The stucco to the first and second storeys has reeded arrises to sides, top and panels over openings.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists numbers 4-6 as being in the occupancy of R & J Dutton, joiners and builders..

Number 6

Warehouse or workshop, probably early C19, altered to become a house. Brown brick in English garden wall bond with grey slate roof, ridge parallel with front. 3 storeys, 3 bays. The first storey has a wooden door under a cambered brick head. The warehouse doors at ground level have been removed and replaced with 24-pane windows. The second and third storeys have a former central loading bay, now bricked up, with a 24-pane window, probably cast-iron in a timber sub-frame, to each side, under cambered brick heads in the second storey and timber lintels just beneath the plain eaves in the third storey.

Number 8

The north side of Whitefriars in 2018, from number 8 onwards.

House, probably early C18, altered. Brown brick in irregular bond later raised 9 courses in harder red brick; grey slate roof, main ridge parallel with the street. Two storeys, double-fronted. Painted stone plinth with cellar vents; a yellow sandstone step to door of six fielded panels with a three-pane overlight in a plain painted stone case with scraper-recess in plinth, stopped arris-mouldings and moulded cornice.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 10 as being in the occupancy of Miss E Dutton, dressmaker.

Number 10 ("White Friars Lodge)

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number this building (as number 12) as being in the occupancy of Barker, Hignett and Carrington, solicitors, although Hignett loses a "t". They were the solicitors of William Ewart Gladstone. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served for twelve years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, spread over four terms beginning in 1868 and ending in 1894.

(Bolland's Court)

The General Public Library was situated first in the entrance to Bolland’s Court and then it moved to a room in Fletcher’s buildings, Bridge Street (later used as the offices for the Chester Chronicle). Hanshall writes of it as follows:

  • "THE CHESTER GENERAL PUBLIC LIBRARY It may not be deemed irrelevant to give a few particulars relative to the origin of this establishment. It was first suggested by a respectable Schoolmaster to the Editor of this work who immediately acted on the hint. He obtained in the first instance about twenty respectable names when Mr Fletcher the Proprietor of the Chester Chronicle whose promptitude and liberality in promoting every object calculated for public utility is well known requested his name to be added to the list accompanying it with a handsome donation of Twenty Guineas and many valuable sets of books including the Edinburgh Encyclopædia. Ten Guineas were also given by Mr Feilden of Mollington Hall. The example was quickly followed by Capt Henderson, Dr Whittell and several other gentlemen and in a few days the subscription list received upwards of One Hundred signatures. The Library was opened for the circulation of books on the 21st of April 1817, in the Philosophical Society's Room Bolland's Court."

Established in 1812, the Chester Literary and Philosophical Society, had among its two dozen members the chaplain of Little St. John's, the master of a commercial school, shopkeepers, clergymen, a physician, and the publisher of the Chester Chronicle, John Fletcher. It met to discuss papers and hear lectures, and bought scientific apparatus, but seems to have ceased after a very few years.

In 1900 the Jewish congregation in Chester opened a synagogue in Bollands Court. The registration was cancelled in 1963

Number 12 ("White Friars Cottage")

While built in the style of T. M. Lockwood it is not clear whether this was actually designed by that architect in person. Formerly known as: No.1 BOLLAND'S COURT. Cottage, now part of office. Cellars probably medieval, altered C18-C19; rebuilt above ground level 1884 for Frederick Bullin; altered and extended 1972 by Coppack and Partners. Sandstone, Ruabon brick and timber framing with plaster panels; red-brown clay tile roof gables to White Friars. The east front to Bollands Court has doorway stone-dressed with moulded arrises and Tudor-arched lintel inscribed "WHITE.FRIARS.COTTAGE" on an incised scroll beneath an ornate hood-mould.

The north side of Whitefriars (2018). The second storey balcony of the white-fronted "Whitefriars House" is removed, but its 9 iron brackets in the form of serpents or dragons are in place.

Number 12 (west part)

Town house, now part of dental practice. Cellars partly medieval; rebuilt above ground level c1800. Flemish bond brown brick; grey slate roof, ridge parallel with street. Twice weathered plinth of painted stone; recess for former boot-scraper; 2 yellow sandstone steps to door of 6 fielded panels with overlight of 9 margined panes in probably replaced timber case with unmoulded pediment on consoles; shallow bow window, east, has tripartite sash now of 2;2;2 panes, the central sash broader than the sidelights, in timber case with curved frieze and cornice. The second storey has 2 recessed sashes, now of 2 panes, with painted stone sillband and wedge lintels; the third storey has 2 recessed 9-pane sashes with painted stone sillband and wedge lintels; full lead-dressed cornice of painted stone; flush gable chimneys.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 12 as being in the occupancy of Fred Bullin and co. dental surgeon.

