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Roodee I

A Virtual Stroll Around the Walls of Chester

The Roodee part II


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chester racesDuring the middle ages, the Shoemakers Guild "upon Goteddsday (Shrove Tuesday) at the Crosse upon the Rood Dee, before the Mayor of the Cittie did offer unto the company of Drapers an homage, a ball of leather, called a footeball, of the value of 3s 4d, which was played for by the Shoemakers and Saddlers to bring it to the house of the Mayor or either of the Sherriffs. Much harm was done, some having their bodies bruised and crushed, some their armes, heads, legges ".

Consequently, in 1533, football was banned and similarly, the ancient practice of the Saddlers to present "a ball of wood painted with flowers to be fought for by the mob" was discontinued- to be replaced, on St. George's Day 1539, "In the tyme of Henry Gee, Mayre of the King's citie of Chester, in the XXXI yere of King Henry Theght, a bell of sylver, to the value of IIIs IIIId, is ordayned to be the reward of that horse which shall runne before all others".

The practice continued, with prizes of gradually increasing value, making Chester Races without doubt the most ancient in Britain still held at its original course. Apart from an enforced break during the Civil War and as a result of a disagreement amongst the city fathers in the late 17th century, which necessitated switching the races to nearby Farndon, racing has regularly taken place here on the Roodee for 470 years!

The wonderful city of York may claim to host the oldest existing meeting- by 1530, it was well established- but was then held in the Forest of Galtres, just outside the city and only moved to its present site, Knavesmire, in 1731. Carlisle dates from 1599, though the original course has long since disappeared. The first races at Newmarket occured in 1622, and Ascot is a mere infant, dating from 1711.

chester guided walksThe old engraving above records an exciting moment during a race meeting in the early 19th century- spectators throng the Watergate and city walls, just as they continue to do today- the best free show in town!

In 1836, historian and author Joseph Hemingway commented of Chester Races, "This meeting has long been the resort of personages of the first rank- others may excel it in number, but not in elegance or fashion".

More recently, the editor of the Racing Post, Howard Wright, said of the Roodee: "Chester racecourse is one of the most progressive and best-run courses in the country and has done exceptionally well in pulling the crowds. The attraction of the course is its smallness- in Chester's case, small is definitely beautiful as this allows it to become a theatre where punters can see all of the action".

A fascinating short British Pathé newsreel of Chester Races from 1947 may be seen here (when on the page, be sure to clich the 'Chester Cup' links too).

The Roodee covers an area of approximately 90 acres and the course is something more than a mile in length. Here we see a somewhat fuzzy, but nontheless interesting, old aerial photograph showing a big public event- possibly an agricultural show. In the foreground- to the left of the Guildhall's spire- the regular line of Georgian buildings mark the line of Nicolas Street, now part of the much-wider Inner Ring Road. On the far left, the ancient Nun's Field, which we visited earlier, is still open ground, and the curving courses of the River Dee and the North Wales Railway may be seen in the background.

Races were originally held twice a year, on Shrove Tuesday and St. George's Day. Bells were the earliest known type of race trophy and were awarded by The Saddler's Company who continued to give the bell annually until around 1697. Winners of the Shrove Tuesday races were rewarded with cups made by the Chester silversmiths.

ln 1643, it was recorded that one smith, Griffiths Edwards, was paid the-then considerable sum of £8. 6s. 8d for a cup which weighed 23 ounces. These St. George's Day cups were paid for from the common purse by the City Assembly, a situation which continued until the two races were amalgamated in the early 18th century and then held in the first week of May. The May races soon became the main social event of the country gentry and many landed families had homes built in Chester so they could be close to the races.

In 1819, the first grandstand, designed by the prolific Chester architect Thomas Harrison (builder of the Grosvenor Bridge, Northgate and much else and and re-builder of the Castle) was erected close to the Watergate so that the upper crust could avoid rubbing shoulders with the lower orders. (This has since been replaced several times- the old County Stand was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1985 and its predecessor suffered the same fate almost 100 years earlier, as shown here in an engraving from the Illustrated London News).

grandstand fireRaces by this time were all run in the afternoon to enable the country gentry to look around the shops and dine in the city before visiting the Roodee. Certain of the 'gentlemen', however, were fond of spending their pre-race mornings in a very different activity, that of attending the cock fights. This cruel 'sport' was engaged in at numerous locations around the town including several inns and a specially-built cockpit stood in today's Roman Garden (which was consequently long known as 'Cock Fight Hill'). Originally built in 1619 by William, sixth Earl of Derby as a circular wooden structure with a thatched roof, it was replaced in 1825 by a brick building with a slate roof, paid for by the 'sportsmen' themselves. so popular did the activity become that, should the cock fighting overrun, as occured in 1834, the start of the horse racing had to wait until it had finished! Finally officially banned in 1849, the sport went underground and doubtless continues up to the present day. In 1956, police raided a cock fight at Cotton Edmunds Farm at Waverton, a village near Chester, close to the site of today's popular Crocky Trail and made 36 arrests, including 13 local farmers.

The major 18th century race was the Grosvenor Gold Cup which was first present around the year I740. This gold tumbler cost £50 and was presented by the Grosvenor family. Three examples still survive today. The one illustrated here, a George III tumbler, is made of solid gold and measures just three and a half inches in diameter. It is inscribed with the coat of arms of the Grosvenors and the words, "The Gift of the Right Honorable Earl Grosvenor to the City of Chester 1792".

This event eventually became known as the Chester Gold Cup, and, later in the 18th century, as the price of gold increased, cups became smaller and after 1801 the Duke of Westminster started presenting silver instead of gold trophies. Later still, these cups were made of gilt silver with two handles. The Chester Gold Cup was first won on May 2nd 1792 by Scorpion, a horse owned by Lord Landerdale.

Grosvenor cup 1792The founding father of Chester Races, Henry Gee, was a zealous reformer who is said to have put the corporation house in order "with a high hand and an unswerving purpose". He suppressed corrupt municipal practices and appointments, banished "idle beggars and vagabonds", regulated the markets and established the first attempt at a school board. He banned single women from keeping common ale-houses and "stamped on immorality wherever he found it".

Later, in the 18th century, the week's racing would be rounded off with a more grisly piece of 'entertainment'- condemned criminals were executed on a Saturday, giving rise to the local saying "Five day's racing, one day's hanging".

Henry Gee died in 1545, but his name is remembered in the running of the Henry Gee Stakes for three-year-old maidens at the July meeting, and possibly also in the old, but still commonly-used, English nickname for racehorses: Gee-Gees.

400 years later, offenders- not necessarily human- continued to be severely dealt with, as was recounted in this sad story by Henry Mayhew, writing in 1851 about a performing bear called Jenny, a monkey, and their owner, an Italian named Michael: "Michael was not rough to Jenny, unless she was obstropelous (sic). If she were, he showed her the large mop-stick, and beat her with it -hard sometimes- specially when she wouldn't let the monkey get on top of her head. The monkey was dressed as a soldier, but the bear had no dress except her muzzle and chain. The monkey (a clever fellow he was, and could jump over sticks like a Christian) was called Billy. He jumped up and down the bear too, and on his master's shoulders, where he sat as Michael walked up and down the streets. The bear had been taught to rough-and-tumble: she rolled right over her head, all round a stick, and then she danced all about it. She did it at the word of command. Michael said to her "Round and round again."

Jenny the bear proved a harmless and popular attraction wherever she was taken, in town or country- until she came to Chester. Michael recalled, "At Chester Races we were all taken, and put into prison: bear and dogs and musicians and all- every one- because we played a day after the races; that was Saturday. We were all in quod until Monday morning. I don't know how the authorities fed the bear. We were each in a seperate cell, and I had bread and cheese, and gruel. On Monday morning we were discharged, and the bear was shot by the Roodee 1843magistrate's order. They wanted to hang poor Jenny at first, but she was shot and sold to the hairdresser's. I couldn't stay to see her shot, and had to go into an alehouse on the road. I don't know what her carcasse sold for- it wasn't very fat"...

Right: 'Millipede' on the Roodee 1843 by William Tasker. On the left can be seen the first grandstand, designed by Thomas Harrison and built in 1819. Compare it with the modern grandstand below.

John Broster wrote this description of the Roodee during race week in 1821, "When the weather is favourable, the views from the different parts of the course are rendered singularly interesting by the concourse of people, the various carriages and horsemen; and what adds still more to the whole appearance is the beauty, fashion and gaiety which are ranged on the Walls and on the hill beneath them. The meetings are honoured with companies of the first rank, and the assemblies equal most in the kingdom".

Not all was such sweetness and light during race week however. During the May race week of 1777, there was considerable disorder in some of Chester's public houses. Licencees in those days were, as now, strictly regulated and were, as now, answerable to the magistrates. At that time, however, the Mayor, as Chief Magistrate, had more direct control over them. As a result of the rioting, he issued search warrants and "many disorderly persons of both sexes" were apprehended and brought before him. Several were committed to the House of Correction to serve a month's hard labour and the innkeepers in general were warned that if there was any more trouble, their licences would be taken away.

