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A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls of Chester

Chester's Visitors through the Ages: 5

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Fgriffiths advert 1955lintshire landowner Thomas Pennant (1726-98) was a distinguished naturalist and travel writer. He was the author of A Tour in Scotland (1771) and three Tours in Wales (1778-81) His first Welsh tour, taking in Chester, was undertaken in 1773. Dr. Johnson called Pennant the best travel writer he had read...

"The approach to the city is over a very narrow and dangerous bridge, of seven irregular arches, till of late rendered more inconvenient by the antient gateways at each end, formerly necessary enough, to provent the inroads of my countrymen, who often carried fire and sword to these suburbs; which were so frequently burnt, as to be called by the Britons Tre-boeth, or the burnt town...

The form of the city evinces its origin to have been Roman, being in the figure of their camps; with four gates; four principal streets; and a variety of lesser, crossing the others at right angles, so as to divide the whole into lesser squares. The walls, the precincts of the present city, mark the limits of the antient. No part of the old walls exist; but they stood, like the modern, on the soft freestone rock, high above the circumjacent country, and escarpes on every front.

The structure of the four principal streets is without parallel. They run direct from east to west, and north to south; and were excavated out of the earth, and sunk many feet beneath the surface. The carriages drive far below the level of the kitchens, on a line with ranges of shops; over which, on each side of the streets, passengers walk from end to end, secure from wet or heat, in galleries (or rows, as they are called) purloined from the first floor of each house, open in front and balustraded. The back-courts of all these houses are level with the rows; but to go into any of those four streets, it is necessary to descend a flight of several steps...

The streets were once considerably deeper, as is apparent from the shops, whose floors lie far below the present pavement. In digging foundations for houses, the Roman pavement is often discovered at the depth of four feet beneath the modern. The lesser streets and alleys, which run into the principal streets, sloped to the bottoms of the latter, as is particularly visible in Lower Bridge Street; but these are destitute of the galleries or rows...

castle gatehouseNear the Bridge-gate is one ascent to the city walls; which are the only entire specimen of antient fortification now in Great Britain. They are a mile and three quarters, and a hundred and one yards in circumference; and, being the principal walk of the inhabitants, are kept in excellent repair by certain impost, called murage duties, collected at the custom house, upon all goods and merchandize brought into the port of Chester from parts beyond the seas, belonging to persons not freemen of the city.

The castle is composed of two parts, an upper and a lower: each with a strong gate, defended by a round bastion on each side, with a ditch, and formerly with draw-bridges. Within the precincts of the upper Ballium are to be seen some towers of Norman architecture, square, with square projections at each corner, very slightly salient. The handsomest is that called Julius Caesar's...

Left: The Gatehouse of Chester Castle by Moses Griffith (1747-1819).

On the sides of the lower court stands the noble room called Hugh Lupus's Hall, in which the courts of justice for the county are held. The length of it is near ninety-nine feet; the breadth forty-five; the height very aweful, and worthy the state apartment of a great baron. The roof supported by wood work, in a bold style, carved; and placed on tho sides, resting on stout brackets...

The county jail for felons and debtors is the last place to bo described. I can do little more than confirm the account of it by the humane Howard. Their day-confinement is in a little yard, surrounded on all sides by lofty buildings, impervious to the air, excepting from above, and ever unvisited by the purifying rays of the sun. Their nocturnal apartment are in cells seven feet and a half by three and a half, ranged on one side by a sub terraneous dungeon; in each of which are often lodged three or four persons. The whole is rendered more (wholesomely) horrible, by being pitched over three or four times in the year. The scanty air of the streight prison-yard is to travel through three passages to arrive at them: through the window of an adjacent room; through a grate in the floor of the said room into the dungeon; and finally, from the dungeon, through a little grate above the door of each of their kennels. ln such places as these are the innocent and the guilty permitted to be lodged, till the law decides their fate. I am sure the humane keeper, Mr.Thomas, must feel many a pang at the necessary discharge of his duty. Mr. Howard compares the place to the black-hole at Calcutta. The view I had of it, assisted to raise the idea of a much worse prison; where,

No light, but rather darkness visible,
Served only to discover sights of woe.
...The present cathedral appears to have been built in the reigns of Henry VI, VII and VIII; but principally in those of the two last . . . The center beneath the great tower is much injured by a modern bell-loft, which conceals a crown-work of stone, that would have a good effect was the loft destroyed... The choir is very neat; and the Gothic tabernacle-work over the stalls carved in a light and elegant manner.

