Friday, 8 January 2016

Chester City Walls

After walking the city walls I decided to trace their route and obtain a better understanding of their defensive design.  The walls form a rough rectangle on high ground overlooking the River Dee to the south and west.

chester walls

The first section of walls were built by the Romans.  They were an earth bund topped with a wooden pallisade and were constructed to the north and east.  The Romans relied on the river to form an obstacle on the river sides.  The Romans subsequently built a sandstone wall in front of the earth bund.  Around 700AD Queen Æthelflæd of Mercia strengthen the fortifications making it one of her burghs (fortresses). Æthelflæd was the eldest child of Alfred the Great.  Her mother was a queen of Mercia.  Alfred married her to Æthelred, then ealdorman of Mercia.  Æthelflæd appears to have been the more dominate of the two and was a very astute military leader.  She spent much of her reign fighting the Vikings.  I’ve probably spent too much time wring about Æthelflæd but I’ve just finished a Bernard Cornwell novel covering the era!

The Normans further strengthened the walls extending them to the west and south completely enclosing the city.  It was expensive maintaining the walls.  money for this purpose was raise by a murage (medieval toll) raised on all merchandise entering or leaving the city.

The last time the walls were strengthened and used was during the Civil War.  The Royalists held the city but the walls were eventually breached.

The walls and towers started to fall into disrepair and the city fathers came up with a novel idea for maintaining them by allowing the various city guilds to “adopt” a tower as a meeting room.  In the early 18th century the city fathers converted the walls into a public promanade.  The city council still owns the walls which are a major tourist attraction.  They are also a major financial burden! 

We both noted most of the towers on the the main part of the walls have been rebuilt.


Notice the rather new looking stonework on the top of the above tower.  This is Goblin Tower, last rebuilt during the reign of Queen Victoria.  Further west and more isolated is the Water Tower which looks decidedly more dilapidated.

If you return to the map above you will note the large green area between western wall and the River Dee.  This flat area is now the racecourse.  The original route of the river was below the city walls but silting over the centuries has moved the river further west.


Jenny said...

Thanks for the little history lesson, very interesting!

nb AmyJo said...

If you look below the wall by the race course the remains of a harbour wall can still be seen. The race course is on the site of what was once a harbour accessed via the river.

Tom and Jan said...

Thanks, A walk for tomorrow I think!