During the 19th century, some religious elements disapproved of the racing and did their best to persuade the authorities to abolish it- and they almost succeeded. Declaring the sport to be a "damnation" and, apparently, the source of every evil deed in creation, the objectors constantly lobbied councillors, organised protest meetings, wrote column upon column of letters to the local press, and distributed pamphlets.

The Dean of Chester, J. S. Howson, writing in 1870, left little doubt of his opinions when declaring: "Each season seems to indicate an increasing tendency to fraud, obscenity, profanity and debauchery, and an increasing necessity for the vigilance of the police."

Good Shepherd that he obviously was, the Dean was concerned with the "moral harm" inflicted on the citizens of Chester by the races: "There sets in, among the inhabitants, at this time, a state of wild and reckless excitement, which, with too many, obliterates the sense of right and wrong."

The races, he insisted, caused some of the "vilest and most degraded" characters of England to descend upon the city, "like an army of locusts".

At least the Dean's arguments were balanced with an appeal for calm consideration and an acceptance that the city council had, indeed, managed to introduce measures to curb some of the evils which, apparently, manifested themselves in the scores of tents, boxing booths and menageries sited on the Roodee during Race Week.

Left: The Chester skyline as viewed from the new Riverside Promenade on the Roodee: behind the modern Grandstand rise the towers of the Town Hall, Cathedral and Holy Trinity Church.

On the other hand, one William Wilson, a nonconformist, was far less charitable when issuing stem words on the 'demoralising influence' of racing in general and Chester Races in particular. Quoting at great length from the Bible, and pointing the way towards Hell, Mr Wilson advocated that racegoers should actually visit a Lunatic Asylum to see for themselves the fearful wrecks of humanity... "the racing victims", "...that short week has sown misery in a thousand breasts, has robbed many an inexperienced youth of his better principles, and many an unguarded female of her purity; has left many a parent to mourn over the victims of immorality, and has registered a thousand crimes for the Great Assize. Brawling, drunkenness, gambling, theft, fornication, suicide, and every vice denounced by the divine authority are invariably the results of the present racing system."

Mr Wilson even summoned up a Coroner's inquest, concerning an iron works manager who shot himself at the Hen and Chicken public house, in Birmingham, after 'unfortunate speculations',"Who can say how many of those hundreds of gamblers who throng the vicinity of the Royal Hotel (now the Grosvenor Hotel) on Cup days and the preceding evening, go home with disappointed hopes, and terminate their existence in a similar way?"

If Mr Wilson was to be believed, Chester was a veritable Sodom, what with vast numbers of prostitutes plying their trade along the Rows, and corpses littering the roads after a few favourites had gone down on cup day! At least, he saw some salvation, "Thank God there are signs of its decay which are unmistakable, and the races are now only because they have been."

How wrong he was! The strongest reasons for retention of the races was considered, at least in the most influential quarters of the Corporation, to be the fiscal benefits, due to a massive increase in the volume of trade during Race Week, and the 'unofficial' holiday which the Roodee festival created.

Of course, not everyone shared these convictions and one unnamed city trader went into print to forcibly put the other side of the case, especially against the holiday, whilst proffering an opinion that the 'humbler classes" should be told how to play, as well as work:
"It maybe said that Lancashire has its Whitsun-week, and its six days of unproductive labour, but I fail to see that the comparison injuriously affects our position. The Lancashire operative spends the week in healthful excursions, and pleasure-seeking of a harmless kind, in company generally with his wife or sweetheart. The Chester artisan spends his week in selfish rioting, drunkenness and debauchery, bringing misery and trouble upon his wife and family, and unfitting him for his work.
What return has our Chester Race-going artisan? Has he informed his mind or given healthful recreation to his body? Does he settle down to his work after his week's dissipation invigorated with rest? Alas, it Is a sadder man that he begins to work again. Would that we could think a wiser one!"

Adding weight to the protests (with a literary attack) was Canon Charles Kingsley of Chester, novelist of Water Babies fame and a self-confessed opponent who described racegoers as "knaves and black fools", prone to wriggle out of their responsibilities with far-fetched excuses. Aiming his attack at the 'young men of Chester' (though he might have been better advised to bend the ears of visiting bookmakers), Canon Kingsley put forward some interesting opinions on the 'evils of betting', a means, he contended, of procuring money out if a neighbour's ignorance. "If you and he bet on any event, you think that your horse will win; he thinks his will, or he knows the winner. In plain English, you think that you know more about the matter and try to take advantage of his ignorance".

