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LOCAL HISTORY

Did You Know? By Peter Leatherbarrow

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herever you go in Cheshire you find history. The county is dominated by Roman heritage dating back to the first century. Much of Cheshire was ruled by the Roman invaders for almost 400 years from 70 AD. They created ‘Deva Victrix’, which is now Chester, as a town, but most importantly as a fort. One of the most obvious signs of the Roman occupation is the Amphitheatre. The largest of its kind in Britain, it was underground, however due to recent excavations of the site, the impressive structure is clear to see. The Amphitheatre is a huge tourist attraction, it has been preserved and managed by Chester City Council with recent excavations revealing more and more of the Amphitheatre to be made of stone, contrary to the earlier reports that it was constructed entirely from wood. After the Romans left, Cheshire was under the Anglo-Saxon rule, during this time the county was the site of many wars. The walls the Roman’s had previously built in and around Chester have witnessed countless invasions from the Welsh, Danes and Normans. They have been reconstructed and improved throughout the ages. They still stand tall and are a major tourist attraction of Chester, with metal plaques scattered along the walls, each telling a different story about what has previously happened there. Stretching nearly two miles, the walls are almost a complete rectangular circuit of how the city was in the medieval era. Crossing the four major medieval gates to the Where life gets interesting.

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A model of Deva Victrix

city, Northgate, Eastgate, Bridgegate and Watergate, the walls have been designated a grade I listed building by the English Heritage. As a remote northern and independent kingdom, Cheshire offered stiff resistance to the Norman conquest of 1066. This angered the invading William I, causing him to be particularly severs on the county of Cheshire. Burning his way through acres of farmland, slaughtering livestock and making many residents homeless, William I made examples of the major landowners in the county, such as Earl Edwin of Mercia. