History of Chester

Chester can trace its origins back to Roman times, making it one of Great Britain's earliest towns. The Romans called their settlement Dewa (pronounced Deva), established in 70 AD as a bulwark against the fierce Celtic tribes in the west. When the Romans withdrew in the 5th century, the incoming Angles and Saxons settled and changed the name to Chester. Like the Romans, they used the town as a bulwark against the Celts in the west whom they called 'Welsh'. It wasn't until the 14th century that regulations preventing the Welsh from being in the town after dark, holding meetings, entering pubs or even bearing arms, were recinded!

Medieval Chester became the largest port in the north-west of England, but backed the wrong side during the Civil War and was besieged for 18 months by Oliver Cromwell's parliamentarian forces in 1645-46 for its Royalist stance. The King Charles Tower on the city walls has an exhibit on the siege.

Since those days, Chester has expanded well beyond the old walls originally built by the Romans. However, old Chester can still be seen within the walls: the original Roman street grid pattern is still relatively intact. And from the stone cross that marks the centre of town, four roads stretch out like points of the compass to the four principal gates.

Chester has one of the most delightful shopping centres in the country, and one of the most unique in that it has two levels of shopping streets. Their origin may lie in medieval shopkeepers constructing their shops below and on top of the old Roman walls. Also, the half-timbered buildings are not medieval, but Victorian. Today's tourists follow a long-established tradition in visiting Chester - the town's first guidebook was published in 1781!