Monument details

HER Number:12000
Type of record:Archaeology
Name:Chester City Walls

Summary

The present circuit of the Chester’s city walls is nearly two miles in circumference, and broadly represents the area encompassed by the medieval walled town. In brief, the present circuit is comprised of four main gates, several posterns and towers, linked by a red sandstone wall. Most of the north and east walls stand on Roman foundations, but the western and southern walls were extended beyond the limits of the Roman fortress to include the castle to the south and a strip of land c 1.6km wide to the west (containing the friaries). The date of the extension to the south and west is not known with certainty, but it probably took place prior to 1121 or 1129, when the Shipgate, west of the Bridgegate, is mentioned in Earl Ranulf I's confirmation charter of St Werburgh's Abbey. The wall-walk was probably originally defended to the outside by crenellations. The interior face appears to have been unprotected, except perhaps by timber rails mounted on stone corbels. These corbels can still be seen by the Kaleyard Gate and by St Martin's Gate. The repair of the walls was a heavy charge upon the citizens of Chester; revenue was raised by murage, granted by the Earls of Chester, which was a toll upon certain articles entering the city. There was considerable expenditure on the walls in 1160 - 1161. They were repaired during the reign of Queen Anne, after damage during Civil War had swept much of the medieval works away.

During the eighteenth century the medieval gates were replaced by new ones in the form of bridges, made to preserve the wall-walk, and maintain it as a promenade. The walls are currently between 4.6 and 7.6m high and between 1.5 and 1.8m wide, and the much of the wall above walk level is not original (medieval). There is a large break in the south wall, when the gaol was built by according to Harrison design between 1788 and 1822 (which has since been replaced by the County Hall), in addition to another in the north for the ring road.

The northern and southern sides of the city walls were protected by a ditch, which ran from a point near the Goblin Tower to beyond the Newgate. Beyond these stretches, the slope of the ground up to the walls rendered a ditch unnecessary. The ditch became partly infilled by the seventeenth century, and the stretch to the south of Saddler's Tower filled in and at the Eastgate it was choked with refuse. The city ditch is no longer traceable above ground.

Following the route of the wall from the northwest corner of the circuit, the Water Tower is located next to the Spur Wall, and was built between 1322 and 1325. Originally within the water of the River Dee, it was left above water within a century. Used by various organizations over time, it became a museum in 1837. The c 37m long Spur Wall was built at the same time, with a battlemented parapet on each side, which might be the only surviving medieval crenellation on the walls. The Spur Wall contains a wide shallow arch that may have been for a portcullis. Bonewaldesthorne's Tower, east of the Spur Wallis known to have been built by 1249 – 1261, but was rebuilt or altered at the same time that the Water Tower and the Spur Wall were constructed.

The section of wall between Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower and Pemberton’s Parlour dates to the late eleventh or early twelfth centuries, when the defences of the former Roman / Saxon settlement were extended westward, but was altered to form a raised promenade between 1701 and 1708, a walk that is about 2m wide. Pemberton's Parlour is a gazebo that was erected on the site of a former medieval drum tower, one that was rebuilt in 1894. It was originally called the Goblin Tower, and during the reign of Henry VIII it was referred to as Dille's Tower. It was later called Pemberton's Parlour after John Pemberton, mayor of Chester, who owned a ropewalk beneath the wall and supervised his workers from this tower.

Continuing eastward, St Martin’s Gate is a breach in a northern section of the city walls, made in 1966 when the route for the ring road was decided upon. It was named because of an association of the area with the ancient parish of that name. Morgan's Mount is a rectangular watch tower, originally medieval in date but currently post-medieval in outward appearance. It comprises a chamber on the walls with an open platform above. The structure does have medieval components, and the steps, in addition to the platform, have been subject to extensive repairs over time. The section of city wall between Morgan’s Mount and the Northgate is one of the few sections that incorporates visible Roman masonry (probably dating to the second century).

The Bridge of Sighs is a footbridge over the ravine of the Chester Canal, and is thought to date to the late eighteenth century. In the past, the footbridge was used to take prisoners from the City Gaol in Upper Northgate St. to the former Chapel of St John. The Northgate was flanked by two towers and surmounted by the City Gaol, which was under the control of the city sheriffs. The sheriffs received tolls here, in return for which they kept the gaol and dungeons, attended the stocks and hanged condemned prisoners. The medieval Northgate was demolished in 1808, and was replaced by a neo-classical arch designed by Harrison in 1810.

