Chester is one of the best-preserved walled cities in Britain. Located on the River Dee in Cheshire, it was founded as a “castrum” or Roman army fort with the name Deva Victrix in the reign of Emperor Vespasian in 79 AD. It later a major civilian settlement. The legion garrisoned the fortress until at least the late 4th century.
In 689, King Æthelred of Mercia defeated a Welsh army at the brutal and decisive Battle of Chester and founded the Minster Church of West Mercia. The Saxons extended and strengthened the walls to protect the city against the Danes. The city was one of the last in England to fall to the Normans.
The more unusual landmarks in Chester are the city walls (a Grade I building and almost entirely complete), the Rows (covered walkways) , and the black-and-white architecture – a lot of it medieval.
What to See
Medieval Chester: Top 5 Attractions
Chester City Walls
The Chester city walls are a defensive structure started by the Romans. After the Norman conquest, the walls were extended to the west and the south to form a complete circuit of the medieval city. They were finished by the middle of the 12th century and have a walkway length of 2.95 kilometers (1.8 mi).
Chester Rows are a series of medieval covered walkways on the first floor, behind which are entrances to shops and other premises. The Rows may have been built on top of rubble remaining from the ruins of Roman buildings. Stone undercrofts or “crypts” were constructed beneath the buildings.
Chester Castle is situated at the southwest extremity of the area bounded by the city walls and overlooking the River Dee. The castle was built in 1070 by Hugh d’Avranches, the second Earl of Chester. It hosted visits from many powerful figures in the medieval period, including kings Edward I and Richard II.
St John the Baptist's Church
St John the Baptist’s Church was a cathedral during the Middle Ages. This Grade I building lies outside the city walls on a cliff above the River Dee’s north bank. It is considered to be the best example of 11th–12th-century church architecture in Cheshire.
Gawsworth Old Hall
Gawsworth Old Hall is a timber-framed country house in the village of Gawsworth in the Cheshire black-and-white style. It was built between 1480 and 1600, replacing an earlier Norman house. The hall is surrounded by formal gardens and parkland, which once comprised an Elizabethan pleasure garden and, possibly, a tilting ground for jousting.
Chester's Oldest Buildings
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More to see in North-West England
Chester Castle is sited at the southwest extremity of the area and bounded by the city walls.