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Chester City Walls


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 2,000 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.

Every day of the year a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to care for the City Walls:

Current work on the Walls

Collapse on the City Walls by the Eastgate Clock

In 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, 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 damage, with a roof added for further protection. This will be installed in the first phase of the repair work.

Work to repair the City Walls at the collapse site

Since the collapse near to the Eastgate Clock, the Council has been considering potential legal action, as it is our understanding that we have grounds to investigate negligence by a third party which may have contributed to the collapse of the City Walls.

We began a legal process to seek recovery of costs from those third parties who we believe to be responsible for the collapse; letters of claim have been issued. The prospective defendants deny wrongdoing.

The site of the collapse is landlocked. For a significant amount of time we have been seeking access from the owners of the land where the collapse occurred, however this has been denied. Alternative access arrangements are being negotiated with other landowners. As access has not been granted, legal options are being progressed to enable access to the site to carry out inspections, and possible remedial works.

The Council will continue to pursue every avenue available to ensure that the City Walls, an internationally recognised heritage asset, are preserved and maintained to the highest standard.

An engineering repair scheme is well developed and will be ready to start on site when the legal and access issues have been resolved.

Repair projects completed

Handrails at Watergate Bridge

Last summer new assistance rails were installed on both approaches to Watergate Bridge. The new rails have been well-received by the public and people with reduced mobility and will now be the template for assistance rails in other areas with difficult access around the City Walls.

Assistance rails installed at Watergate Bridge.

Replacement staircase at King Charles Tower Green

A set of wooden steps leading onto the City Walls from King Charles Tower Green and the Iceland car park had been propped for several years because the wood was slowly rotting away.

This dark and damp north-eastern corner of the City Wall receives very little sunlight even in high summer, which has provided perfect conditions for rot-causing fungi to flourish year-round.

Last year the wooden steps were dismantled and replacement steps were produced to conform more closely to current design and accessibility regulations to make them easier to use for people with reduced mobility or vision.

The new structure is made from fibre reinforced polymer which looks almost identical to wood but is made from recycled plastic bottles (approximately 140 x 500ml plastic bottles per square metre of material) surrounded by a glass fibre outer skin. It has a design life of 60+ years, requires little to no maintenance, is resistant to vandalism and blends in well with the historic backdrop of the City Walls.

The new steps are now in place and were opened in early March 2023.

A collage showing the new staircase in place and the entrance to the staircase from the Walls.

Other work completed on the Walls

See a full list of the historical repairs completed:

City Walls project timeline

Northgate steps

The rebuilding of Chester's historic Northgate Steps, began in September 2019. 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.