The King Charles Tower (or the Phoenix Tower), known by that name because it is alleged that on 24 September 1645, Charles I stood there while his army was defeated at Rowton Moor, a few miles to the south-east.

A square watch tower, shown on a map of 1745, stood about 50m north of the Kaleyard Gate. It was occupied by the Saddler's company in the mid-sixteenth century, and was still their meeting house in the later seventeenth century. The tower was taken down to the level of the walls in 1779 or 1780 and was demolished in 1828.

The Kaleyard Gate is named after the medieval vegetable gardens that were outside the walls by the monks of Chester cathedral. During the reign of Edward I, c.1275, the Abbot of St Werburgh was granted permission to make an opening through the walls and gain easier access to their kitchen gardens.

The Drum Tower is located just north of the Eastgate, below the Frodsham St. Steps. It was discovered in 1928 during levelling operations by the then City Engineer, Mr Charles Greenwood. PH Lawson suggested that the tower was probably built between 1285 and 1295.

The current Eastgate was built in 1768, but the original Eastgate dated from at least the thirteenth century; the medieval gate, which incorporated much of the Roman structure, was the ‘strongest and loftiest’ in the city. It suffered early from neglect, and by 1631 was already considered ruinous and needed repair. By the 1750s the gate itself was thought too narrow and inconvenient, and in 1768 it was demolished and replaced by a wider elliptical arch flanked by low pedestrian arches. In 1898 – 1899 the iron work and the clock were placed on the tower to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897.

Thimbleby's Tower is part of a drum tower that likely dates to the thirteenth century, and was formerly known as the Wolf's Tower (in 1555). Since the Civil War it has often lain derelict, although in the eighteenth century it was used as a laundry, a tile kiln, and part of a private garden. The tower was repaired in 1879.

The Old Newgate, or Wolf Gate (also known as the Pepper Gate and Wolfeld Gate), is a gateway through the city walls dating to the early thirteenth century. Later, it received the name of Pepper Gate, for the spice merchants working on Pepper St. In 1573 the daughter of Alderman Rauff Aldersey defied her father and eloped through the gate at night to marry a draper. Her father persuaded the city to lock the gate at night for many years, leading to the local expression ‘when the daughter is stolen, shut the Peppergate’ which is the local equivalent of ‘close the stable door after the horse has bolted’.

The Newgate (not to be confused with the Old Newgate is an archway succeeding a former gateway carrying the City Wall over Pepper St. The red sandstone structure was built as part of a road widening scheme between 1937 and 1938 by Sir Walter Tapper and Michael Tapper. It was designed to provide the width and headroom necessary to a heavily trafficked street.

The Wishing Steps are found along the section of the city walls between the Newgate and Barnaby’s Tower, and were built in 1785 to allow access to the promenade along the wall. Local folklore has it that if a person can run up and down the steps three times without drawing breath, their wish will come true. Barnaby’s Tower is a thirteenth century angle tower at the south-east corner of the city wall’s circuit. The structure is solid and there is no evidence that it ever contained a chamber below the walk-level; it was clearly solely a defensive feature. The Recorder’s Steps were built around 1720 to allow access from the promenade along the city walls to the Groves.

The Horse Gate or 'Capelgate' was the gate by which animals were taken down to the river for water during the medieval period. The animals were conducted to the special gate by way of Chapel Lane. The gate was situated at water level, a few yards to the east side of the Bridge Gate.

In the late twelfth century the Bridge Gate was referred to as the south gate. For centuries the Bridge Gate was one of the most important defensive gateways into the city. It opened directly on the Old Dee Bridge, which was further defended by an outer gate tower, porticullis and a drawbridge at its southern end. The medieval gate was comprised of a pointed arch flanked by two strong round towers. This gate was altered around 1600 by the addition of a tall, square tower housing machinery for conveying river water to the city, which was destroyed during the siege of Chester.

The former Shipgate Postern, also called the 'Hole in the Wall', is shown in an old drawing as a simple rounded archway through the southern part of the city walls. It opened upon the ford across the River Dee and was the landing place of the ferry from Handbridge prior to the construction of the Dee Bridge and it was in the custody of the Sergeant of the Bridge Gate, who would find locks and keys for the postern and a man to open and shut it. It must have been built prior to 1121 or 1129, when it is mentioned in Earl Ranulf I confirmation charter of St Werburgh's Abbey.