St. John's, which lies without the walls on the east side of the city, was once a collegiate church... when entire, [it] was a magnificent pile. The tower once stood in the center; but falling down in 1574, was never rebuilt. The chancel was probably demolished at the same time; at that end are still some fine arches, and other remains of antient chapels. Withinside are curious specimens of the clumsy strength of Saxon architecture, in the massy columns and round arches which support the body. The tower is now placed at the west end and has on one side the legend, represented by the figure of a man and a hind...

Tho number of parishes are nine. None of the churches are remarkable, excepting those of St. Peter's and Trinity, distinguished by their handsome spires. The first was finished in 1489; when the parson and others signalized themselves by eating part of a goose on it, and flinging the rest into the four streets.

picture of st.john's ruins.The number of inhabitants, including the suburbs of Boughton and Hanbridge, are estimated to be fourteen thousand seven hundred and thirteen. The houses are almost entirely situated on a dry sand-stone rock. Whether it be owing to that, the clearness of the air, and the purity of the water, it is certain that the proportion of deaths among the inhabitants is only as one to thirty-one; whereas I am informed, by my worthy friend Doctor Haygarth of this city, that in Leeds, one in twenty-one; in North ampton and Shrewsbury, one in twenty-six; and in London, one in twenty and three-fourths, annually pay the great tribute of nature".

Right: The ruins of St. John the Baptist's Church by George Cuitt (1779-1854)

"I do not recollect any thing remarkable on the outside walls which has been unnoticed, unless it be the Rood-eye, and the adjacent places. The Dee, after quitting the contracted pass at the bridge, flows beneath an incurvated clayey cliff, and washes on the right a fine and extensive meadow, long since protected against its ravages by a lofty dike...

At one end of the Rood-eye stands the House of lndustry; a large and useful building, founded in 1757, by money raised by the city on life annuities, for several improvements within its liberties. Here the indigent are provided for in a fit manner, and to the great ease of the parishes; which are relieved from the burden of a numerous poor, who are too idle to work, and too proud to enter into this comfortable Asylum...

A little beyond this building are the quays, cranes, warehouses, and other requisites for carrying on the naval trade of the city. These are opposite to the Water-gate; and have been much improved of late years, and the intervening space filled with a neat street. Ships of 350 tons burden can now reach the quays, where the spring-tides rise at a medium fifteen feet: the neap-tides, eight...

slave for sale advertThere was lately a very fair prospect of adding much to the trade of the city, by an inland navigation, which was begun with great spirit a few years ago. It was to run through the county beneath Beeston castle, and to terminate near Middlewich. Another branch was to extend to Namptwich. One mouth opens into the Dee, below the water-tower. A fine bason is formed, into which the boats are to descend, by means of five successive locks, beneath the northern walls of the city, cut in the live rock. A few miles of this design are completed: but, by an unhappy miscalculation of expence, and by unforeseen difficulties occurring in the execution, such enormous charges were incurred, as to put a stop for the present to all proceedings...

The idea of a canal along the dead flat between Chester and Ince has been long since conceived, by persons very conversant in the nature of the trade of this city. One mouth might have opened into the Dee in tho place of the present; another near Ince, which would create a ready inter course with Liverpool, the Weever, and the salt-works and great dairies on that river; with Warrington, and with the flourishing town of Manchester, and a numerous set of places within reach of the Mersey, and of the canal belonging to that useful Peer, the duke of Bridgewater, to which the greatest of our inland navigations is connected. This litt le cut the city might, and still may, enjoy unenvied, unrivalled; and, what is a material consideration, the distance is trifling (seven miles), the excpences small, and the profits to the undertakers great..."

