City and administrative headquarters of Cheshire, England, on the River Dee 26 km/16 mi south of Liverpool, two miles from the border with Wales; population (2001) 80,100. There are engineering, aerospace (Airbus), metallurgical, and clothing industries, and car components are manufactured. It is a centre of trade and commerce, and tourism is also important.
Chester was the site of Deva, a Roman legionary fortress, and remains include the largest stone-built military Roman amphitheatre to have been discovered in Britain. The town has a medieval centre and the most complete city walls in England, extending for 3 km/2 mi. Other features include the cathedral, dating from the 11th century, which is the fourth most visited cathedral in Britain, and the ‘Rows’, half-timbered shops with continuous galleried footwalks at first-floor level, dating from the medieval period.
The city hosts one of the four surviving mystery play cycles performed in the UK, the others taking place at Coventry, Wakefield (or Townley), and York. Chester Zoo is the largest in area in the country, spreading over 324 ha/80 acres. Chester Races, held throughout the year, are the oldest horse races in Britain and are staged on the Roodee, once the site of the massive Roman harbour.
History The Roman fortress was constructed some time between AD 70 and 79 on a sandstone bluff beside an easy crossing place of the Dee; it commanded the route to North Wales. The fort was abandoned in the late 4th century. Chester became an important town in Saxon times. It did not submit to the Normans until William (I) the Conqueror gave it to his nephew Hugh Lupus in 1070. From this time, until it reverted to the crown in 1237, Chester was ruled by a succession of earls as a county palatine (a county whose lord exercised some of the roles usually reserved for the monarch).
In the medieval period it was a major centre and port for trade with Ireland, although its importance declined when the Dee estuary began to silt up and traffic transferred to Liverpool. During the English Civil War Chester suffered a two-year siege by the Parliamentarians. The city prospered during the 19th century when the development of the railway network made it an important trading centre once more.
Roman remains The rectangular town grid planned by the Romans still survives with little modification. Parts of the Roman walls remain and many Roman relics are displayed in the Grosvenor Museum. The Deva Roman Experience museum also includes archaeological finds. It is thought that the excavated Roman amphitheatre, built in about AD 100, would have seated about 8,000 people.
Architectural features Chester's architecture is a mixture of styles, including Roman, medieval, Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian. The oldest part of the cathedral dates from the late 11th century, but work of the 14th century is dominant, and restoration was carried out between 1868 and 1876. The partly-ruined church of St John the Baptist dates from the early Norman period.
Chester City Council
‘Roman fort or city’, OE ceaster ( see the CHESTER ). A city in CHESHIRE and its county town, in a loop of the River DEE 2 , about 24...
This Old English element, ceaster, is from Latin castrum ‘camp, fort, town, city’, and the majority of names containing it are old Roman...