Heritage Open Days- Chester

Coming up– The Chester Heritage Open Days!

Information from the West Cheshire Museums web page:


The Chester Heritage Open Days return in September (10 – 13) Bookings for guided tours and some events should be made in advance!

The Heritage Open Days 2015 programme of buildings, tours and exhibitions in Chester and West Cheshire can be downloaded (1.6MB PDF), printed copies of the booklet will be available in from The Chester Visitor Centre.

Heritage Open Days celebrate England’s fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission. Properties of every age, type and size in Chester and the Cheshire West area will be opened, including churches, schools, halls, historic sites and historic buildings.

It is a once-a-year chance to discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a wide range of tours, events and activities which bring to life local history and culture

As they are free of charge and literally on people’s doorstep Heritage Open Days are for everyone, whatever their background, age and ability.

Co-ordinated nationally by The National Trust, the event thrives on the enthusiasm and expertise of local people. In Cheshire, The Chester Civic Trust and the Council work closely to make it a memorable celebration and incidentally, a contribution to England’s largest voluntary cultural event.

The Heritage Open Days ‘Passport’ booklet is a special quiz for children that will be available in September from participating buildings:

​​We hope that children will be encouraged to take part in Heritage Open Days by answering the questions and producing drawings of the buildings.

please see their brochure online for exact dates and times:


Chester Cycledom 31st August

Hello all

Chester Cycledom is a free and fabulously fun cycle ride around Chester. Don your finest vintage rodes and join us for a gentle bike ride ending with a nice cup of tea and a well deserved scone.

11am Chester Town Hall 31st August. Like our page on Facebook for more details 🙂

Join us!

PREVIEW: Cathedral At Height Tour – A New Perspective On Chester

With a fierce wind howling outside and a rumbling dirge from the organ rattling our bones, the atmosphere feels deliciously Gothic as we pass beneath the vaulted ceiling towards a narrow door and hidden spaces that have been under lock and key  to the public for a thousand years… Members of Chester culture have kindly been granted a sneak preview of the new Cathedral At Height tour opening this April, and sturdy shoes are definitely the order of the day.

Our charming guide leads us forward and we begin the ascent. Climbing a ladder up above a Norman arch – the oldest part of the building – we’re shown old Roman columns discovered locally by the original Cathedral masons and recycled into the stonework. We’re then lead along the galleries of the North Transept, stopping to listen through our headphones as our guide points out architectural details and their fascinating stories. Here, a ceiling from the reign of Henry VIII studded with ornate coats of arms; there, dazzling and colourful Victorian stained-glass windows stretch above our heads. To be so close and to have the chance to wonder at every small detail around us is an absolute privilege.

We continue, heading up to the crux of the building below the bell tower. We’re shown the intersecting arches that crisscross the ceiling; dubbed the “Crown of Stone”, the feature is unique in Britain. Torchlight is shone onto carved heads that decorate each corner, effigies of the original stonemasons themselves who left this secret kind of signature away from the eyes of the unwitting monks down below.


Climbing ever upwards, we enter into the lower half of the bell tower itself. The room is once again home to the Tower Clock that was removed in the 1960s, but has now been restored and returned to its rightful place, along with a working Carillion. Up we head once more, and with the wind whistling around us we now stand where the chorus of bells would have pealed and chimed loudly together. Only two bells remain in this original location, but a recording of bells tolls around us as some of the Cathedral’s stunning stained-glass images are projected onto the walls above.


We set off to mount yet another winding staircase. It’s incredible to be able to see the chisel work on the walls, and to descry masons’ marks as well as carved graffiti from across the ages. Our climb at an end, we reach the roof and are rewarded for our efforts with breath-taking (albeit very windswept) views across the rolling Cheshire countryside, towards Flintshire and the Welsh mountains, and over to the Wirral. It’s wonderful to be able to work out the city’s place in the surrounding landscape, and to discover Chester afresh from an unrivalled vantage point. We peer down and spy the pedestrians far below us as we, in turn, are peered down on by the grimacing gargoyles that encircle the tower’s four spires and that don’t seem much used to having company.


Eventually, we regroup and make our way down a narrow spiral staircase; following, we learn, in the footsteps of none other than King Charles I himself, who in 1645 watched the defeat of his troops at Rowton Moor from the same hallowed heights, before making a hasty and crestfallen retreat down the steps to short-lived freedom.