The Lowse Tower was located on the south wall, opposite Edgar's Field. It is shown in Braun's map of Chester c.1581 and Smith's map of 1580. Castle Drive Gate is a round arched opening through the walls, about half-way between the south-west angle and Grosvenor Road, with double-wrought iron gates. The gate was created in 1885.

For ships and cargoes arriving at the port of Chester, the Watergate was the main entrance into the city. Tolls and taxes were collected here, and trade was regulated by the city authorities. The lucrative Watergate was controlled by the Stanley family, the Earls of Derby. They built a mansion, Stanley Place, along Watergate St. As trade gradually declined and the port silted up, the Watergate lost its role as the main goods entrance into the city. During the eighteenth century it was rebuilt and enlarged, and a foot passage was constructed. Despite this, the gate was still too narrow for traffic, and in 1788 the medieval gateway and tollhouse were replaced by the single arch visible today.

The Dee Bridge Gate was an outer gate in city’s medieval defences. When the Dee Bridge was rebuilt in stone between 1346 and 1358, a tower was ordered to be constructed on the flints side of the bridge. Tower stood on large pier between last two arches and prior to 1499 probably approached by drawbridge replaced by an arch of stone and the gatehouse demolished when the present Bridgegate was built in 1782. Finally, another part of the medieval city’s defences were at the east end of City Road, called The Bars. It is shown on Braun's map of 1581 with two towers, and on Speed's map of 1610. In 1608, a postern gate was added, that had a parapet and a wall-walk. It was demolished in about 1850.


Parish:CHESTER NON PARISH AREA, CHESTER, CHESHIRE WEST AND CHESTER

Monument Types

  • DITCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GATE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TOWER (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TOWN DEFENCES (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TOWN WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TOWN WALL (Post Medieval to AD 21st CENTURY - 1540 AD to 2050 AD)
Protected Status:Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/101: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/5/129: Title not entered; Area of Archaeological Importance: Chester & Boughton; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/102: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/5/130: Title not entered; Conservation Area (Active) 083: City Centre (Chester) Conservation Area; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/4/117: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/103: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/4/118: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/6/123: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/104: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/4/121: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/6/124: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1'107: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/105: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/2/111: Title not entered; Scheduled Monument 1006785: The Walls, Tower, Gates and Posterns of The City of Chester; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/100: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/2/113: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/6/126: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/106: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/1/109: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/4/115: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/6/128: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/3/132: Title not entered; Listed Building (old) (I) 595-1/6/137: Title not entered

