Dee Lane

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The area around Dee Lane from the Lavaux Map (1745). According to Hemingway, Mr Kenricks garden at the lower right was once the property of John Stockton and Elanor his wife who in 1698 and 1710 left a total of eleven shillings to the poor of St Johns parish payable off the annual rent of the garden.

Dee Lane goes down to the River Dee from Foregate Street. It first appears on the Smith Map, at which time it may have been known as "Peene's Lane" according to Hanshall. It forms the north-east boundary of Grosvenor Park.


At the Bars (the upper end of Dee Lane) 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).


The Barrs, at the eastern end of Foregate Street and at the head of Dee Lane, was once the location of a outer defensive fortification for the City. In the Middle Ages it contained one of Chester's principal industrial areas. Industries associated with transport were concentrated here, including cartwrights, wheelwrights, saddlers and blacksmiths. There were also a very large number of breweries. Dutton's list of Chester streets at the time of Edward III notes that:

  • "In FOREGATE STREET There is a lane the north side sometime called Cooles lane and called Cow lane and it stretcheth in Henwalde's lowe and near the barrs upon the south side there is a named Love lane and it putteth upon Barker's lane goeth eastward into the fields and without the there is a gate that goeth down to the water of Dee is named Paynes loode and upon the other side of said street more eastward is a lane called Chester and it putteth upon Henwalde's lowe."

To understand this passage it is helpful to note that as well as "The Barrs" at the end of Foregate Street there was a similar stucture near what is now Cow Lane Bridge on Frodsham Street and these were linked by extra-mural "defences". The purpose of these appears to have been more economic than military with the intention being more to prevent theft and the avoidance of customs than to defend against major incursions.

Civil War

On the corner the Lavaux Map locates a house, which in some fashion survives today, as that of Robert Walley. The town house, had the mid 18th Century left bay and east side to Dee Lane either rebuilt or refurbished in 1907 by W. T. Lockwood.

Daniel Lysons (Magna Brittanica) writes:

  • "The township of Saughton or Saighton anciently called Saltone, Salghton or Salkton lies about five miles SE from Chester; the manor was given to the abbot and convent of St Werburgh by their founder Hugh Lupus. Since the dissolution it appears to have passed for the most part through the same hands as that of Huntington and it is now the property of John Brock Wood Esq. Saighton Hall a castellated mansion was the chief country residence of the abbots of Chester the large square tower now remaining was built by abbot Ripley about the year 1489. The hall and demesnes which had belonged for some generations to the Calveleys were sold by the sequestrators during the interregnum in the seventeenth century to Charles Walley of Chester, inn keeper and mayor whose great-grandson, Robert Walley Esq, dying without issue, they were purchased of his widow and executrix about the year 1755 by Foster Cunliffe Esq grandfather of the present proprietor Sir Foster Cunliffe Bart: the hall is inhabited by a farmer."
House on the corner of Dee Lane and Foregate Street, possibly including elements of the home of Charles Walley. It was captured during the Civil War (and with it the civic sword and mace) and became the parliamentarian commander Brereton's forward headquarters.

During the Civil War the limits to support for the royal cause were marked in the mayoral election of 1644. The first nominees of the aldermen J.P.s were Sir Francis Gamull (newly made a baronet) and Sir Thomas Smith, the city's M.P.s who by then were disabled from sitting. Eventually, however, Charles Walley was chosen with strong support from the freemen; a former mayor, he was a reluctant candidate who held no military or political post and was likely to put local interests first.

The final phase of the siege began on 20 September 1645 when parliamentarian troops under Colonel Michael Jones and Major James Lothian overran the eastern outworks and captured the eastern suburbs, including Boughton up to the Eastgate, a loss which the governor later blamed on the slackness of Mayor Walley and Gamull. The mayor's house on the corner of Dee Lane and Foregate Street was captured (and with it the civic sword and mace) and became the parliamentarian commander Brereton's headquarters.

Following their victory at Rowton (24th September 1645) the parliamentarians responded by occupying the northern suburbs, including Hoole, and by supplementing their battery at St Johns with newly acquired siege guns placed in Foregate Street and opposite the battery on the north wall, where the defenders' large cannon (at Morgan's Mount) was soon destroyed and a breach made; breastworks were built near the gates for musketeers, and the besiegers used the captured outworks for their own protection. The guns at St. John's were turned on the Dee Mills, the Bridgegate waterworks, and the south-east corner of the walls. On the Welsh side the royalists still held the fort at Handbridge, from where they assailed parliamentarian troops in the villages beyond. In response the parliamentarians built a battery for a large artillery piece on Brewer's Hall hill, and linked their positions on either side of the river with a bridge of boats from Dee Lane to the Earls Eye, protected by gun emplacements at the south end.

