Walls. The Berlin Wall. The Great Wall of China. Walls sausages. They're all great in their own right, but no other wall can compare to the walls of Chester, as Chester has the most complete city wall in Great Britain. In fact at around two miles in length, there is only a short break outside County Hall, by the River Dee. And that's to say nothing of the wall's almost 2,000-year history. If you like walls, Chester's the place to be.
The Romans started the local wall-building trend when they settled in the area around 79. Then, through the middle ages, their timber and earth fortification was upgraded to stone, expanded to nearly four times the size and modernized to keep out successive waves of undesirables including the Vikings, the Parliamentarians, and the Welsh. Access into the walls would have been controlled by gates on routes into the city. It was the Victorians who turned the walls into a tourist attraction, restoring damaged sections and widening the ‘gates’ to the ceremonial arches we see today, even building a new gate allowing Pepper Street to enter the city.
The Watergate carries the wall over Watergate Street, close to the racecourse.
St. Martin’s Gate is the most modern gate of the system, built in 1966 to accommodate a new section of dual carriageway as part of the inner-city ring-road.
Northgate crosses Northgate Street; home to some of Chester’s more independent outlets, including bookshops on the wall and Rufus Court and Alexander’s jazz bar.
The jewel in the crown of Chester’s city walls; the Eastgate, is the most central portion of the wall with high street names extending both ways along Eastgate Street below. Also at the level of the wall, on one side is an antiques shop, and the other side is level with the upper floors of HSBC, New Look and Clarks Shoes. The most striking feature of the Eastgate has to be its ornate Victorian clock, with its intricate ironwork. In fact, the Eastgate clock is the most photographed clock in England (after Big Ben).
Here’s my contribution to that statistic:
Newgate, perhaps the most medieval in appearance was added by the Victorians when they laid Pepper Street beneath. It sits next to, and looks over the Roman Amphitheatre.
Bridgegate crosses Lower Bridge Street, at the point where it forms the eponymous Old Dee Bridge. It would once have formed the principal route into the city from Wales.
A smaller arch, probably similar in scale to the earlier gates before they were widened to accommodate an increase in road traffic, stands between the ruins of Chester Castle and the Little Roodee car park.