Chester residents lined the Groves, the Queen’s Park suspension bridge and the city walls on Saturday evening to watch a spectacular fireworks display to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the University of Chester.
The 12-minute pyrotechnic extravaganza was staged from the former Lloyds Banking group headquarters in Queen’s Park which has recently been acquired by the university for its business school.
Helen Gill, who brought her family, including two young sons, to watch the display, described it as ‘fantastic, absolutely brilliant’.
Others took to Twitter to share their enjoyment.
The university hosted a private event at the site, the former Western Command headquarters, including student bands and a live radio broadcast.
There was confusion regarding invitations to the event and many disgruntled local residents, clutching a letter from vice chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler, were initially turned away at the gate.
John Hughes had arrived with his four-year-old granddaughter, only to be told that the letter, which opened: ‘You are invited to join our 175th Anniversary Fireworks Celebration’, would not allow him access.
He said: “My son lives nearby and I said I would bring his daughter. She has gone away in tears.”
Yvonne Chesters, who lives in Eaton Road, said: “I thought this was an invitation, a friendly gesture, to thank us for putting up with the students,” adding “not that I don’t like students, I used to teach them!”
The university eventually capitulated and allowed residents entry, up to the legal restriction of 499 people permitted on site.
A spokesperson said: A week before the celebration, in order to keep the neighbouring communities informed, and sensitive to some nervousness about the change of use of the Queen’s Park site, the university hand- delivered more than 1,000 letters extensively on both sides of the river.
“These letters were well-intentioned and they clearly mentioned that the fireworks were “best viewed from The Groves, The Walls or Queen's Park suspension bridge”. It was also assumed that some residents in Handbridge and The Groves would prefer the convenience and comfort of watching from their own homes.
“Unfortunately, the reference in the letter to being “invited” to “share” in the experience led to a small handful of residents interpreting this as having been invited to the Queen’s Park site itself.
”Regrettably, because the event licence restricted access to the site legally to 499 people these few residents could only been admitted once it had been ascertained that the university would not be in breach of its licence by doing so. This was checked with security staff who carried ‘clickers’ to count people in and out and the final number was just under 490.
Annie Gregory, who lives in nearby Victoria Pathway with husband Clive, said: “We were turned away initially but could see that people were getting in with their invitations so we came back. To be honest, I could have watched it from my kitchen window.”
The University of Chester was founded by the Church of England in 1839, for the professional training of teachers. In 1921, Chester formally became an affiliated college of the University of Liverpool, and in 1974, it was was renamed Chester College of Higher Education.
In 2003 Chester was granted its own degree-awarding powers, allowing it to be known as University College Chester and was awarded full university status in 2005, becoming the University of Chester.