Towards the end of the seige Brereton returned to intimidation, bombarding the city as heavily and frequently as his limited supply of ammunition allowed. His aim, however, was to force Chester's capitulation, not to destroy it, and to that end he endeavoured to tighten the already close siege. The royalists countered with a sortie across the Old Dee Bridge (with hand-grenades) and by trying to float fire boats loaded with powder against the bridge of boats, but neither venture succeeded. Randle Holme wrote how two boats were loaded with combustibles (gorse, tallow, pitch and powder) in the hope that they would be carried upstream by an expected high tide. Brereton wrote that the boats were also fitted with carbines and pistols set in a frame of wood which would shoot automatically. One of the boats made it within six yards of the bridge of boats.

Disturbed ground across the River Dee from the foot of Dee Lane marks the location of a Civil War gun emplacement which protected a "bridge of boats".

Even when on December 28th ice floes temporarily broke the bridge of boats and a large detachment of the besiegers was drawn off to counter a royalist force at Whitchurch (Salop.), the defenders were unable to take advantage, apart from bringing in a small quantity of wheat and oatmeal. During the later part of December and early January 1646 the blockade in the Dee was again tightened further.

After the surrender of the City (1646), the purge of royalists from the corporation was made official in October 1646. No fewer than 14 of the 24 aldermen were displaced, together with four sheriff peers and three councilmen. Those dismissed became liable to sequestration and fines: Recorder Brerewood was fined £387, Thomas Thropp £177, Richard Broster £170; Sir Thomas Smith compounded at £3,350 and Sir Francis Gamull at £940. Governor Jones reported that Mayor Charles Walley had sent intelligence to the besiegers and helped to bring about the surrender; although Walley was fined £537 he soon made his peace with the victors and entered their service. He was evidently a great survivor, as in June 1649 he was discharged from all imputations of delinquency and declared capable of holding any office under the Commonwealth. He resumed his place as alderman and in 1654 was chosen as Chester's MP in the Protectorate Parliament.

One little-known aspect of Charles Whalley's life is that he was involved with the early growth of the market for Cheshire Cheese.

Foster Cunliffe

Foster Cunliffe, who Lysons also mentions in connnection with Saighton, was a member of a family of noted slave traders. It is not known whether the property on the corner of Dee Lane also passed from the Whalley's to the Cunliffes. Foster Cunliffe (Sir Foster's grandfather) built up a thriving business as a Liverpool merchant. He was a leading figure in the city of Liverpool and was mayor three times. By 1720 Foster had built up a trading business with the plantations in Virginia. The company owned four slave-trade ships and twelve cargo ships. Sir Foster's father, Robert Cunliffe, took on the role of director of the company, while Sir Foster's uncle, Sir Ellis became MP for Liverpool, though he actually spent his time in Sussex. Robert appointed Richard Morris as manager. Morris concentrated on importing low quality tobacco from Virginia and selling it to the French, as the French were prepared to smoke tobacco that no one in England would touch.

Deva Terrace, facing the River Dee at the foot of Dee Lane.

By 1750 the Cunliffe company had five trading posts in Virginia and 26 ships working the Triangular Trade. They traded Cheshire salt, pig iron, white servants and slaves from Africa. They even won the contract to ship Jacobites into exile after the failed rising of 1745. It was not all plain sailing. The French traders wanted the Cunliffe Company's business and skirmishes were common. In 1750 Morris was killed in an accident involving a cannon on deck. The Cunliffe Company's fortunes faltered after Morris's death. In 1759 the company ceased trading. By then the family were wealthy enough to live off their investments and to settled down to the life of the landed gentry. A relative, Foster Cunliffe-Offley was later MP for Chester (1820-1832), so there is a direct connection with Chester.

Listed Buildings

Deva Terrace: a terrace of 17 brick houses with slate roofs in late Georgian style, facing the River Dee. They are in three storeys, and most have a single-bay front with gables. They have doorcases with pilasters and entablatures. The windows are sashes. The garden walls and steps are included in the listing. Inside, awkwardly related to the facade, the rooms (apart from the end houses) have one window only, near the corner of each main room.

