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Chester City Walls
Chester, Cheshire, UK
associated engineer
Not known
date  circa 70 - 120 AD and onwards
UK era  Roman  |  category  Walls/Abutments/Cuttings  |  reference  SJ405658
A Scheduled Ancient Monument 3km in circumference, Chester's walls form an almost complete circuit of the city. They were built to protect the then major Roman garrison of Deva, on the River Dee, during the Roman occupation of Britain. Some of the Roman structures still stand.
The original walls were ramparts of earth and turf topped by a timber palisade, with towers and gates, and an outer ditch. The walls were built around 70 AD by the Roman second legion and were laid out in a rectangle.
From the 90s AD the walls began to be rebuilt in sandstone, although work stopped for most of the 2nd century. The stone walls were completed in the early 3rd century, when the Roman 20th legion occupied the garrison.
The Romans left Deva in the late 4th century, and the walls were neglected until Saxon times when Queen Aethelflaed (daughter of Alfred the Great) created a fortified town on the site in 907. The north and east sections of the walls were part of the town’s defences.
In 1070, construction of a castle began and the walls were extended to the west and south to enclose the castle. By the mid 12th century the walls were built along their present course, some houses too close to the walls were demolished in 1264. In 1275, Kaleyard’s Postern was built to allow monks from the Abbey inside the walls access to the kitchen gardens outside.
The Water Tower was constructed on a spur wall from the north west corner of the walls in 1322, as the river retreated. In 1600, Tyrer’s Tower was built on the Medieval Watergate to supply water.
The problem of funding maintenance and repairs was met by imposing customs duties on imports and exports in the city. These dues were used to build a further tier of defences around the suburbs in 1643, including earth banks, trenches and forts.
Royalist Chester was under siege from December 1644 by Parliamentary forces during the Civil War (1641-51), until its surrender in February 1646. The walls were breached and suffered major damage.
In 1707-08, £1,000 was spent on restoring the walls to their full circuit and providing a level walkway surfaced with flagstones. The Recorder’s Steps were built in 1720.
The four main Medieval gates were replaced by the present arches — Eastgate in 1769, Bridgegate in 1782, Watergate in 1788 and Northgate in 1810. The Jubilee Clock was installed on Eastgate in 1899.
In 1846, construction of the Chester to Holyhead Railway tracks cut through the north west corner of the walls on either side of Bonewaldestorne's Tower. In 1901, a section of the walls south of the castle was demolished to make space for Castle Drive and later County Hall. In 1938, a traffic improvement scheme cut through the east wall near the old Wolfgate and Newgate was constructed. In 1966, St Martin's Gate was built into the north wall to allow the Inner Ring Road to pass through.
A section of the walls some 30m long collapsed in April 2008, between the Eastgate clock and Thimbleby's Tower. Timber supports were installed to make the area safe although the section remains closed to public access. English Heritage and the council intend that works to restore the wall will replicate the original Roman construction.
Research: ECPK
reference sources   RRB

Chester City Walls