The edition of the Cheshire Sheaf of February 1881 contained the following strange anecdote regarding Thomas Pennant,

Pennant, the eminent traveller, had a great aversion to wigs, which also transferred to their wearers. Once, in the presence of the Mayor of Chester, who wore a powdered wig, he got very excited and nervous and angrily made some strong remarks about the Mayor to a companion. At last, losing all control over his feelings, he rushed at the Mayor, pulled off his wig and ran away with it out of the house, waving it aloft as he went. The Mayor followed, to the amusement of the populace; and this curious race was afterwards known as "the Mayor and Mr Pennant's tour through Chester".

He did the same thing on a second social occasion in Chester, as recorded in Walpoliana, No, 169, vol. 1: "Dining once at Chester with an officer who wore a wig, Mr. Pennant became half seas over; and another friend that was in company carefully placed himself between Pennant and the wig, to prevent mischief. After much patience, and many a wistful look, Pennant started up, seized the wig, and threw it into the fire. It was in flames in a moment, and so was the officer, who ran to his sword. Downstairs ran Pennant, and the officer after him, through the streets of Chester. But Pennant escaped, from superior knowledge of topography".

The Sheaf remarked upon these tales, "If these anecdotes be true it would only be another example of a strong mind having a weak spot." It was certainly true that, in 1776, when he sat before the great Gainsborough to have his portrait painted, he chose, much against the fashion of the time, to appear wigless.

pintThe Rev John Wesley, tireless preacher and traveller and the father of Methodism was a frequent visitor to Chester. One of the earliest nonconformist places of worship in Britain, the (now vanished) 'Octagon Chapel' was built here in 1764. Previous to its erection, Wesley was happy to preach in the open air, as he recorded here in June 1752:

"Saturday, 20th- I rode into Chester and preached at six, in the accustomed place (Love street, off Foregate street) a little without the gates, near St. John's church. One single man, a poor alehouse keeper, seemed disgusted, spoke a harmless word, and ran away with all speed.  All the rest behaved with the utmost seriousness while I declared “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Right: 19th century view of the Phoenix Tower and the Shropshire Union Canal

"Mon. 22nd.- We walked round the walls of the city, which are something more than a mile and three quarters in circumference. But there are many vacant spaces within the walls, many gardens, and a good deal of pasture ground; I believe Newcastle-upon-Tyne, within the walls, contains at least a third more houses than Chester.

The greatest convenience here is what they call “the Rows”; that is covered galleries which run through the main streets on each side, from east to west and from north to south; by which means one may walk both clean and dry in any weather, from one end of the city to the other.

I preached at six in the evening in the square to a vast multitude, rich and poor. The far greater part, the gentry in particular, were seriously and deeply attentive; though a few of the rabble, most of them drunk, labored much to make a disturbance. One might already perceive a great increase of earnestness in the generality of the hearers."

Two hundred years after the event, Wesley's presence in Chester was commemorated by a plaque on the Methodist Church in St. John Street inscribed: "Near this spot on June 20th 1752, the Rev John Wesley MA preached on the occasion of the first of his many visits to this city. 'O let me commend my Saviour to you' Erected by the Methodists of Chester 1952"

You can freely download and read the whole of John Wesley's Journal here.

pintThe Rev William Cole was a Cambridge antiquary who visited Tarporley and Chester in 1755. In a letter to a friend he wrote,

walking the walls"Thank God, I have passed over some of the most detestable roads in England on my way from Torporley to this City (approx 10 miles), and have found no inconvenience by the jolting: the roads throughout Cheshire are all paved; and some of them so worn and rugged that it is hardly safe, much less easy, to pass over them. I had a scruple of conscience which brought me to Chester; for, as I had personally visited every other Cathedral Church in England, and being within ten miles of this, I could not with a safe conscience leave Cheshire without paying my devotions at the Shrine of St. Werburga.