The Wall to River Dee and quay steps at foot of Dee Lane, were probably built in conjunction with development of the Grosvenor Park. 1865-7. They comprise coursed rock-faced yellow sandstone with ashlar steps. Round piers with shallow domed caps at approx 2m intervals and flanking steps; there is a rounded stringcourse beneath a balustrade of vertically-set stone slabs with narrow intervening gaps; and a machicolated stone coping.

The area around Dee Hills Park when much of the "park" was still undeveloped, Deva Terrace was one of the first developments.

The Tower Summerhouse adjoining Deva Terrace, within the grounds of 14 Dee Hills Park was built as a "folly" in the mid-nineteenth century (probably 1830-1840), the round tower is of red-brown brick with two loops facing the river and machicolated crenellations (theses were apparently added on the late 1970's and not part of the orignal design). Internally, the tower was provided with a fireplace, but this is said to have been stolen around 2010. The lower part of the tower was used, and possibly initially intended, as an ice-house which would be stocked with ice harvested from the River Dee.

Sandown Terrace is a magnificent set-piece development that stands on its own as a grand two-storey mews terrace. Its rear elevation faces the river at the bottom of a long garden. It was built in the 1850's possibly to a design of Thomas Penson.


Dee Hills Park comprises the main park road leading from Boughton to the old Government House, with views of the River Dee. It includes a cul-de-sac off Dee Lane leading to the rear of Deva Terrace - commonly known as the Spur. It is an affluent area, a private road of substantial houses; some Victorian, others built in the 20th century. These take the advantage of good views over River Dee and the Earls Eye. In 1873 Dee Hills still had extensive grounds with pleasure gardens above the river and a tree-lined drive from the Bars, flanked by paddocks to the north and kitchen gardens to the south-east. Land was being sold for building in the 1880s and by the end of the century the terraces of Beaconsfield Street had been built over the northern part of the paddocks, and larger houses lined the drive, now named Dee Hills Park. One of the largest was the four-storeyed Uffington House, designed by E. A. Ould for Thomas Hughes in 1885.

A body known as The Dee Hills Park Estate was formed in 1923 as a residents association. One of the papers in the collection of their papers states that "..the Estate has taken upon itself the maintenance of the Road for over fifty years..". The principal object of the association was to maintain the character and amenities of the road and all owners of the properties were members. Subscriptions were levied based on the ratable value of each individual house and a committee elected. They covered all aspects of the area including tree preservation, road surfacing and ramps, lighting and various traffic problems. The committee dealt with the Gas and Electricity Boards, the local Councillors and even employed a gardener/handyman for the Estate. By 1985 the committee began to refer to the Estate as a Residents Association.

Dee Hills as illustrated in Hemingway. The extensive greehouses which the author describes can just be made out to the right of the house.

Dee Hills Park was a country house, (and for a time office building known as Goverment House) built 1814 by Thomas Harrison for Robert Baxter a Chester solicitor, but has since been much altered. Baxter (1761-1848) lived until he was aged 87 and, until quite late in life, would bathe in the Dee at six in the morning. He grew up in relatively poor circumstances was educated at the Manchester Free Grammar School, and became a solicitor, residing and practising in Pepper Street, Chester. By the death of two uncles, who died unmarried, Mr. Baxter acquired considerable wealth, and purchased the land in Boughton upon whioh Dee Hills was built. The exterior is stuccoed with a grey slate roof. It is two storeys high with a three bay garden front with Ionic columns facing the river. The front entrance includes a "Roman-styled" Doric porch. The house's south front features a veranda with four Doric columns.There is a large extension to the right, probably added in the 1930s. It was surrounded by a moderatly large, well-designed landscape garden including an intricate system of paths and deliberately planted treescapes and greenhouses. A long curved carriage path lead from the main road and the park lodge to the front of the house. Features noted in the garden included two summer houses (one being the tower described above) and a boat dock on the River Dee. Dee Hills House had its own gasworks in the grounds. In the 1850’s it was purchased by William Titherington (1814-1893), a Liverpool cotton-broker who had married Eliza Grace Fluitt (1827-1894), the daughter of a wealthy Chester family. Soon after taking residence he built Sandown Terrace, three large Italianate houses, at the eastern end and at the south-west corner Deva Terrace, a prominent group of smaller houses, on the river-bank. From the 1880s to the end of the century the terraces of Beaconsfield Street were built over the northern part of the paddocks, and larger houses lined the drive, now named Dee Hills Park and by 1892, Dee Hills House and the remaining gardens had been sold to the government and the house was being used as the residence of the Army's district commander. It became known as Old Government House. By 1892 Titheringto had moved to 13 Deva Terrace where he died the following year. He is buried in Overleigh Cemetery.