We wind ever downwards, and are lead along another narrow gallery to gaze up at the nave’s vaulted ceiling enclosed in Victorian wood-panels and decorated with sublime holy figures in rich golds and reds. Remarkably, this decoration was only rediscovered in the late 20th century by a workman that rubbed away at the years of black grime in which it was then caked. In its place, once again, majestic Cherubim and Seraphim now stand, whose many colourful wings are adorned with watchful eyes. We walk further, and are given an uninterrupted view along the length of the nave with its intricate 14th century wooden choir stalls – some of the finest and most complete in England.


Next, we pass into the darkness of a small doorway and into one of the most hidden spaces of the tour. Walking along a dimly lit and very narrow passage, we crouch down and see on either side of us the infrastructure of some of the cathedral’s vaulted ceilings and arches extending away from us on either side. Our guide points out an unexpected and strange, little structure (which we’ll leave as a surprise) that was seemingly used by the cathedral builders for reasons unknown.

Once more and for the final time, we head down stair after stair in our descent back to earth, with a new found awe for the cathedral we all thought we knew so well.

Opening on 12th April, the Cathedral at Height tour is an absolute delight of an experience, and we can’t recommend it enough. Those afraid of confined spaces or heights beware though: it’s certainly not for the fainthearted! The tour lasts for about an hour, and admission costs are £8 per person, with a reduction to £7 for groups of 6-12 and £6 for Under 12s. It’s well worth every penny, so go along and discover a new perspective on Chester Cathedral for yourself!

Chester : Free stuff and a glimpse behind closed doors

Chester Walls, the Water Tower and King Charles’ Tower and Bishop Lloyd’s Palace

As part of the National Heritage Open Days last weekend we made a trip out into Chester to see the Water Tower and the Camera Obscura.

The usually closed doors of the Chester Walls’ towers fill me with a sense of story untold.  I do like a good mystery but with the doors open other stories lurk in the revealed detail.  The well maintained Water Tower was bright, staffed by very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides but brought to mind a very different Chester.  A medieval Chester of shipping, with the soul of a seaport and guarding the revenues that a variety of merchants brought over the sea and into the City.

The Water Tower
The Water Tower ceiling

Up the narrow steps of Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower we looked out over an unfamiliar panorama of Chester courtesy of the Camera Obscura.  Even the simple technology behind this Victorian novelty transforms your perception of how one place connects with another.  The Water Tower and King Charles’ Tower are open for the remaining weekends in September.

Bishop Lloyd’s Palace in Watergate Street waylaid us on our journey across town too.  Also open as part of the National Heritage Open Days the Palace opens Bishop Lloyd’s Palace is routinely open to visitors free of charge from noon to 2pm (Monday to Thursday) and from 1 pm to 3 pm on the first Saturday of every month. Bishop Lloyd’s Palace is an early 17th Century timber framed building.  Again the architectural detail within the buildings is spellbinding and well worth a look, including a large ornate fireplace which has been fitted into a less lofty space.

The Water Tower and also King Charles Tower will be open to the public at weekends from 10am to 4pm until the end of September. http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10622487.Roman_soldier_to_promote_reopening_of_historic_Chester_landmarks/

Bishop Lloyd’s Palace is open from noon to 2pm (Monday to Thursday) and from 1 pm to 3 pm on the first Saturday of every month. More details can be found on the Chester Civic Trust website http://www.chestercivictrust.org.uk/

Heritage Open Days takes place all over the country – read more about their work http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/about

Chester Film CO-OP is re-animating the Odeon

We’ve had this news from Natalie Meer who is working as part of an amazing CO-OP drawing it’s inspiration from the lovely Odeon building.

Natalie works alongside Janet Hodgson, the lead artist in the “Re-animating the Odeon” project.

Re-animating the Odeon is a Chester City Council’s creative program running up to the re-generation of the Odeon building in Chester city centre, as part of the new theatre and Northgate quarter.

Together they have formed the Chester Film CO-OP.  The Film CO-OP is inspired by the Odeon’s hay day in 1930.

This is their artist call out:-

“We are looking for films and videos to be shown as part of the opening series of works in the Chester Film CO-OP Gallery. This series will highlight the work of artists living and working in the city.

The Film CO-OP is inspired by the Odeon’s hay day in 1930, and the “Quota Quickie”, where in a time of austerity; home grown British films were made with limited resources.

The CO-OP is open to everyone and will be a creative space bringing together graduate students, local, national and international artists in an eclectic and unique mix of production, making, researching, thinking, showing and commissioning.

We have acquired a gallery space in one of the units attached to the Odeon building, in which we are currently creating our first program of work to exhibit. As a way of introducing ourselves, and getting to know the people working in city we propose that the first exhibitions will feature the work of artists living, working or studying in Chester. We would really like the CO-OP to be composed of and reflect the interests of the artists.

