A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls of Chester

Here we present the text and illustrations from a pamphlet produced in April 1932 by the Chester and North Wales Architectural, Archaeological and Historic Society at a time when Chester's newly-discovered Roman Amphitheatre was threatened by a city council road scheme...

Save the Chester Amphitheatre!
Preserve a National Treasure for Posterity

Chester amphitheatre
Conjectural restoration of the amphitheatre in Roman times

The Chester and North Wales Architectural, Archaeological and Historic Society

His Grace the Duke of Westminster, GCVO, DSO
The Most Rev. The Lord Archbishop of Wales
The Right Hon. The Earl of Stamford
The Right Hon. Lord Howard de Walden
President: The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Chester
Chairman of Council: Rev. Canon R. A. Thomas, OBE, MA, FSA
Chairman of Excavations Committee: The Ven. W. L. Paige Cox, MA, BD, Archdeacon of Chester
Hon treasurer: W. H. Evans Esq., Lloyds Bank Ltd, Chester
Hon. Secretary: B. T. Williams Esq., MA, FRGS, Arnold House, Chester

Three years ago, at the time of the extension of the Ursuline Convent just outside the Newgate, a massive buttressed wall, nine feet thick and obviously of Roman construction, was revealed. Later, during preliminary clearing on the site of the proposed by-pass road, two hundred feet north of this spot, deliberate excavations brought to light another small section of the structure.
Professor Newstead, F.R.S., and Professor Droop, M.A., F.S.A (of the University of Liverpool) then conducted trial excavations on the site which revealed the existence of a long-forgotten Roman amphitheatre of the late 1st Century A.D.
From such investigation as the present lay-out of the ground has permitted, it is evident that the whole structure was one of the largest and most important buildings of this class erected in Britain during the Roman occupation. Confirmation of this view is provided by the following extracts from opinions offered by acknowledged authorities:

Sir George MacDonald writes: "It would be a thousand pities if the amphitheatre were to be irrevocably sealed." Mr R. G. Collillgwood describes it as "a relic of altogether exceptional interest and in every way finer than Caerleon."
Dr. Cyril Fox, Director of the National Museum of Wales, urges that every effort be made to divert the roadway and that a section of the amphitheatre should be opened up as an ancient monument.
Dr. Mortimer Wheeler, Keeper of the London Museum says: "From an archaeological and historical standpoint, it is probable that the scientific excavation of this structure would throw a new light upon the early history of this country."

Large sections of the outer ashlar-faced wall, some nine feet thick, the earth bank and radial walls on which the tiers of seats rested and the inner arena wall, standing in one place to a height of nine feet, have been unnearthed at five widely-separated points, thus making possible a tentative reconstruction of the whole plan.
The structure was clearly a stoutly-built oval with a major axis of approximately 310 feet in length and a minor of 284 feet, capable of accommodating ahout 9,000 spectators, and was used for gladiatorial shows, beast-fights and similar entertainment for the legionaries and civilians of this remote frontier fortress.

Across the centre of this area, it is proposed to build a new by-pass road. Even if the monument were not damaged (and some damage seems inevitable) it would be irretrievably lost to archaeological exploration.
But an alternative route is available, following the line of the mediaeval Little St. John Street, which will save the site and make a safer and more graceful approach to the new gateway about to be constructed in the City Walls.
His Majesty's Commissioners of Works are so much impressed with the historical and antiquarian significance of the discovery that they have offered to defray the cost of excavation of half the amphitheatre site (which alone is available at the moment).
Further, they have urged the City Council to delay operations in order to give the Chester Archaeological Society a final ooportunity to raise the funds required to meet the added cost of deflecting the road and of purchasing properties so that the space may be cleared for excavation.
The policy of the Society is:
(i) To raise 8,000 to deflect the road away from the Amphitheatre
(ii) To raise a further 8,000 to purchase properties on the site
(iii) To have the whole northern half excavated and presered bv H.M. Office of Works

Donations and promises amounting to 600 have already been made.

So ambitious a scheme calls for the enthusiastic and generous support of all lovers of antiquities. The proprietor ot the Plane Tree Cafe at once offered 100 on condition that fourty nine others gave a like amount: some have done so. We appeal to far-sighted business men to follow suit.

If you sympathise with this attempt to rescue a priceless relic of our ancient heritage and to preserve it for posterity, please send a contribution as quickly as possible. Cheques and postal orders shou'd be crossed and made payable to thc Chester Roman Amphitheatre Fund, and sent to Lloyds Bank Ltd., Chester. For your convenience a subscript on form and adressed envelope are enclosed.
April 12th 1932

'plan of new road'
Plan shewing alternative route

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