Chester city walls

    History

    In the past, many important towns and cities were defended by walls, but today only Chester has a complete circuit around the city.

    The Walls are about two miles long and were first built by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago. They were extended and developed in the Saxon period (10th century). During the 12th century, the Normans rebuilt and extended the Walls so for the first time since the Romans, the Walls formed a completed circuit around Chester. Throughout the middle ages, Chester was one of the most protected and strategically important cities in the county.

    Since then they have been constantly altered, repaired and sometimes attacked. One of the reasons they survive today is because from the 18th century they were no longer needed for defence and were adapted to become a fashionable walk and public amenity.

    Maintenance of the City Walls

    We are responsible for the Walls and for many years we, and the previous city council, have ensured the ancient monument is cared for and preserved by co-ordinating general maintenance and major restoration projects. To date, since we have been responsible for them around £6m has been spent to ensure the Walls can be enjoyed by generations to come.

    All work on the Walls has to be granted permission by Historic England.

    Current work on the Walls

    Collapse on the City Walls by the Eastgate Clock

    On 16 January 2020 a section of the wall collapsed close to the famous Eastgate clock. To ensure that residents, visitors and businesses can still benefit from and enjoy this section of the walls our engineers, alongside external specialists, have designed a temporary walkway which is incorporated into the scaffolding that is needed to prop up the wall. The scaffold was carefully designed to protect the Wesley Church Centre, take into account crypts and other buried archaeology between the Church and the walls, and maintain a fire escape route for the surrounding buildings.

    More scaffold propping has been designed to support the partially-collapsed inner wall to prevent any further loss and to create a safe working area. When this is in place a roof will be added to protect the site while investigation and repair works take place.

    Access to this land-locked site is extremely difficult for vehicles and so all building materials and equipment have had to be brought in by hand. Negotiations are ongoing with surrounding property owners to gain access to the collapse side to install the next phase of the propping. When this is in place engineers and conservation specialists can investigate the condition of the remaining structure and plan the repairs in consultation with Historic England.

    Repair projects in the pipeline

    The planned works for the financial year 2021-22 are:

    • replacement staircase at King Charles Tower Green
    • parapet replacement - scheme preparation
    • various sites – 3D laser scanning and drawings
    • various sites – pointing and masonry works

    Other work completed on the Walls

    There is a full list of the historical repairs completed on our City Walls project timeline page.

    Bridgegate bridge

    Bridgegate bridge at the end of Lower Bridge Street was closed in 2019 for safety reasons when a problem was found with the parapet. Scheduled Monument Consent was granted by Historic England to investigate the cause of the problem and to check that parts of the structure below the paving were in a safe condition. The defects found were repaired during the summer months to allow the use of specialist lime mortar.

    While the bridge was closed, engineers took the opportunity to carry out some routine tasks like masonry repairs, repointing and vegetation removal which are difficult to carry out when the bridge is in use, to minimise disruption. the bridge is now open again.

    Northgate steps

    The rebuilding of Chester’s historic Northgate Steps, which began in September 2019 is now complete. A set of solid, vertical steps have been revealed now the scaffold has been removed, bringing this famous section of the City Walls back to its former glory. Handrails have been installed and a mysterious-looking polymer panel has been put in place on the landing (this is only a temporary measure while plans to display archaeology from the site via a viewing chamber are in progress).

    Although work at Northgate Steps was completed recently, a section of wall immediately west of the site also needed to be investigated in phase two of the repairs, this section of the famous City Walls is fully open to public.