We’re looking to start the gallery around September with a rolling program of solo exhibitions, which will run until December. Depending on the type of work it will be shown either projected into the window, seen from outside, or inside the shop in an invigilated show.

The work can be of any length, type or subject and made at any time. You just need to be living or working in the Chester area. Unfortunately there is no fee, but the work will be publicised nationally and through social media. There will be an opening and all the costs for the showing, insurance and equipment will be covered. You just need to have a website, Vimeo, Youtube link or disk that we could use to see the work.

Contact janet@chestertheatreandlibrary.co.uk for more information.”

We’re really looking forward to having more news about this project to post on the Chester Culture blog!



English Heritage plea to save Chester’s historic Kaleyard Gate from destruction


Chester’s heritage suffered enormously during the twentieth century, when much was destroyed to make way for its ring road and for modern commercial structures. 

    Horrifyingly, Chester Cathedral recently proposed a masterplan for the redevelopment of its surrounding area., which includes the destruction of Chester’s ancient pedestrian Kaleyard Gate on Abbey Street in order to make way for car access to a Free School soon to be created in Abbey Square. Chester’s walls, including the ancient pedestrian Kaleyard Gate, are a Grade I Scheduled Monument, and for the Dean and Chapter to have suggested this is utterly disgraceful.

    Below is a template email to be sent to English Heritage requesting their intervetion in this matter in order to preserve Chester’s unique and already dwindled history. The message can be edited as you see fit and also altered slightly and sent to the Cathedral’s project team director.

    I’d be extremely grateful if you could find take a minute or two to either send a copy of this email to English Heritage or even write a few words of your own expressing your opposition. PLEASE, help save our history!

For further details of the Cathedral proposal: http://www.chestercathedral.com/news/cathedral-masterplan.html

For more about the facinating history of the Kaleyard Gate and its surrounds visit: http://www.chesterwalls.info/kaleyard.html


To contact English Heritage: northwest@english-heritage.org.uk To contact Chester Cathedral’s project team: amie.williams@chestercathedral.com


To whom it may concern,

     As you will be aware, Chester’s historic buildings and monuments suffered colossal blows during the twentieth century, with much of its heritage being erased in the name of “Progress”.  The Heritage Organisation’s existence thankfully safeguards the city’s remaining legacy today, for which all Cestrians are immensely grateful.

   Yet, it is as a concerned citizen of Chester and eager defender of history that I am writing to you now. Nearly all of the city walls, including its pedestrian Kaleyard Gate (situated on Abbey St), are a Scheduled Monument with Grade I listing; however, the Dean and Chapter of Chester Cathedral have audaciously proposed the Gate’s destruction as part of a project for redevelopment that has had to be altered once already due to its infringements on heritage conservation. 

Operations director for the Cathedral’s master plan, Simon Warburton, recently described the gate as nothing but a ‘hole’ in an interview for the Chester chronicle, appearing to be totally ignorant of the fact that the Kaleyard Gate has existed for almost seven and a half centuries and has, from the very beginning, been part of the history of the Cathedral, with the monks having requested its creation in order to access their vegetable garden. The tradition of the gate being locked at the 8 o’ clock curfew each evening, originally to prevent the attacks from marauding Welshmen, has also been observed since that time, and always by the Cathedral. 

   Incredibly, it now wishes to turn its back on all this and seeks to destroy one of the city’s ancient gateways for the benefit of those attending a Free School soon to be created in Abbey Square in partnership with the University of Chester, from which it will no doubt gain its own thirty pieces of silver. It is unimaginable that the Cathedral could condone destroying a piece of the city’s already dwindled heritage which is so completely bound to itself in order to shave a few minutes off the school run for a select minority dropping off its children at a school that will no doubt endure for a sum of years that is paltry in comparison to that of the Gate’s age. In light of the fact that Gorse Stacks car park is less than five minutes away, and a car park is in existence on the other side of the Kaleyard Gate in which private parking could be easily developed, it is baffling to think that the notion of bulldozing a large hole in the walls has even been considered.

    It is already devastating enough to learn that the plans also include building luxury houses on the city’s sole surviving ancient green, beneath which lie the remains of the Deva Roman fortress barracks rediscovered in the 1920s; this further recklessness cannot be allowed.

    I implore English Heritage to protect the Kaleyard Gate from this madness – for this proposal surely is madness –at all costs and preserve this unique portion of Chester’s illustrious history for future generations.

Yours sincerely,

chester map