This week archaeologists uncovered a wall from Roman barracks in Chester city centre but there are lots of hidden Roman treasures if you know where to look.
Chester was founded as a Roman fort with the name Deva Victrix in the reign of the Emperor Vespasian in 79 AD.
One of the main army camps in Roman Britain, Deva later became a major civilian settlement.
Most people will be familiar with the bigger chunks of history our Roman conquerors left behind such as the amphitheatre, sections of the walls and building fragments displayed in the Roman Gardens unearthed at the end of the 19th century.
But have you visited the Roman military headquarters strongroom down an alleyway next to the Dublin Packet pub?
And did you ever look beneath your feet on entering Pret a Manger in Northgate Street in search of a crayfish and avocado sandwich? A section of glass floor allows customers to view the huge original Roman pillars in the basement.
Also underground, in Bridge Street’s Spud-u-Like of all places, is a hypocaust (from the Greek word meaning ‘fire beneath’) which was a common form of central heating used by Romans.
Small pillars of stone or tile supported the floors and hot air from a furnace was fed through the space beneath and taken up the side of the building through chimneys. This meant rooms were kept warm and dry and the furnace could also be used to heat the water for the famous Roman baths.
Similar set-ups can be seen in a rear stockroom of the former Miss Selfridge store at 12 Northgate Street – which may have been the heating system for the Legionary Commander’s quarters – and in a display at the Roman Gardens.
Among the most fascinating of all the Roman artefacts can be found in Chester’s Grosvenor Museum where there is an abundant collection of Roman tombstones. They were discovered in the late 19th century during repairs to the City Walls when it was found they had been used as infill, probably when the Romans carried out their own maintenance several centuries earlier.
Inscriptions commemorate soldiers, slaves, women and children. One depicts a centurion and his wife.
Most of the carvings are still relatively sharp, leading experts to believe they were only exposed to the elements for a century or two.
Now here's a challenge – staying in the city centre you can find a neglected Roman column base in a sunken yard between Watergate Street and Weaver Street but you may have to go on tip toes.
Next take a stroll to Chester racecourse and you will be able to see what was traditionally known as the Roman Quay Wall below you as you stand in Nuns Road.
Sea-going ships used to sail up the River Dee estuary to Chester to a harbour located where the Roodee is today. But the Roodee silted up over time and has been used for horse racing since 1539. Latest thinking suggests the so-called Roman Quay Wall may simply have been a Roman defensive structure.
Extend your walk to Edgar’s Field, Handbridge, and you can discover the weathered shrine to the Roman goddess Minerva, whose image – complete with an owl on her shoulder – was carved into rock where once was a huge quarry from which sandstone was extracted to build the legionary fortress of Deva.
Minerva was the patron goddess of quarrymen and also goddess of wisdom, arts and crafts and (defensive) war.