Left: Walking the Walls in Autumn

My stay, however, will be the shorter in this Pilgrimage, as the Races begin here next Monday; and the City then will be so crowded that it will not be very easy for one in my unwieldy situation (he had injured his leg some time before) to pass pleasantly my time among people whose whole ideas are centred in that article of Horse-racing. Indeed, this seems to be the Capital of that noble diversion... the the conversation of the Gentry turns wholly upon betts at Horse-races and Cock-fighting; and the lower class of people seem to be as eager after it as their betters; and was I to reckon up all the Matches I have heard since I have been in this County Palatine, I should be much out of breath.

The Cathedral here is but a small and mean building of a reddish sandy stone, which, decaying by weather, makes it have a poor appearance on the outside: but the City is very lage and has much opulence in its look; and the Rows, as they are called, make it have a very odd and singular aspect; very different from all others I ever saw: for all the houses either stand upon pillars in front, or have steps or galleries from one to another; so that you walk dry under them in the very worst of weather: and, indeed, this is a climate that requires it; for since I have been in Cheshire, it has not refrained from raining some part of the day for almost the whole time".

pointAn extract from the diary of Elizabeth, wife of the First Duke of Northumberland, who was on his way to Ireland to take up the post of Lord Lieutenant in 1763:

"Arrived in Chester. The Invalids were under Arms, the City Companies had their colours flying, the crowd in the windows, balconies amd streets was immense and on a high scaffold, hung with carpeting, was the Mayor and Corporation. The Recorder made from thence a speech to my Lord who was forced to answer it out of the post chaise. The Rows in this city are both ugly and inconvenient, they are level with the one pair of stairs, windows which floor they make dark, and beneath are neither rooms nor shops but vaults and warehouses. It is said that they were once level with the streets and are now so with the back yards, but in an incursion of the Welch they were obliged to cut down the streets to their present level. It stands on the River Dee over which is a bridge of 12 arches. it is said to contain 12,000 inhabitants and to have been founded by the Romans. The houses are old and in general of timber.

In the afternoon my Lord and the Gentlemen went to the Town Hall to partake of a collation where the Prince of Wales' health was drank by the title of The Earl of Chester and we all went after to the ball. I can't say much for the ladies, they were neither well dressed nor handsome, except a Miss Baldwin who was really pretty.We left Chester the next morning and I hear cannot help observe that we were not ask'd charity by a single beggar.."

chester guided walkspointIn 1769 The Third Viscount Grimston journeyed through Wales and Cheshire. Here are some extracts from his diary..

"15th Oct. The ride from Wrexham is exceeding flat. When you enter Cheshire, before that, at the distance of four miles a noble prospect of the country opens itself to your view and gives a great idea of the fertility and richness of the soil. Thus we left the mountains of Wales and once again entered England.

16th Oct. Chester was formerly a colony of the Romans in which their famous Twentieth Legion was quartered. It was afterwards granted to Hugh Lupus by William the Conquerer whose nephew he was. The fortifications have been very strong and are still kept up, which affords on the top of the walls a very pleasant and dry walk.

There are four (actually eight) churches besides a cathedral, which is supposed to be one of the oldest in England. Near this is a famous chapter house, which is admired for the beauty of the gothic architecture. Under this building lie the ashes of some of the Earls Palatine of Chester.

The Castle, now almost a ruin, was formerly a palace to the Earls of Chester, where they assembled their parliaments and enacted laws independent of the Kings of England. It has yet a garrison always kept in it. Hugh Lupus it is supposed raised this building.

The Exchange is a neat building. Over it is the city hall, a well contrived court of judicature. The bishop's palace is a modern building and very elegant. The See is but indifferent, it was divided by Henry VIII from Lichfield anno domini 1541.

The bridge over the Dee, which washes the town, is high and strong built, which is absolutely necessary on account of the force of the stream.

The rows or piazzas, first formed in that manner the better to oppose any enemy that entered the town, run along the side of the streets before all the houses, and have a very particular appearance; the upper story of each building projects into the street, which makes this covered way. The great use of it now is to keep those that walk free from the rain. The shops are all held under these covered ways, and do not appear to the open street.

Chester is a very large and opulent town, beautified with many good buildings.

At the distance of three miles is Lord Grosvenor's seat, Eaton; the house small, situated in a good park, which Mr. Brown has attempted to improve. Near this is Beeston Castle, built by the famous Hugh Lupus, on the edge of a precipice. The forest is noted for plenty of red deer.

Danced this evening with Miss B... "

pointThe following, from the pen of the famed Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84), was not included in any collected edition of his works, but was printed independently in 1816, under the editorship of R. Duppa, LL.B. It was entitled A Diary of a Journey into North Wales in the year 1774. He and his party arrived in Chester on July 26th of that year:

"In the afternoon we came to West-Chester; (my father went to the fair, when I had the small-pox.) We walked round the Walls, which are complete, and contain one mile three quarters, and one hundred and one yards; within them are many gardens : they are very high, and two may walk very commodiously side by side. On the inside is a rail. There are towers from space to space, not very frequent, and, I think, not all complete.

July 27th. We staid at Chester, and saw the Cathedral, which is not of the first rank. The Castle, (in one of the rooms the Assizes are held) and the refectory of the old Abbey, of which part is a Grammar School. The master seemed glad to see me. The cloister is very solemn; over it are chambers in which the singing men live.

In one part of the street was a subterranean arch, very strongly built [? one of the crypts]; in another, what they called, I believe rightly, a Roman Hypocaust. The Hypooaust is of a triangular figure, supported by thirty-two pillars, two feet ten inches and a half high, and about eighteen inches distant from each other. Upon each is a tile, eighteen inches square, as if designed for a capital; and over them a perforated tile, two feet square. Such are continued over all the pillars. Above these are two layers; one of coarse mortar, mixed with small red gravel, about three inches thick; and the other of finer materials, between four and five inches thick 5 these seem to have been the floor of the room above. The pillars stand on a mortar-floor, spread over the rock.

On the south side, between the middle pillars, is the vent for the smoke, about six inches square, which is at present open to the height of sixteen inches. There is also an ante-chamber, exactly of the same extent with the Hypocaust, with an opening in the middle into it. This is sunk nearly two feet below the level of the former, and is of the same rectangular figure; so that both together are an exact square. This was the room allotted for the slaves who attended to heat the place; the other was the receptacle of the fuel designed to heat the room above, the concamerata sudatis, or sweating chamber; where people were seated either in niches, or on benches, placed one above the other, during the time of the operation. Such was the object of the Hypocaust; for there were others of different forms, tor the purpose of heating the water destined for the use of the bathers.

Chester has many curiosities."

point In his 1785 work An Account of the Musical Performances... in Commemoration of Handel the English music historian Charles Burney (1726-1814) related the following anecdote about the great composer:

"When Handel travelled through Chester, on his way to Ireland, this year, 1741 (to give the first performance of Messiah), I was at the Public School in that city and very well remember seeing him smoke a pipe, over a dish of coffee, at the Exchange Coffee House; for being extremely curious to see so extraordinary a man, I watched him narrowly as long as he remained in Chester, which, on account of the wind being unfavourable for his embarking at Parkgate, was several days. During this time, he applied to Mr. Baker, the Organist, my first music master, to know whether there were any choirmen in the cathedral who could sing at sight, as he wished to prove some books that had been hastily transcribed, by trying the choruses which he intended to perform in Ireland. Mr. Baker mentioned some of the most likely singers then in Chester, and, among the rest, a printer the name of Janson, who had a good bass voice and was one of the best musicians in the choir.

A time was fixed for this private rehearsal at the Golden Falcon (in Northgate Street), where Handel was quartered; but, alas! on trial of the chorus in the Messiah, 'And with his stripes we are healed,' poor Janson, after repeated attempts, failed so egregiously, that Handel let loose his great bear upon him; and after swearing in four or five languages, cried out in broken English, "You shcauntrel [scoundrel]! tit not you dell me dat you could sing at soite [sight]?"

