The Falcon

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This structure is on the Millennium festival trail.
The Falcon Cocoa House before "restoration", as painted by Rayner - note that the windows here retain their "original" form.

Number 6 Lower Bridge Street is the surviving half of a still more spectacular 13th Century town house which originally extended further down Lower Bridge Street. The building was altered in the later Middle Ages, the 16thC, in 1626 and in the 19th and 20thC. Contrary to popular belief it is not, overall, a survival from Medieval Chester although some of the timbers from the former east span of the roof, now reused in the cellar ceiling, date from c1180. The undercroft, now the beer cellar, is also medieval but like many of the surviving undercrofts in Chester everything above it has been rebuilt, often several times.

The building is constructed in two storeys with a timber frame with plaster panels, including some wattle and daub, on a sandstone plinth. The front to Lower Bridge Street has an undercroft of coursed red sandstone, mostly now rendered; the storey above containing the now enclosed Row, has close studding with a wide eleven-light leaded windows having moulded oak beam and ovolo mullions and transoms. A flight of nine renewed steps to south from pavement to former Row give access to the bar.

The section of the building facing Lower Bridge Street was once a section of Row, which extended further down the Street, but this was enclosed in 1643 (during the Civil War) following a successful petition to the assembly by Sir Richard Grosvenor. It was the first such enclosure of The Rows. His petition gave the following reason why the row was an annoyance to himself and his neighbours:

The Falcon Inn Chester, from "Chester Watercolours", by Edward Harrison Compton (1916).
  • " reason of the moistinesse thereof.."

He also argued that his employment with the garrison of Chester:

  • "..tyeth him to inhabit in his said house which is far to little to recieve his familie"

Grosvenor could hardly be refused: he was a leading member of the local gentry, an MP, member of the Assembly and a leading Royalist responsible for the protection of Chester. Although no further enclosure of the Rows took place for 25 years, Grosvenor's enclosure of the row started a trend which was to transform Lower Bridge Street. In the late 18thC the building ceased to be the town house of the Grosvenor family. It continued to be owned by them, and between 1778 and 1878 it was licensed as The Falcon Inn.

A dragon-beam on shaped bracket at north-east corner and square oak beams carrying jetty-bressumer with carved fascia support the second main storey, which has a row of 12 quatrefoil panels, sloped slightly outward, beneath a continuous 34-light leaded window, returned with a further 6 lights to north face. The window has hollow-chamfered mullions and transom, moulded corner-post, head-beam jointed at centre and is sloped outward. A pair of gables on 3 shaped brackets have moulded ties, herringbone struts, replaced moulded bargeboards and shaped finials. The timber frame is late 16thC, restored by John Douglas c1879, who removed the the 18thC sash windows and installed the mullions. At this time it was known as The Falcon Cocoa House - a temperance house. In 1886 Grayson and Ould (who are partly responsible for the design of Port Sunlight) carried out a "restoration". So what we see today is partly a Victorian conception of what a "Medieval" building looked like.

The Falcon Cocoa House after "restoration" by Grayson and Ould.

The face to Grosvenor Street has a higher and older east portion and a lower 2-storey west wing, probably 1626 for Sir Richard Grosvenor.

Inside, the two (of possibly four) 13thC stone pillars forming the front of the former Row and the shop front at the rear of the Row, are still visible in the front Bar. The medieval undercroft is now the beer cellar, and has a 2-bay north chamber with a parallel one-bay south chamber, formerly a single 3-bay undercroft. The north cellar has a massive oak central east-west beam on 3 samson posts with arched braces, one removed, on sandstone bases. The south cellar has an opening with depressed arch of 2 stones to a recess with the remains of a spiral stair in west wall, a cupboard recess in south wall, stone corbels and repositioned medieval joists. The main timbers in the cellars dated c1180 are reused, from a former scissor-braced truss over the east portion of the early medieval town house.

In a series of 50 cigarette cards, "Celebrated Old Inns", issued in 1925, Hignett's Cigarettes had The "Falcon" Chester as number 15. The Bear and Billet, further down the same street came in at number three. . By the 1970s the building had become virtually derelict. In 1979 the Falcon Trust was established, and the building was donated to the trust by the Grosvenor Estate. Between 1979 and 1982 the building was restored by Donald Insall Associates.

The Falcon, and buildings down to Bridge House in 2014.

The Falcon is supposedly haunted by a Poltergeist - the ghost of a maid-servant who was thrown out onto the street by the less than impressed family who lived there at the time. Shortly afterwards, the maid-servant died, and is said to have caused havoc on occasion ever since.