Chester Rows Heritage Action Zone
Following a successful bid to Historic England for funding of £1.08m, work started in April 2020 on a four-year programme to help safeguard and promote understanding of the Chester Rows. The funding was provided as part of a broader government backed scheme to support 67 High Streets across England, and was complimented with funding and in-kind support from the Cheshire West and Chester Council, Chester BID, Marketing Cheshire, the University of Chester, Chester Civic Society, as well as Grosvenor Estates and other private sector partners.
The Chester Rows, a unique series of covered galleries that together form ‘double-tiered’ streets – part of an urban landscape that’s unique in the world - which could be seen as the world’s oldest shopping mall, can be traced back over 800 years; although they even owe much of their design and structure to the two thousand year-old Roman fortress on which they are built.
Radiating from the Cross, in the heart of the walled city, these historic high-streets, with over 100 Listed Buildings, are a living environment that have evolved and been added to with every century. Today the Rows host over 200 shops, including many independent traders and eateries - together with hotels, offices and community spaces – who chose to continue this legacy in the heart of Chester. More information about the Rows and our living breathing historic city can be found on the Visit Cheshire website.
The Chester Rows Heritage Action Zone’s principal objectives were to increase awareness of the historical importance of the Rows, undertake refurbishment of heritage features which were at risk of being lost, and encourage footfall to support traders and the jobs they provide.
Although it was recognised that the funding would not be enough to address all the works required, the project aimed to be a catalyst for future work to support heritage-led regeneration and longer-term conservation of these unique and living high streets.
The project included over 15 elements including:
- enhancing and restoring the fabric of the Rows including over 100 property improvements and heritage refurbishments – including graffiti removal, replastering and decoration
- increasing the awareness of the heritage and historic importance of the Rows, through five specially commissioned films, bringing to life stories of the Rows through exhibitions, visitor trails, events and the development of a ‘Browns of Chester archive’ and hosting more than 450 ‘Medieval Meet & Greet Experiences’ on the Rows
- collaborations with a wide range of cultural and arts groups to explore and interpret this unique environment, including working with ten local schools, as well as empowering artists to interact and explore our Chester Rows legacy in both personal and universal experiences
- working with the local business community, Rows property owners, Council teams and key stakeholders to explore new ways of bringing empty upper floors into usage, improve CCTV and fire protection and encourage footfall to support business retention and local employment
The Rows History and Legacy
Funded via the project, Chester Heritage Festival have uploaded a series of episodes to their YouTube channel that look into the history and legacy of the Rows: