An ancient code can be solved by people taking part in a city-wide treasure trail aimed at promoting the city’s heritage as well as its retail offer.

The code is part of Chester Unlocked which sees 30 artefacts from the vaults of the Grosvenor Museum displayed at shops, a pub and cafe. Visitors are encouraged to track down the historical objects by following what has been dubbed Hoot’s Route on an old fashioned map.

‘Hoot’ is a reference to the owl that sits on the shoulder of the Roman goddess Minerva carved into rock at the old Roman quarry in Handbridge.

Next month, heritage hunters can solve the mystery of the ‘Deva Codex’ to discover Roman treasure which, legend has it, was seemingly lost until it was discovered by archaeologist ‘Professor Halstead’.

A blurb for the trail states: “Halstead mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again, but his codes and maps remained safe on a dusty old bookshelf until now. The question is ….can you solve the mystery of the Deva Codex?”

Hoot’s Route features museum-style exhibits relating to the products on offer in their locations, mirroring Chester’s trading past. Others are on display in the exact locations where they were unearthed.

Follow Hoot’s Route to discover Roman gaming counters in Game, medieval shoes in Sole Trader, a Jew’s harp in Dawson’s Music plus Saxon and medieval combs in Toni and Guy. The treasure map can be downloaded from www.chesterunlocked.com , accessed by mobile phone or picked up from one of the businesses taking part.

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Chester Unlocked is a partnership between CH1 Chester Business Improvement District (BID), North West-based heritage social enterprise Big Heritage and Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, with an official public launch this Saturday (June 13).

Dean Paton, managing director of Big Heritage, told members of the media at a pre-publicity event that Chester shouldn’t just be seen as a Roman city– it was a strong-hold for the Saxons, a trading place for the Vikings, an ‘almost’ semi-independent island under the Normans, a city under siege during the Civil War and a mercantile centre during the post medieval period. Modern Chester was “a vibrant lovely city” with “a mix of past and present”.

Chester Unlocked helps reveal the city’s many eras, with finds on display that Dean said had ‘never been seen’ by the public in a world’s first initiative. He added: “Because of our partnership with the Business Improvement District (BID) we are able to get retailers to buy into this idea and have the displays, not in museum cases in one room, but spread throughout an entire city.”

Rita Waters, chief executive of the CH1Chester BID company, said the Chester was often referred to as the “jewel in the crown of the North West' but the city – and especially its Rows – was facing increased competition from out-of-town shopping centres and internet shopping.

“Our job at CH1 is to work together to ensure we continue to drive vitality in the city centre to ensure that it remains the destination of choice for visitors and shoppers time and again,” she said. “Working together with Big Heritage and with our CH1 BID members to bring our history, the very foundation on which this city was built, to life.”