Chester’s longest serving town criers have celebrated 20 years of shouting for a living.

Two decades have passed since husband and wife team David and Julie Mitchell were first appointed to proclaim public announcements about events in Chester, and a special ceremony at the Town Hall celebrated their ‘fantastic’ work promoting the city locally, nationally and internationally.

Hosted by Lord Mayor Cllr Razia Daniels and attended by various local dignitaries inlcuding the Chester Charter Trustees, David and Julie were presented with certificates to mark the special occasion and they reflected on 20 years of bellowing in the city streets.

Afterwards, Julie said: “It was lovely that so many councillors, including the entire civic team, turned out on a bitterly cold afternoon to thank us for what our work for Chester. Each of them made speeches, mentioning specific things we have done. I felt quite tearful after hearing so many kind words, but I suppose it is quite appropriate for a crier to be in tears.”

The pair’s joint role began in January 1998 when former Chester Town Crier David Maguire resigned from his post after complaining of a ‘lack of commitment’ from the then Chester City Council and the city’s Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

Little did they know they would become what are quite the city’s longest serving town criers in recent years, although as historic records are incomplete, David says it is impossible to be sure if they are the longest serving ever.

David in 1992

Reflecting on two ‘great’ decades, he explained: “The great thing about the role is that there is so much variety. There is never any danger of getting stuck in a rut. Looking back, some things do stand out. Hosting four World Town Crier Tournaments, which brought so much sound, colour and positive publicity to the city, has been especially satisfying. “In the town crier world, Chester has the reputation of hosting this event to a very high standard. I really think we should do it again!

“Jumping off the St Peter’s church tower and sliding down Bridge Street on a zip wire is a vivid memory, as was walking the high wire when the Moscow State Circus came to Chester, and making a wedding proclamation on horseback,” he added.

Chester's official Town Crier David Mitchell leads the parade along St Weburgh Street, Chester, at The Recovery Walk, Sunday 4 Sept 2016. Picture by Steve Cawood.
Chester's official Town Crier David Mitchell leads the parade along St Weburgh Street, Chester, at The Recovery Walk, Sunday 4 Sept 2016. Picture by Steve Cawood.

During their tenure, David and Julie have been involved in activities they ‘hadn’t dreamed of’ when they were first appointed, including representing Chester in competitions in Canada and Australia, as well as making appearances in films 24 Hour Party People with Steve Coogan and Moll Flanders with Daniel Craig and Alex Kingston.

As for what the future holds, David said it is ‘impossible to predict’ what new things might be waiting around the corner but has his own ideas in mind.

“I’d love to host another world tournament and present more shows at Storyhouse, but I do have one thing in mind. The first time a town crier is recorded in action in Chester was in 1554 when he rode through Chester on horseback, reading the banns for the mystery plays.

“The plays are being presented again this June and I’m on the lookout for a calm horse who won’t get spooked by shouting and a little gentle bell-ringing!”

What happened to Chester's other Town Criers?

John Jeffrey

Crier John Jeffery held the office of Chester Bellman for 23 years, until failing health caused him to resign in 1897 at the age of 79.

He died in December 1903 and was at that time described as the ‘last of the city’s bellmen’.

David Mitchell explained that, in 1903, it was quite reasonable to think that John Jeffery would prove to be the last bellman, but few could have foreseen the tourism-inspired bell-ringer revival which happened in Chester and elsewhere in the latter half of the 20th century.

Tom Clarkson

Former Chester Town Crier Tom Clarkson proclaiming at The Cross

The role of town crier was revived in Chester on October 18, 1978, when Tom Clarkson took up the post.

Tom was a regular figure in the city centre until spring 1981 when his post ended. There is much speculation about what happened to him when he disappeared afterwards. Some say he went off on an expedition to Canada and reportedly walked across America in his full town crier regalia but not much was heard of him after that.

Mike Chittenden

Mike Chittenden, Town Crier of Chester from 1981-1992, regularly proclaimed at The Cross
Town crier Mike Chittenden was Town Crier of Chester from 1981-1992

Larger than life character Mike Chittenden replaced Tom as Chester town crier in April 1981 and many have fond memories of him ringing his bell throughout the city centre and officially opening various establishments in Chester until his resignation in 1991.

David Maguire

1990s Chester Town Crier David Maguire

David Maguire was appointed Chester Town Crier on July 15, 1992, and resigned in December 1997.

He told The Chronicle at the time: “This year I have been under contract for a small firm in Chester who provided me with a steady amount of work.

"When that contract expired in October I turned to the council and Chamber of Trade for help but they offered me a paltry £4,000 a year and a small office. I’ve got four children and mounting debts to pay.”

In response, the city council events coordinator David Atkinson said: “We are sorry Mr Maguire feels he has to take this action but at the end of the day he is self employed man who sells his services. He has never been a fully paid official of Chester Council.”

David and Julie Mitchell took up their joint appointment a month later and have remained in the post ever since.