Rome wasn’t built in a day and a scheme to allow visitors to make voluntary donations towards the upkeep of the city’s Roman walls is taking rather longer than expected.

Last August Cheshire West and Chester Council claimed it was about to go live with contactless payment devices near the amphitheatre, King Charles Tower and Newgate Tower as part of a trial.

The story made local and national headlines but a quick scout around the walls revealed no such devices leaving journalists scratching their heads.

King Charles Tower on the City Walls

Red-faced officials at Marketing Cheshire, who were also involved with the project at that stage, were then forced to admit that thorough testing had revealed the proposed technology ‘wasn’t fit for purpose’.

Don’t hold your breath, but CWaC says its ‘intention’ is to introduce a texting donation system (SMS) this summer.

Alison Knight, director of place strategy, said: “We are considering options for donation payments on Chester’s Walls including web-based, SMS and contactless.

“Our intention is to introduce an SMS based donation scheme for this summer. However, we will still be looking at other options so that we can make the best use of appropriate and available technology.

“All donations made will be ring-fenced to support the ongoing conservation and improvement of the Walls.”

Roman gate tower found at Chester City Walls

The City Walls, Chester. Picture by 18 year-old Georgia Riley from Chester.

The Walls are one of Chester’s main tourist attractions with more than 2.5 million visits a year and rated the second most popular in Chester’s 83 things to do in the city.

But their maintenance and upkeep costs the council £600,000 a year which is why the donation scheme was suggested although walking the walls will remain free and any donations will be voluntary.

Opinion was divided when news of the scheme broke last year, with critics raising security concerns while others declared it a ‘great idea’ using the same principle as the donations boxes often spotted in museums.

Deputy council leader Cllr Louise Gittins (Lab, Little Neston and Burton)
Deputy council leader Cllr Louise Gittins (Lab, Little Neston and Burton)

Deputy council leader Cllr Louise Gittins said last August: “Chester’s Walls are one of the city’s most recognised and visited attractions, and so it is vital that we explore ways to enable us to maintain the significant levels of investment needed to ensure that they are well maintained and safe for the 2.5million people that walk and enjoy them every year.

“We know there is an appetite to make a donation as our visitors have asked in the past however, the emphasis is for a donation only if they wish to do so.

"Asking visitors to donate is nothing new and increasingly commonplace amongst national museums and attractions.”