Uffington House in 2022.

Hemingway describes this section of riverbank (in his "Parorama") as follows (with this usual name-dropping):

  • "Propelling your little skiff onward for a short space you glide along a piece of ground well known to every truant school boy in the city by the cognomen of Billy Hobby's Field in which there is a good spring of water much resorted to on account of its excellent qualities in the concoction of Bohea and Hyson; and after advancing further for about one hundred yards towards Boughton the fine plantation gardens and elegant mansion of Robert Baxter Esq present themselves to view, the former tastefully laid out and the latter standing on the brow of an elevated ridge is viewed to great advantage through an interval of thickly planted trees with which the building is flanked. A curious historical fact referable to this spot will call for some particular notice when my description leads me from the city towards Boughton for which reason the present brief remark must suffice only observing that the interesting view is continued as the voyager proceeds towards Boughton ford in which interval from the river side to the turnpike road are several rich and well-cultivated gardens presenting their sloping bosom to the southern sun in all the bloom and beauty of luxuriance. At the summit of this rise are also seen the elegant ranges of buildings on both sides the London road lately erected and first commenced by Mr Alderman Morris; the new church at Boughton; Richmond Terrace the beautiful residence of John Lloyd Esq with numerous other interesting objects; while nearer to the water edge stand the works of the new water company; Barrel well brewery; and the residence of Mr John Walker."

Hemingway also mentions (at the end of volume 1 of his "History") the discovery of clay pipes during the construction of Dee Park which he believed were of monastic origin.

Besides being a cotton merchant, Baxter's successor at Dee Park, William Titherington, was on the Board of the Royal Insurance Company in Liverpool; Chairman of the Birkenhead, Lancashire & Cheshire Junction Railway; held shares in the Minera Mine Company and the Queen Hotel (on City Road); and set up the Rhyl Hotel Company. His position as the director of the railway meant that he could hold the train for his travel between Chester and Birkenhead. He had other business interests, including being Chairman of the Liverpool Financial Association. He was a churchman and a warden at St Johns Church. When subscriptions opened in 1864 for the building of All Saints Church in Hoole, he undertook to furnish all of the stone required for its building, delivered to the site. He received the most votes in the Hoole Local Board elections in 1864 and was elected Chairman. Soon after he started selling Dee Hills Park in lots and as a result Sandown Terrace, Deva Terrace and Beaconsfield Street were built.

Titherington's Crime

According to stories in circulation at the time William Titherington disapproved of gambling, so when his business partner Mr Gill won £30,000 when Leamington won the Chester Cup in 1857 (the race was probably rigged), Titherington suggested that Gill ought not to keep the money. This gave rise to many amusing comments in the press. Punch came out with some verses on the subject, headed "Titherington, Gill, Grief and Company," in which they hinted that if there was any difficulty in getting rid of the money, they would be glad to receive it at their office. The "rigging" of the race appears to have been done by "playing the horse fine" in the earlier season to bring down the handicap for the Chester Cups, the horse's first outing of the year, where he had long odds of 100:1 prior to the race which shortened to 6:1 at the off. Whether Gill was "in on the scheme" isn't known.

In fact, it seems Titherington did "gamble": in May 1868, Titherington was arrested at the behest of the North Western Bank for a debt of £9,150 and was immediately put into Lancaster Castle Gaol (which also served as a debtor's prison). It is perhaps ironic that the gaol was also in part the work of Chester architect Thomas Harrison, though somewhat less comfortable than Dee Hills. The subsequent bankruptcy case took 4 years to resolve when Titherington had to pay 2d. for every 9d. owed. He resigned from the Hoole Local Board in 1868.

Dee Lane and the area around Dee Hills Park after development.

The Liverpool business community rapidly turned it's back on Titherington. In 1866 Titherington's name appeared at the head of a list of firms that had been run by past Presidents of the Liverpool Cotton Brokers Association. On the 1867 and subsequent lists his name vanishes. In Thomas Ellisons noted book "The Cotton Trade of Great Britain: Including a History of the Liverpool Cotton Market and of the Liverpool Cotton Brokers' Association" (a standard work dating from 1886) a list of LCBA Presidents also avoids mentioning Titherington. It appears those involved in the compiling of the list substituted the name of the Vice-President (Thomas Blackburn) instead for the year of Titherington's presidency (1856) and Ellison was complicit in this damnatio memoriae.