Janson : "Yes, sir, and so I can, but not at first sight."

pointLawyer, diarist, and author James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (1740-1795) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is best known for his biography of of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84. Read about his visit to Chester here). This is part of a letter to Johnson, dated October 22nd 1779- written as he "passed a fortnight in mortal felicity" enjoying the company of a "great many genteel families"- and is one of several expressing his delight in Chester and its feminine society...

"We got to Chester about midnight on Tuesday; and here again I am in a state of much enjoyment . . . Chester pleases my fancy more than any town I ever saw. I told a very pleasing young lady, niece to one of the Prebendaries, at whose house I saw her, "I have come to Chester, Madam, I cannot tell how; and far less can I tell how I am to get away from it."

How long I shall stay here, I cannot yet say. Do not think me too juvenile. I beg it of you, my dear Sir, to favour me with a letter while I am here, and add to tho happiness of a happy friend who is ever, with affectionate veneration, Most sincerely yours, JAMES BOSWELL".

Dr. Johnson replied, "In the place where you are, there is much to be observed, and you will easily procure yourself skilful directors."

In another letter, Boswell says, "I was quite enchanted at Chester, so that I could with difficulty quit it".

In 1794, Anna Seward wrote, "With the odd ancientry of Chester we were much amused, it renders this city perfectly unique."

keep on smiling!pointThe following lengthy impression, an excerpt from An Excursion from Sidmoth to Chester in the Summer of 1803, was penned by one Edmund Butcher..

"After tea.. we sallied forth, and accomplished a walk nearly round the walls of this ancient metropolis of Cheshire. These are extremely commodious; being smoothly paved, of a very convenient breadth, and defended on the outside by a parapet. From them, a fine and extensive prospect is enjoyed, over the large suburbs of the city- a great reach of flat cultivated country, the shallow, but widerspreading Dee, and, in the distance, almost all round, the lofty ridges, or irregular summits of Flint, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, and Denbigh- these bound the panorama, and unite it with the horizon, in almost all points.

After our afternoon's service, we went to the cathedral... a very ancient and stately structure. It stands in Northgate-street; and the greater part of it was built in the reigns of Henry VI. VII. and VIII. Some parts of it had their origin instill remoter times. Simon Ripley, who was chosen abbot in 1485, is mentioned as the builder of the broad aisle. Henry VIII. made Chester a bishop's see in 1541, and allotted the church of the abbey of St. Werburgh for its cathedral. This abbey was a nunnery almost twelve hundred years ago, founded by Wulpherus, king of the Mercians, for his daughter St. Werburgh.

The choir is very neat. Some good old tapestry forms the altar-piece, and the Gothic tabernacle work is very rich. The bishop's throne is a piece of high antiquity; it is said to have been the original shrine of St. Werburgh. It is superbly ornamented, and encircled with a group of small images, representing saints and kings of Mercia, Some of these were a few years ago, either by time or accident, decapitated. A mason was employed to restore these necessary adjuncts of majesty, but not being much acquainted either with saints or sovereigns, he made but bungling work of it; the caputs of kings and queens have been evidently transposed; and, in some instances, a hoary beard now decorates a female head and shoulders, and vice versa.

On the north side of the broad aisle are the cloisters, which are beautiful, and well finished. The chapter-house, where the bones of several earls and abbots lie in peaceful and dignified repose, is 50 feet long, 26 wide, and 35 high. It is supposed to have been erected by Randal Maschines, earl of Chester, who died in 1128. Here, about eighty years ago, a skeleton was discovered, which was supposed to be that of Hugh Lupus, nephew to William the Conqueror. It was contained in a stone coffin; the bones were in their natural position, and wrapped in leather; the legs were bound together at the ancles.

