Chester in North West England (just over the border from North Wales) is home to some of the best preserved historic buildings in the UK.
We’ve chosen to feature the city as it has some of the best preserved Tudor architecture in England. But we could have chosen many periods of English History for that to be true too.
Chester dates from Roman times. It was founded in AD 79 on the strategically important River Dee and soon grew into a large fort called Deva Victrix.
It became one of the main Roman Army camps in Britain growing into a major settlement.
Evidence of its size and scale is everywhere in the city – we cover some of the main sites in our suggested things to see below – and more is being found by archaeologists.
A part of a Roman barracks was found in 2018 for example.
By the time the Roman left the city had turned into one of the key trading ports of the Middle Ages.
The success and wealth of the city attracted the Vikings who regularly sailed up the Dee to attack. This forced the Anglo Saxon, and later the Norman, rulers to build Chester Castle and build strong city walls, both of which can also be seen today.
Sometime in the late medieval period, Chester’s famous Rows were started. These city centre buildings comprise covered walkways at first floor level, behind which are entrances to shops and other premises.
At ground level is another set of shops and other premises, many of which are entered by going down a few steps.
Although many buildings started earlier than Tudor times, many were completed (or refurbished) during this time.
Hence most are now in the Tudor style of dark exposed beams on a whitewash background and are probably the best example of such architecture in England.
To The Present Day
The city continued to thrive, although the port silted up in Georgian times and was superseded by Liverpool.
It’s now a lovely, slightly out of the way, place that’s a favourite of visitors to the area.
Things To Do & See In Chester
We mentioned these above. They’re the thing that makes Chester so unique and adds so much character to the city centre.
They are mainly concentrated around the central crossroads of Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street.
The best way to explore them is to walk one way at street level and then climb to the upper tier and walk back the other.
Each level is packed with little shops and so is a particular hotspot for the shopaholics amongst you.
Non shoppers will delight in the rickety timberwork (some leaning very precariously, but safely) which has a very olde worlde England feel.
Explore Roman Chester
As we said before Chester has a strong link to Roman Briton. The are several places to experience this in the city.
The City Walls contain elements of the original roman fortification – which was added to in Medieval and Georgian times.
A walk around the whole of these walls is a great way to see the city.
The walls are also a great vantage point to look down on the Roman Amphitheatre.
A mural depicting the probable original look of the theatre painted on the wall in 2010 allows visitors to imagine just what it would have looked like in the AD 70s when it was first constructed.
The Dewa Roman Experience is an interactive museum and exhibition, is a great family friendly way to imagine Roman life.
Whether it’s attending a new legionnaire’s briefing from ‘Grapus the Oars Master [who] tells of the dangers you will face as you near the edge of the known world’, to exploring reconstructed buildings from the old fortress, there’s something for everyone.
You can even take part in a mock soldiers patrol of the city!
As many other fine old English towns and cities, Chester has a gorgeous and historic Cathedral at its centre.
The current building – there’s been a church here since 1092 – was commenced around 1250, took 275 years to complete and was a monastery until the 16th century Dissolution.
The 13th century monks dining hall is now the Refectory Café – a wonderfully atmospheric place to have a rest after a day’s exploring.
So then, Chester is a lovely place to go, especially if you’d like to experience the many periods – Roman, Medieval, Tudor and more – of British History.
Or go shopping…