Medieval Cities and Towns: Chester
as "Deva Victrix" in 79 AD

"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."

Letter to Samuel Johnson by James Boswell

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. 

Visit Chester

What to See

Museums
Exhibitions
Music
Bike Tours
Walking Tours
Shops
Cafes / Restaurants
Theater

Medieval Chester: Top 5 Attractions

Chester city walls

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

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 Rows

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

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

Roman shrine to Minerva
Early 2nd century

Roman shrine to Minerva

Bath House (No. 39 Bridge Street)
2nd century

Roman Bath House

Church of St Michael
Late 11th century

Church of St Michael

Chester weir and salmon leap
1093

Chester Weir and Salmon Leap

c.1100

Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Part of City Wall from County Hall
Late 11th to early 12th century

Part of City Wall from County Hall

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