In the building called the Abbey, which joins the cathedral, is the Library, a room which is in complete repair, and a fine specimen of Gothic architecture. It once contained some thousands of volumes, but numbers of them are taken away, and those that remain are in a'neglected filthy condition, and fast becoming a prey to dust and worms. The old verger told us, that the bishop and his clergy now made no other use of this room than, once or twice a year, to settle their temporal affairs in it. A large strong chest, well locked and barred, containing records of the church, stands in one corner; and, in the middle of the room, a circular table, surrounded with about half a dozen cumbrous wooden chairs, all well coated with dust, confirmed the truth of the account that they were not often used. Some cloisters, still in tolerable preservation, run round a small grass-plat in the front of this room.

There are eight other churches in Chester; that dedicated to the Trinity has a remarkably light and beautiful spire.

Some parts of the old castle are still remaining; they have, of late years, undergone considerable alterations and repairs ; and, from the ramparts, which are still kept up, and mounted with some cannon, is a very extensive prospect. Great quantities of musquets, pikes, and other instruments of destruction, and large stores of ammunition, are now deposited there.

Upon the site of part of the old castle is erected a very magnificent county-hall. This structure is entirely of stone : it is a very chaste design, the columns of which are of the Doric order. The entrance is under a very grand portico, supported by twelve of these columns, of prodigious magnitude, and each formed of one entire block of stone. The inside of the court is a semicircle, which is likewise supported by twelve columns of nearly the same dimensions, and of the Ionic order; the coved roof is superbly decorated, and, like the rest of the building, is all of stone.
The gaol is united in the same mass of building with the hall; and the prisoners are brought up for trial by a subterraneous passage, which opens into the bar. Steps, rising one above another, through the whole arc of the semicircle, render the audience part of this edifice extremely convenient ; but we were told that the echo was so great, that even the judge had a difficulty in hearing what was said. They were endeavouring to remedy this defect by filling up the wall which runs behind the bench on which the judge sits and we were told it was in contemplation to erect a sounding-board over the box in which the prisoners are placed.

The infirmary is a large, handsome brick building, in a fine airy situation near the town walls which it completely overlooks. It was erected by subscription in the year 1761. The late Dr. Tylston was in every respect a most active friend to this institution. We went into several parts of it, and could not but feel great pleasure in observing the extreme cleanliness and regularity with which it is conducted.

The town-hall, though now growing old, is a large, handsome building; it stands in the middle of the city: the lower part is open on all sides, being supported by pillars of great bulk, and thirteen feet high. Over one of the end fronts is a statue of Queen Anne, an absurd attempt to ornament which has been made by gilding the crown, and the broad fringe of the petticoat. Some small shops are erected under one part of it. The upper part has a threefold division: an assembly-room, a court of justice, and a room in which the corporation meet as a council-chamber. Business was transacting there at the time, so that we could not be admitted into this part. The court, and the assembly-rooms, were both new painting ; both of them contain several portraits as large as hfe. I did not observe any older than the age of Charles II.

The bridge over the Dee is a very fine one, consisting of twelve arches. A circular tower of brick, 150 feet high, erected for the purpose of casting patent shot, is esteemed a very perfect building of its kind. It is connected with a large lead manufactory, in which the steam-engine, the steel rollers, and every part of the machinery, is upon the most improved principles, and of the most excellent workmanship. The whole was not quite completed at the time we saw it, and a public tesr timony of thanks is due to the gentleman who so kindly and politely shewed us its various parts, and so satisfactorily explained the several operar tions it would perform. Th» mechanical and inquisitive turn of my dear boy were here richly gratified.

The great peculiarity of Chester is the Rows, as the inhabitants call them, which run on each side of the four principal streets into which the city is divided ; these main streets, which, as well as the smaller ones, cross each other at right angles, are excavated so much below the surface, that a row of small shops runs, on each side, below the level of the houses ; over these shops are galleries, covered by the projecting and higher rooms of the houses, the shops of which form the back of the Rows, from which there are many flights of steps into the body of the streets. Thus it happens, that the passengers, walking through these covered lanes, as one may call them, are hardly seen, and only carriages occupy the main street.

