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The City Walls

CHESTER calls itself The Walled City. It has the most complete circuit of city walls in the country.

CHESTER calls itself The Walled City. It has the most complete circuit of city walls in the country.

The City Walls, Chester (158)
The City Walls, Chester (158)

Sections of the walls rest on Roman foundations but it was the Norman Earls who extended the original circuit, building freestanding walls and adding towers, gates and a ditch. The main gate had a drawbridge and portcullis.

With a walkway of nearly two miles, the walls enclose the medieval parts of the city. The walls have been repaired and realigned many times and the towers and gates have also been replaced over the years.

The Roman and medieval remains of the gates were replaced by bridges at the end of the 18th century.

The walls are much the same today as they were in medieval times but extensive fire damage through the centuries has meant that many parts have had to be rebuilt.

In 1278 fire destroyed most of the walled city with the last devastating fire taking place in 1494.

In the Civil War, Royalist Chester was under seige for four months and the walls and the property inside them were further damaged.

Standing as a reminder of its Royalist past, the King Charles Tower on the wall is now a small museum about the Civil War in Cheshire.

It was from here in 1645 that King Charles I watched the defeat of his army by the Parliamentarians at Rowton Moor, two miles away.

The walls have also played an important part in the city's economy. When Chester was a busy port between the 12th and 14th centuries, shipping moored beside them.

A walk along the walls is a great way to see Chester. You can see the town house of the Earls of Shrewsbury - now the Bear and Billet inn - and one of England's great half-timbered town houses.

The house once stood in its own grounds and the date 1664 can be seen on the front. As the home of city gate-keepers it can easily be seen from the walls, close to the old gate.

Most of the city's famous landmarks can be seen from the walls: the tiered galleries known as the Rows, the black and white architecture along the main shopping street, the city's racecourse at the Roodee, Chester Castle, the amphitheatre and, of course, the Eastgate Clock.

It is said that only Big Ben has been photographed more times than the Eastgate Clock. The clock turret is over the Eastgate archway and spans the walkway of the walls.

It was erected in 1899 to commemorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee and was designed by architect John Douglas. Douglas was also instrumental in the city's black and white architectural revival.

With his design of the clock John Douglas created one of Chester's most famous landmarks and helped the walls that were built to keep out invaders to attract welcome visitors.

 

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