Thursday, 5 September 2013

Chester Walls

Chester is the only town we have visited where the majority of the old town walls and gates still exist.  I suspect none of it is Roman and much of the medieval has probably been rebuilt a number of times.  Yesterday evening I walked the walls and whilst the light was failing, the camera did a good job of capturing what light there was.  Obviously the walls do not extend around the perimeter of the existing town.  I would guess it’s less than half!

Obviously the walk started beside the canal and whilst it wouldn’t have been there when the walls were first constructed there may have been a moat as the name of the gatehouse on this part of the wall is “Watergate”.

Further around there is one of a number of towers. 

This is the King Charles Tower, named after Charles I who reputedly stood on top of it on 24 September 1645 and watched his army defeated in the Battle of Rowton Moor.  After the civil war the walls started to fall into disrepair and the town didn’t have the finances to repair them.  The town elders came up with a plan where the various ‘Guilds’ could use one of the towers on the walls for their regular meetings provided they contributed to the cost of repairing the walls.

Further around the walls enclose Chester Cathedral.

Along the way are signs of the various sieges over the centuries.

Being made entirely of metal, this is obviously a monument.  Moreover there is no method of fixing the barrel to the chassis.

The wall eventually bisects the centre of the shopping area below with the Queen Victoria memorial clock above.

On the other side is “Pepper Gate”.  There is a plaque at the gate which explains the name.

“In 1578 during the reign of Elizabeth 1 it is said the Mayor, one Rauff (Ralph) Aldersey, had a beautiful daughter called Ellen.
Chester's leading citizen was a proud father who wanted, not surprisingly, a good marriage for his daughter. To this end he chose a wealthy suitor for Ellen some years her senior. However, the young lady herself was in love with a penniless armourer called Luke. This association, her father discovered and forbad, he also kept a close eye on his daughter to prevent her meeting Luke.
Ellen, however, must have been an independent young woman with a mind of her own. Somehow she managed to concoct a plot with Luke to elude her father and unwelcome fiance.
One day Ellen was allowed out as usual to take her only exercise, a walk with a group of other well-bred girls, on a green area just inside the Pepper Gate. The girls, probably in league with Ellen began a ball game.
As the laughing young ladies played happily, someone threw the ball particularly high and it went over the city walls. Ellen quickly volunteered to go outside the gate to retrieve it.
Outside the wall Luke was waiting with two horses and the couple galloped off down Souters Lane to the Dee Bridge and into wild Wales, where pursuit and discovery were almost impossible. The others delayed in raising the alarm, so giving the pair the necessary time to escape.
Alderman Aldersey was so incensed at his daughters elopement that he immediately ordered the Pepper Gate to be open only to pedestrians during the day, and closed completely at night.
This caused a great deal of inconvenience to innocent people especially the tradesman with their horse-drawn vehicles. This spiteful action therefore, gives rise to a popular local saying of the period,
When the daughter is stolen,
Shut the Pepper Gate.
This, having a similar meaning to the more well known 'shutting the door after the horse has bolted.”

Pepper Gate

The River Dee borders the wall further along.  On one side there were views of the river and on the other a pub was illuminated and looked to be quite popular.

It appeared there was no navigable access between the upper portion of the River Dee and the canal as there was a boom and weir across the river.

The last part of the walk brought me back to the canal and looking back I could see the hills of what I assume to be Wales on the horizon.

The circumference of the walls is approximately 2 miles and it’s a popular walk for both locals and tourists.


Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

It is possible to navigate from the Dee Branch to the upper River Dee. At very high spring tides, especially if the river is high after a little rain, but not in flood, it’s possible to cruise straight over the top of the weir.

At normal spring tides when the water is level between the two sides, but not enough depth to cruise over the weir, there is a gate in the weir near the Chester side which can be opened to allow passage. Unfortunately there is no easy and safe way to get to the gate to open it and the gap it creates is almost at right angles to the flow of the river making it difficult to navigate through.

The general plan is to find 2-3 days of high spring tides and make a quick return to Holt, the practical limit of navigation.

If you make it over or through the weir you need to moor on the pontoons for a few minutes to buy your river licence from the Council Offices.

The biggest obstruction to navigation is likely to be the bottom lock of the Dee Branch which was in a very sorry state last time I saw it and largely silted up.

nb AmyJo said...

Hi Tom,
Access to the river is downstream of the weir not far from the basin. The locks are in bad repair but it is possible to use then on request to the C&RT.

You can get a boat over the weir on a Spring tide but there are no winding points up stream beyond the A55 Bridge some 2 miles upstream which makes it hardly worth while taking a narrow boat on it.

There are plans to put a lock on the weir but these are in early stages at the moment.

Tom and Jan said...

Good morning Steve

I must have guessed right about the access only being down to the Mersey rather than upstream!

The boats I photographed must be confined to that 2 miles of river.

Don said...

There was a way past the Chester Weir. ref: I don't know if it is still accessible now though.