The shops in these rows are, as may well be supposed, in general, small, dark, and inconvenient. There seems little doubt of Chester having been founded by the Romans, it being so directly the shape of one of their camps, with perfectly straight streets, and the two principal ones crossing each other, and terminating with gates at the four cardinal points ; but it is very difficult to conjecture' a reason for the excavation of the main streets—I think that assigned by my friend whom I was visiting as plausible as any—that it was designed to give the inhabitants some little advantage over an enemy who might force his way into the town. In those parts of the city where the Rows do not incumber the buildings, there are many large well-built houses; and the. streets, in general, are clean and spacious.

Upon the walls, the beauty and convenience of which I have before noticed, were formerly several towers; of these only one remains to perpetuate the hostile era in which it was erected. This is called the Phoenix Tower; and is remarkable for being the station from which Charles I. witnessed the battle of Rowton Moor; and had the mortification of seeing the arms of the Parliament victorious. Sir Marmaduke Langdale was there defeated by General Pointz.

tourists on northgateIn the room of the old gates, three very handsome, lofty, and spacious arches, over which the wall-walk is continued, have, within these few years, been erected; and we saw, in the castle, the model for a similar one, in the room of the north gate, which alone remains.

Left: American visitors upon the Northgate

Chester has no particular manufacture, but its population is thought to be increasing; at present it reckons about 13,000 inhabitants. It is esteemed a healthy place, and the salubrity of its air is in-i creased by many thousand acres of fine land, which, within the last sixty years, have been rescued from the dominion of the sea. Formerly, at the influx of the tide, the Dee came close under the walls, but, by digging a new channel, this is prevented; the navigation has been rendered safe, a shifting barren sand rendered fertile; this new land, secured by proper banks, is divided into, fine fields, with thorn hedges, and is beautifully sprinkled with wind-mills, farm-houses, &c. It is expected that, in a few years, still greater acquisitions of territory may be made. A canal from hence to Liverpool is just completed.

Chester is not only a busy, but a gay place. It has numerous balls and assemblies, a theatre, and races once a year upon the Rhodee (Roodee), a fine large green, at the foot of the town walls- St. George's Day is the time for this equestrian amusement, which is numerously attended.

Here is a charity-school for forty boys, who are taught, clothed, and maintained by a small fund, and an annual subscription.

This city has been the scene of several memorable events in our history. About 826, it was taken from the Britons by Egbert. Sixty years afterwards it fell into the hands of the Danes; but they were obliged to surrender it to the united arms of the Saxons and Britons. This place witnessed the coronation of Ethelwolf; and here, in the thirteenth year of his reign, Edgar summoned all the kings and princes of the island to do him homage. The Dee was the theatre upon which this ostentatious regal farce was acted. The kings of Scotland, Cumberland, and Man, and five petty sovereigns of Wales, swore fealty to Edgar, and rowed him in a barge upon that river, while he sat in triumph, holding the helm.

It was at Chester that, in 1159, Malcolm IV. of Scotland, surrendered to Henry II. all the land that had been wrested from the Crown of England, In 1397, Richard II. was some time at Chester; and, in two years afterwards, Henry IV. committed him a close prisoner to its castle. Henry VI. with Queen Margaret, and her son Edward, paid it a visit in 1459 ; and, in 1493, Henry VII. and his consort, did it a like honour. In the civil wars, the royal party, under Lord Biron, were besieged in Chester; and, afterwards, it declared for Charles II. through the influence of Sir George Booth. William III. also visited this place; and, in 1695, established a mint in it for coining the new money.

The corporation of Chester consists of a mayor, twenty-four aldermen, two sheriffs, and forty common-council-men. It began to send members to parliament in the reign of Henry VIII.; and was made a corporation and county by Henry VII.

About twelve miles from Chester, on the south side of the peninsula called Wiral, is Park-gate, one of the principal ports at which the intercourse betwixt England and Ireland is carried on".

On to more Eighteenth and some Nineteenth century traveller's tales of Chester...

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