At least the local Press did not share Canon Kingsley's views on betting for, shortly after publication of his pamphlet, we find the Cheshire Observer commenting: "It may be information worth the Canon's notice that the real mischief is done by unprincipled owners of horses and their confederates."

chester races 1863Whatever the merits of the Observer's arguments, or indeed those of the turf opponents, Race Week continued to be the highlight of the year for most Cestrians, and hymn-singing protestors made little impression on the great crowds. One 19th century diarist was probably speaking for the majority when he wrote: "Chester Races, once foremost amongst provincial sporting events, for a while jeopardised by the cant of a clique of miserable maw-worms, have at length been restored to their former good report. Emerging from the Watergate before you in all Its natural beauty, and with all Its charming accompaniments, spreads the Roodee, placed just where a racecourse should be, under the walls of the town. Although there are shows, menageries and Thespian things in lots for the holiday folk, they in no way mingle with, or obstruct the more serious business, the course being exclusively used for the purpose peculiar to it."

Left: Chester Races from the Illustrated Sporting News, May 16th 1863

The arguments and counter arguments were just the skirmishes for what was later to become a fierce battle as commercialism began to creep into Chester Races and, unfortunately, problems of drunkenness and disorder continue to be a traditional feature of Chester Races, as we shall learn shortly...

The Chester Race Company was founded in 1893. At the May meeting of that year 'gate money' was first taken- the Roodee for the first time being closed in and a charge made for admission. Arrangements were far from perfect, however- of the 50,000 people who turned up over the three days, hundreds apparently managed to gain admission without paying. At one point, there was such an inundation that the police ordered the gates to be thrown open to prevent people being crushed against the turnstiles.

During World War Two, Chester largely escaped the appalling damage inflicted upon larger British cities- including nearby Liverpool- but, during late 1940 and the early months of 1941, the city suffered its worst attacks from enemy bombers. The Roodee was bombed in January 1941 when the pilot of a very low-flying Luftwaffe bomber tried to drop his deadly load on the nearby gas works and railway but overshot his target by a few yards. (An attempt had been made to destroy the gas works a few weeks earlier, indicating that this was a known German target). Approximately 60-70 incendiary bombs landed on the racecourse track and went right across the Roodee leaving craters 30 feet wide and 12 feet deep across its surface. Worse, nearby Kitchen Street was hit, destroying four houses, injuring several people and killing one, Mrs Elizabeth Moore, aged 66.

The Midsummer Shows
In days long gone, the Roodee played host to another event of great importance to the citzens of Chester: the Midsummer Shows- already, in the 16th century, considered to be of great antiquity- greater even than the more famous Mystery Plays.

In the words of a contemporary writer: "This Midsomer showe had divers thinges in it, which weare ofensive in anchant times, as Christe in stringes, men in women's apparell, with divells attendinge them, called cuppes, and cannes, with a divell in his shape ridinge there"...

In 1599, the Mayor "caused the giants not to go in the midsummer show; also the dragon and the naked boys not to go, nor the devil for the butchers, but a boy to ride as other companies".

The shows were banned under Oliver Cromwell's Puritan Commonwealth, but after the Restoration, the very large sum of £45 9s 8d was spent replacing the pageant figures, which comprised four giants, a unicorn, a dromedary, a camel, a luce (wolf), a dragon, six hobby horses and other figures. But this was to be a short-lived revival. As may be expected, the freedom and licence enjoyed by the citzens during the Midsummer Shows was viewed with considerable disfavour by church and state and, in 1677, they were finally abolished, and passed out of living memory.

However, just 321 years later, in June 1998, the ancient custom was, after a fashion, revived once more. Under the title of the Midsummer Watch, the colourful parade of musicians, giants and jugglers that spectacularly wove its way through our narrow streets is now set to become a regular and welcome part of Chester's cultural scene.

Less conventional types of 'sporting' events were occasionally held on the Roodee- in 1441, the rival gaolers from the Castle and the Northgate gathered here to settle their differences- whatever they may have been- with a mass fist fight.

At Easter 1443, the Chester Rolls record that a man accused of felony challenged his accuser to wage battle to prove that he was not guilty according to law. They fought on the "Rodye" and the accused overcame the accuser- who was therefore hanged.

festival of transportPossibly the strangest spectacle of all to be seen here was on May 29th 1903 when the cavalrymen of Buffalo Bill Cody and the braves of Chief Geronimo paraded in full costume side by side along the City Walls to thrill the crowds at their Wild West Show on the Roodee.