Related records

12000/11Related to: Bridge of Sighs (Building)
12000/27Related to: Chester City Walls - Barnaby's Tower (Building)
12000/3Related to: Chester City Walls - Bonewaldesthorne's Tower (Building)
12000/32Related to: Chester City Walls - Bridgegate (Building)
12000/44Related to: Chester City Walls - Cow Lane Gate (Monument)
12000/45Related to: Chester City Walls - Dee Bridge Gate (Monument)
12000/35Related to: Chester City Walls - Demolished Section of Medieval City Wall (Monument)
12000/40Related to: Chester City Walls - Demolished Section of Medieval City Wall over Grosvenor Road (Monument)
12000/19Related to: Chester City Walls - Drum Tower (Monument)
12000/29Related to: Chester City Walls - Drum Tower East of Bridgegate (Building)
12000/20/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Eastgate - Eastgate Clock (Monument)
12000/20/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Eastgate - Steps (Building)
12000/20Related to: Chester City Walls - Eastgate (Building)
12000/31Related to: Chester City Walls - Horse Gate (Monument)
12000/17Related to: Chester City Walls - Kaleyard Gate (Monument)
12000/38Related to: Chester City Walls - Lowse Tower (Monument)
12000/20/3Related to: Chester City Walls - Medieval Eastgate (Monument)
12000/9/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Morgan's Mount - Medieval Structure (Monument)
12000/9/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Morgan's Mount - Steps (Building)
12000/9Related to: Chester City Walls - Morgan's Mount (Raised Platform) (Monument)
12000/25Related to: Chester City Walls - Newgate (Building)
12000/36Related to: Chester City Walls - Nineteenth Century Arched Ramp near County Hall (Building)
12000/12Related to: Chester City Walls - Northgate (Building)
12000/24Related to: Chester City Walls - Old Newgate / Wolf Gate (Building)
12000/5Related to: Chester City Walls - Pemberton's Parlour (Goblin Tower) (Building)
12000/14Related to: Chester City Walls - Phoenix Tower / King Charles Tower (Building)
12000/16Related to: Chester City Walls - Saddlers' Tower (Monument)
12000/37Related to: Chester City Walls - Shipgate (Monument)
12000/35/1Related to: Chester City Walls - South Wall - 3 - 7 Shipgate (Monument)
12000/2/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Spur Wall - Arch (Building)
12000/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Spur Wall (Monument)
12000/7Related to: Chester City Walls - St Martin's Gate (Building)
12000/46Related to: Chester City Walls - The Bars (Monument)
12000/22Related to: Chester City Walls - Thimbleby's Tower (Building)
12000/33Related to: Chester City Walls - Tyrer's Tower (Monument)
12000/28/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Barnaby's Tower and East Bridgegate Tower - Recorder's Steps (Building)
12000/28Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Barnaby's Tower and East Bridgegate Tower (Building)
12000/34Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Bridgegate and County Hall (Building)
12000/39/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between County Hall and Grosvenor Road - Castle Drive Gate (Building)
12000/39Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between County Hall and Grosvenor Road (Building)
12000/30/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Drum Tower and Bridgegate - Steps (Building)
12000/30Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Drum Tower and Bridgegate (Building)
12000/21/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Eastgate and Thimbleby's Tower - Steps (Building)
12000/21Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Eastgate and Thimbleby's Tower (Building)
12000/41/5Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Grosvenor Road and Watergate - Castle Postern (Monument)
12000/41/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Grosvenor Road and Watergate - Northern Steps (Building)
12000/41/3Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Grosvenor Road and Watergate - Pedestrian Opening South of Watergate (Building)
12000/41/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Grosvenor Road and Watergate - Southern Steps (Building)
12000/41Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Grosvenor Road and Watergate (Building)
12000/18/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Kaleyard Gate and Eastgate - Frodsham Street Steps (Building)
12000/18/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Kaleyard Gate and Eastgate - Possible Medieval Tower (Monument)
12000/18Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Kaleyard Gate and Eastgate (Building)
12000/10/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Morgan's Mount and Northgate - Entrance (Building)
12000/10/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Morgan's Mount and Northgate - Water Tower Street Gate (Building)
12000/10Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Morgan's Mount and Northgate (Building)
12000/26/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Newgate and Barnaby's Tower - Opening (Building)
12000/26/3Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Newgate and Barnaby's Tower - Roman Garden Gate (Building)
12000/26/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Newgate and Barnaby's Tower - St John's Steps (Building)
12000/26/5Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Newgate and Barnaby's Tower - Watch Tower (Monument)
12000/26/4Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Newgate and Barnaby's Tower - Wishing Steps (Building)
12000/26Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Newgate and Barnaby's Tower (Building)
12000/13/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Northgate and Phoenix Tower - Steps (Building)
12000/13Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Northgate and Phoenix Tower (Building)
12000/15/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Phoenix Tower / King Charles Tower and Kaleyard Gate - Deanery Steps (Building)
12000/15/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Phoenix Tower / King Charles Tower and Kaleyard Gate - Wooden Steps (Building)
12000/15Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Phoenix Tower / King Charles Tower and Kaleyard Gate (Building)
12000/23Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Thimbleby's Tower and Old Newgate / Wolf Gate (Building)
12000/43/3Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Watergate and Bonwaldesthorne Tower - Pedestrian Opening (Building)
12000/43/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Watergate and Bonwaldesthorne Tower - Queen's School Steps (Building)
12000/43/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Watergate and Bonwaldesthorne Tower - Railway Breach (Building)
12000/43/4Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Watergate and Bonwaldesthorne Tower - Steps in Garden (Building)
12000/43Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall between Watergate and Bonwaldesthorne Tower (Building)
12000/4/2Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall from Bonewaldesthorne's Tower to Pemberton's Parlour - Bridge (Building)
12000/4/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall from Bonewaldesthorne's Tower to Pemberton's Parlour - Steps (Building)
12000/4Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall from Bonewaldesthorne's Tower to Pemberton's Parlour (Building)
12000/6/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall from Pemberton's Parlour to St Martin's Gate - Steps (Building)
12000/6Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall from Pemberton's Parlour to St Martin's Gate (Building)
12000/8Related to: Chester City Walls - Wall from St Martin's Gate to Morgan's Mount (Building)
12000/1Related to: Chester City Walls - Water Tower or New Tower (Building)
12000/42Related to: Chester City Walls - Watergate (Monument)
12007Related to: Medieval and Post Medieval City Defences (all records) (Monument)
10633Related to: The Old Shipgate, Relocated to Grosvenor Park (Building)



Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West & Chester Council - Working in Partnership
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