Unseen ancient artefacts will be hidden at key city centre locations for visitors to find when they follow an exciting treasure trail aimed at promoting the city’s heritage as well as its retail offer.
Chester Unlocked is the imaginative vision of the CH1 Chester Business Improvement District (BID), North West-based heritage social enterprise Big Heritage and Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, with an official public launch on Saturday June 13.
For the first time in history, 30 unseen artefacts have been unearthed from the vaults of the Grosvenor Museum to be proudly showcased across Chester city centre on what is being called Hoot’s Route in reference to the owl that sits on the shoulder of the Roman goddess Minerva, carved into the rock at the old Roman quarry in Handbridge.
More details will be revealed next week but what is known is that Hoot’s Route will feature 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 kitchenware in a cooking shop, a Medieval apothecary in a health food store, Edwardian wedding shoes in a bridal shop window and Victorian perfume bottles in a perfumier. The treasure map can be downloaded from www.chesterunlocked.com, accessed by mobile phone or picked up from one of the 30 businesses taking part.
A promotional blurb reads: “Hoot is an owl but not just any owl! For nearly 2,000 years, Hoot has sat on the shoulder of the Roman goddess Minerva carved on an old Roman quarry wall, tucked away on the banks of the River Dee near Chester city centre. During that time Hoot has watched Chester grow from a Roman Fort into a Saxon settlement, thrive as a medieval port and become the classical, contemporary city that we see today.
“As you explore our vibrant city, Hoot would love to meet you so be sure to see what he is up to hiding at each location.”
Rita Waters, chief executive of the CH1 Chester BID company, said: “We’re in full preparation mode for the start of Chester Unlocked and we’re confident that city visitors and local residents alike will be delighted with everything it has to offer. All will be revealed very soon, but we’ll have a full programme of activity that allows the public to experience Chester’s cultural history and at the same time champions the diverse mix of city centre retailers that make our city such a fantastic destination.
“We officially start the project next week with a unique, world-first event that we know will appeal to people of all ages, attracting more footfall to the city and encouraging people to stay in the city centre for longer.”
Dean Paton, managing director of Big Heritage, added: “We’re bringing history to the masses with Chester Unlocked and the excitement is really building ahead of the public launch. The programme of activity will appeal to people of all ages – children will get a fun and engaging taste of Chester’s history and adults will be enchanted with the celebration of the city’s rich and hidden history. We can’t wait for it to start!”
Just last month, drones fitted with cameras were seeing flying inside and around some of the city’s most recognisable historic landmarks and buildings in preparation for Chester Unlocked. A raft of spectacular footage of the city has been captured to support the project.