Chester city centre is on a security lock-down ahead of today’s memorial service for the sixth Duke of Westminster at Chester Cathedral where members of the royal family are expected among the 2,000 guests.
Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor died aged 64 on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 9, after suffering a heart attack while visiting his shooting estate in rural Lancashire.
So it is fitting the memorial service will take place at Chester Cathedral from 2pm today (Monday, November 28).
Armed police are present by the security screening area in the remembrance garden where an x-ray machine is stationed and a special portable building has been erected for conducting searches.
Barriers have been placed in the most city centre streets to hold back members of the public but many have been erected away from the cathedral, presumably on security grounds to protect vehicles travelling away from the service.
Police are stationed at the top of Northgate Street, which is closed to general traffic, checking which vehicles are allowed past the cordon. Abbey Square is also sealed off by officers.
And a section of the City Walls at the back of the cathedral is closed along with the Kaleyard gate, leading into Abbey Street.
The main public entrance to the cathedral is firmly shut although a small platform has been erected next to adjacent west door which is often used for special occasions as it was when the Duke’s eldest daughter, Lady Tamara , married at the cathedral in 2004 .
Yesterday specialist officers sealed drains in the area. Post boxes have also been temporarily blocked off.
Sniffer dogs have been used to search the grounds of the cathedral.
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The police helicopter was also seen circling, presumably carrying out reconnaissance ahead of today’s service.
The Chester Christmas Market is open as usual despite the disruption taking place nearby.
A briefing sent to Cheshire West and Chester councillors revealed the scale and high profile nature of the event which will inevitably cause disruption in the city centre.
It reads: “It is expected that around 2,000 guests will be attending the ticketed service including family, close friends, estate workers, local, national and international VIPs and representatives of charities the Duke had links with.
“It is anticipated that security around the event will be high, particularly on the day. The police are working closely with the Westminster family to ensure that all guests and members of the public remain safe.”
The majority of guests, including Chester MP Chris Matheson , will be transported in and out of the city via 40 private coaches.
Many guests received invitations to attend. But others were invited to apply for a place in notices which appeared in The Times, The Telegraph and The Chester Chronicle. Applicants were asked to explain their connection to the late Duke and warned that guests would face background security checks and searches on the day.