Number 14 ("White Friars House")

Town house, as of 2018 dental surgeries. Cellars probably partly medieval; rebuilding above ground level dated 1796; altered internally and to rear. Painted stone and brown Flemish bond brick with grey slate roof, ridge parallel with street. Painted stone plinth with cellar chute, formerly 2; 3 courses of banded rustication; apron step and 2 steps in recessed porch to door of 6 fielded panels, the top pair now glazed, with overlight of 9 margined panes; a painted stone architrave within a substantial timber case with plinths and volutes to panelled pilasters with recessed roses in capitals and carved brackets to a dentilled segmental pediment; recessed sashes; 2 west of the entrance and one east of it, now of 4 panes, in painted ashlar. Above the second storey sillband the face is brick, with 4 recessed sashes per storey, those to the third storey having short upper leaves; wedge lintels; a third storey sillband; a modillion cornice; gable chimneys. The second storey balcony is removed, but its 9 iron brackets in the form of serpents or dragons are in place.

Number 16 ("India House")

House, then Chester Rural District Council Offices, later a municipal office, now offices. Late C18, altered internally and extended to rear. Flemish bond brown brick; the hipped grey roof, behind parapets, has 2 ridges parallel with the street.

The first public library to be set up in Chester was the City Library at 16 Whitefriars in 1773, owned by 120 proprietors. It had very few novels having mainly erudite tomes on history, geography, law and philosophy. The City Library moved to rooms over the Commercial News Room in St. Peter's churchyard in 1815.

The growing demand after the First World War for in-patient maternity care led the Benevolent Institution to convert premises at no. 16 Whitefriars into an eight-bed maternity hospital, which opened in 1925.

Bank House in Whitefriars (2018).

Number 18 ("Bank House")

Detached town house, now surgeries. Probably largely mid C18, altered, with a little possibly medieval stonework. This was the premises from which Thomas & Hesketh's Bank was run before it became insolvent in 1793.

Brown brick in irregular bond; grey slate roof, largely concealed. The front to White Friars has a staggered vertical joint near the centre, and irregular fenestration. Door of 2 flush panels, 2 fielded panels and 2 panels now glazed in a timber case with roses in corners of frieze; a later lattice porch of wood; 3 nearly flush horned sashes with painted stone sills just above ground level and slightly cambered gauged brick arches west of door, one of 12 panes and 2 now 4 panes; a sash of 16-panes east of the door. The west part of the second storey has 3 recessed 12-pane sashes; the east part has a tall 10 x 3 pane stair window and a flush 12-pane sash. The third storey has 2 recessed 16-pane sashes, west, and a flush 12-pane sash east. Parapet with plain stone coping; gable chimneys. The east side has a door now part-glazed, a replaced second storey window and a projecting stack. The south 2m of the east face are slightly recessed. The north face has 3 gables; the intersections suggest that the central gable was built first, probably the north wing of an L-shaped house whose west wing would have coincided with the central portion of the present west front; note the chimney at the internal corner of the 2 suggested wings, and a portion of probably medieval stonework near the centre of the first storey, north. The first storey has a sandstone plinth, an altered door in a lattice porch similar to that to front and miscellaneous fenestration; the second storey has a flush tripartite sash of 4;12;4 panes in east wing, a central nearly flush 12-pane sash and a similar sash, set towards the centre, in the west wing; the third storey has a central 16-pane flush sash in each of the 3 gable-ends. The north face may at one period have formed an almost symmetrical front to the house.

Phillipson & Golders Directory of 1878-9 lists number 18 as being in the occupancy of Job Harrison, who is described as "apothecary, surgeon and man midwife" and had recently moved from premises "over a shop in Northgate Street" - quite a move up in the world. Job Harrison (practiced 1754-89) was an apothecary whose family, originally yeoman farmers rose to become mill-owners, iron-founders and mayors of Chester. Harrison was a close friend of Drs John Haygarth (of the Infirmary) and William Currie (of Boughton Hall), and his regular patients included "peers, clergy, lawyers, army officers, etc".

(Weaver Street)

Sources