Another memorable day was when a herd of elephants stampeded from the Roodee along Grosvenor Road in the early 1950s. They had been taking part in a circus parade when something spooked the leading animal and within a second the huge beasts were trumpeting off at speed. The junction with Bridge Street fortunately slowed them down and their trainers were soon back in control.

Today, as well as the inevitable race meetings, the Roodee continues to play host to a variety of exciting public spectacles- notably the annual Lord Mayor's Parade, the spectacular November fireworks display and the Festival of Transport which is organised by the Chester Lions Club and held here over a spring weekend in May or early June. Our photograph shows one of the many splendid old vehicles taking part in the event, which manages admirably to combine a wide variety of entertainment with the raising of large sums of money for charitable purposes- a great day out, and well worth attending if you possibly

Bidding farewell to the Roodee and passing along the City Wall with the extensive buildings of the racecourse below, it is interesting to learn that most of what we see is fairly new- the old County Stand was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1985 and had to be rebuilt- for the second time: a similar fire having destroyed its predecessor almost 100 years earlier.
In early May 2001, the Chester Race Company announced plans for the construction of another new grandstand together with a leisure centre, restaurant, 5-star hotel and conference centre on an area of the Roodee adjoining the County Stand in New Crane Street. See below for an 'artist's impression' of the scheme...

In addition, they proposed demolishing the existing stables in Linenhall Street to make way for a housing development. New stables would be erected "closer to the course". The course's chief executive, Richard Thomas, commented, "The Chester Race Company wants to play its part with a central role in the City of Chester's progress in the early years of the 21st century. We believe there is a keen interest in in the city for greater access to and interpretation of the Roman Quay Wall and the history of the racecourse, the oldest in the world".

Some local critics said that this was merely an attempt to cash in on the nearby developments at the Infirmary and the Old Port, and, with the departure of the police from their nearby HQ building - and the likelihood of this being replaced by a 5-star hotel, wondered at the need for any more in this attractive quarter of the city, especially when it involved the further erosion of Chester's dwindling areas of green open space.

The race company confirmed that it had "worked with Chester City Council" in the drawing up of the plans and the hotel, the unsympathetically-styled Express by Holiday Inn, is now open. Attempts were made to get the Linenhall Stables 'spot-listed' to save them from destruction but these were unsuccessful and they were demolished in 2009. At the time of writing, March 2010, the site lies derelict and unsightly but we are informed that it is soon to be utilised as a temporary car park (much better!) until the economic climate improves enough to allow yet more posh apartments to be built here.

For the benefit of our readers, there is a further aspect of Chester races of which they need to be aware- that of the effect on our city and its residents of regularly being invaded by thousands of racegoers, an appreciable number of whom seem to think it clever to drink more than they can hold and who consider it acceptable behaviour to roam the streets assaulting each other and any innocent bystander who may be unfortunate enough to get in their way.

This increasingly intolerable situation was summed up in a letter to the local press in September 2002 by local businessman Stephen Lloyd:
"This week it is back to school for many children, and last weekend is traditionally one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year because of the items that need to be bought for this end-of-summer event. So what happens in Chester? We have a three-day race meeting. Now there is one thing guaranteed to keep shoppers away from the city: the races, with their attendant traffic problems and the loutish behaviour of drunken racegoers in the streets. There seems to be more race meetings each year- each one having a bad effect on the shops of Chester. It is good news for pubs, hotels, restaurants and cafes, but what about the other businesses that suffer every time there is racing on the Roodee? It would be nice to promote Chester as a place of culture and beautiful architecture- not a city of drunkenness and crudeness.
The people who plan these events should consider the adverse effect on other people; and the people who give them permission for the races to conflict with one of the busiest shopping penods of the year should find themselves alternative employment".

Another- for justifiable reasons anonymous- city centre worker commented: "Last Saturday the retail shop where I am employed suffered one of its worst days trading ever. Consultation with other retailers would suggest a similar pattern throughout the city on what would normally be the busiest day of the week. One only has to experience the rowdyism, the beer drinking in the street, the violence and the bad language to understand why regular shoppers give the city centre on race days a big 'no-no'".

He claimed that the only businesses to benefit from race meetings are Chester Race Company and the local pubs and bars and added: "Contrary to popular belief the retailers have never benefited from race days- many will still remember the days when some shops closed on the afternoons when the races were held".