Titherington's crime came to light at a time, just after the American Civil War (1861-65) when many Liverpool Cotton Brokers went bankrupt, but Titherington appears to have gone further, and engaged on his private account, but using the funds of others and under the names of co-consprators, in what were described in court as "extraordinary cotton speculations". He was asked about his actual liabilities he stated that he didn't really know, but "thought they were not more than £100,000". The North-Western Bank, who brought about his downfall, was therefore only one of his creditors, and this particular debt was:

  • " respect of the joint speculations of of Mr Titherington, Messrs Mozley, Mr Price Edwards, and Mr Atwool"

Mozley was another bankrupt, chairman of a failed bank (Israel Barned and Co) and a son of the mayor of Liverpool (Charles Mozley). The family had very clear links with the Confederacy. Pryce Edwards was the Collector of Customs at Liverpool Docks and believed to have been involved in the escape of the Laird-built Confederate commerce-raider CSS Alabama. David Atwool had been the tennant of a warehouse at Liverpool Dock, and was probably the "front man". In court it came out that the investment was made under his name because:

  • "..Messrs Mozley, as bankers .. and Mr Titherington as a broker .. did not wish it divulged .. that they were engaged on their private account in extraordinary cotton speculations"

There are therefore some clear suggestions that Titherington was acting as a broker for cotton speculation during the American Civil War. There are others: in 1867 Titherington, Gill & Co. had sued Samuel Pryce Edwards who said in court that:

  • "I should think Titherington has been speculating in cotton from the earliest period of his existence as a cotton broker"

Edwards was himself an ardent Confederate sympathiser and the secretary of the US legation in London, Benjamin Moran, described him as "a great scamp" Moran wrote in his journal (2 August 1862), as regards Alabama:

  • "Indifference and connivance characterized the entire proceedings of HM officers in this matter, and Edwards, the Collector at Liverpool, has aided her escape by falsehood and perjury."
Government House in 2022.

Edwards resigned the Liverpool collectorship in early 1865 in order to stand for election - which he did successfully - as a director of the London and North-Western Railway Company. He also became a director of Barned's Banking Company. From what little "leaked out" there is certainly grounds for believing that there were close relations between a bunch of very dubious characters.

The overall sceme involved buying cotton from the then (at the time of his downfall) recently defeated Confederacy - a trade which during the Civil War was frowned upon on some circles, and much hampered by blockade. At the time of the Civil War, cotton had become the most valuable crop of the South and comprised 59% of the exports from the United States, most of which went to Britain. During the war, the quantity of raw cotton coming into Liverpool plummeted, which meant that prices soared. At its lowest, the annual volume of cotton dropped by seventy percent. In Manchester, the massive reduction of available American cotton caused an economic disaster referred to as the "Lancashire Cotton Famine". Prices, at their highest, became five times higher than their pre-war norm. Throughout these fluctuations, Liverpool’s brokers not only continued to receive their one percent combined commission on this inflated value, they often received it several times over. Due to the escalation and the volatility of prices, much of the wartime cotton was bought and sold by speculators who gambled when the prices would rise or fall. Speculators then sold to other speculators. The same consignment of cotton could be bought and sold up to ten times before it reached the hands of a spinner. The brokers took multiple commissions and often made considerable profits through these speculator transactions. In addition private British blockade runners sent munitions and luxuries to Confederate ports in return for cotton and tobacco, which were returned to Britain and sold - it could make a healthy profit. A broker could ensure that an investor could speculate and remain anonymous - and Titherington had good connections in Chester with the local wealthy. The war years themselves also saw a substantial development of futures trading and price hedging, beginning with the cotton trade. People with no previous connection to cotton were caught up in the speculative process, prompting one visitor to the Liverpool Exchange to observe that:

  • "one class of speculators have sold what they have not got, and another class have bought what they do not want and could not pay for it if they did'."

Indeed, Titherington's downfall did little to stop speculation and attempts to "corner" the cotton market: the speculations of "Cotton King" Morris Ranger before his bankruptcy in 1883 played a part in a reorganisation of the Liverpool cotton market and also had a role in attempts to circumvent it, including the building of the Manchester Ship Canal. Even with the benifit of hindsight it is difficult to see whether to what extent Titherington was a deliberate sanctions-buster or simply someone caught up in the speculations of the time. The years 1964-5 had very bouyant financial markets based not only in speculation as regards cottton followed by the "Panic of 1866" when a run on banks led to a major financial crisis.

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