The Black & White Picture Place

Old Photographs & Drawings of Chester

Abbey Green yesterday and today

Abbey Green 1976
Abbey Green, Chester 1976

rufus court in rainBy the late 1960s, much of Abbey Green had become exceedingly run-down and the Insall Report of 1968 recommended that the area be redeveloped to provide new shops and maisonettes facing upon Northgate Street with larger town houses behind. However, the landowners, the Dean and Chapter of Chester Cathedral, drew up their own plans which included the erection a five-storey office block immediately next to the Northgate which was intended to fund both a housing scheme and the restoration of adjacent listed buildings.

Rufus Court downpour: 2013

With potential redevelopment in mind, extensive archaeological digs were conducted in 1975-8 which led to the discovery of substantial portions of the Roman rampart and associated structures and this in turn led to the entire area being scheduled as an Ancient Monument. Consequently, severe restrictions were wisely placed upon any new buildings.

The Cathedral authorities, pleading lack of money, had long delayed vital restoration to their properties hereabouts until a new Dean was appointed in 1978, when, assisted by grants, a gradual programme of repairs was embarked upon. The new protected status of the area helped to persuade them to give up any idea of building over Abbey Green and of replacing the old shops in Northgate Street with their office block, and these thankfully remain with us today.

rufus courtThe city council around this time expressed an interest in putting the excavated Roman buildings on permanent public display and of taking over no.1 Abbey Green (the building with the tall, round-topped window) to serve as an interpretive centre. Sadly, again apparently due to lack of money, this failed to come about; the archaeology was carefully reburied and the fine house continued to decay until the early 1990s, when it was superbly restored and converted into a restaurant as part of the Rufus Court development.

Right: Rufus Court: Summer 2012

Rufus Court, seen below on a snowy day, was built by Thompson Cox Developments and is one of the finest examples of that rare thing in Chester city centre, a sympathetic modern development which blends perfectly with the existing old buildings around Abbey Green.
Accessed from Northgate Street or via a narrow stairway from the City walls, you will find some excellent restaurants and specialist shops here, a fine live music venue, Alexander's Jazz Bar.

You can learn much more about this fascinating part of the city in the Northgate and North Wall chapters of our internet guide, Chester: A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls.


The author's photography business and gallery, The Black & White Picture Place, was founded here in Rufus Court in 1990 and remained until 1998, when we re-located to our present location in the suburb of Hoole, from where we continue to trade to this day.

You can find out about our many photographic and digital services and visit our online galleries here.


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