Old Henry Gee, we suspect, wouldn't have stood for it for a moment...

In sharp contrast, a more positive recent development has been the opening of the Riverside Promenade. New sections of this purpose-built route for cyclists and walkers are now open along the Little Roodee, Roodee and New Crane Wharf, constructed with the support from a variety of funders including the EU Water in Historic City Centres (WIHCC) project. This helpful city council website provides information about the trail, a potted history of the River Dee in Chester and an explanation of the various heritage features that can be seen along the route.

For lovers of the Chester 'gee gees', two exceeedingly curious tales remain to be told: that of 'Mad Jack' Mytton's champion, Euphrates and his reported grave near the Shot Tower, Chester Leadworks- and that of the once-famous 'Skelly 'orse'- the horse's skeleton mounted upon a wall in Princess Street, a visit to which was considered 'good luck' to those on their way down to the Roodee for a day's bettting...

For meeting dates and lots of other information, visit the Chester Race Company's own website. But now we see before us our next destination- the Watergate...

Away! 'the Corner' is deserted;
Away to Chester's ancient walls!
A thousand screaming trains have started;
'Tis neck or nothing- Pleasure calls.
From every ingle of our islands,
From east and west, and north and south,
From Walmer to Glengarry's highlands,
From Galway to the Bull and Mouth,
Away they come! the peer and peasant,
Age and youth, the fright and beauty,
Rolling toward the city pleasant,
And every steed will do its duty.
Anonymous 1848

Curiosities from Chester's History no. 22
  • 1678 The Midsummer Shows entirely abolished. The first Dissenting Meeting House erected in Chester. Charles II decreed that "All people should be buried in woolen, not in any garment of flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, but sheep's wool only." The Act was passed to encourage the diminishing wool trade, and was enforced for about 50 years
  • 1679 (July 19th) John William Plessington, a Catholic priest, was ordained in Segovia, Spain in 1662. Upon returning to England in 1663 he ministered to covert Catholics in the areas of Holywell and Cheshire and was arrested during the Popish Plot scare caused by Titus Oates at the home of William Massey, Puddington Hall, where he was a tutor. He was imprisoned in Chester Castle for two months, and then hanged, drawn and quartered at Boughton for the crime of "having taken Orders in the Church of Rome, and remaining in the Kingdom contrary to the Statute of Elizabeth." He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, and canonized and made one of the Forty Martyrs on 25 October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
  • 1680 The dodo becomes extinct. Penny post established in London. Stradivari makes his earlist known cello
  • 1683 August. Certain of the citizens, instigated, it is supposed, by James, Duke of Monmouth, disfigured the Cathedral- they smashed the stained glass, broke into the vestries and destroyed the surplices and hoods of the clergy. They pulled down some of the monuments and attempted to demolish the organ. Wild boar becomes extinct in England.
  • 1685 King Charles II granted the city the right to hold a horse and cattle fair- known as the Horn and Hoof Fair- each year on the last Thursday in February. He died in the same year and his brother, James II (1633-1701) ascended the throne. Duke of Monmouth's rebellion; Monmouth is defeated at Sedgemoor and beheaded; Judge Jeffries "the hanging judge" conducts "Bloody assizes" against his followers
  • 1687 King James visited Chester, where he saw the Quaker, William Penn, preach at the Meeting House, and also "appealed to Matthew Henry and several other gentlemen to approve the repeal of the Penal Laws, which they declined to do". He left (in his own words) "Not much satisfied with the disposition of the people." The King also visited St. Winnifred's Well at Holywell in North Wales, where he was given the gown in which his Great Grandmother, Mary, had been executed.
  • 1688 The 'Glorious Revolution': William of Orange invited to England by seven English lords. King James escapes to France. The first book to be printed in Chester, the 'Academy of Armory', is published.
  • 1689 William of Orange (William III 1650-1702) and his wife Mary (Mary II 1662-1694) crowned.
  • 1690 King William visited Chester. On the 1st July, he defeated his father-in-law, James II at the Battle of the Boyne, in which the 22nd Cheshire Regiment took part. First mention of the Nine Houses in Park Street. Daniel Defoe visited Chester this year. England's population is approx. 5 million
  • 1691 Ten young women drowned in the Dee, opposite St. John's Church on Whitsun-Monday. One of the watermen rowing them threw an apple, which they all clamoured to catch, thus upsetting the boat. The two watermen swam ashore...

The Roodee, 450 Years of Racing in Chester by R M Bevan. Available from Cheshire Books Direct

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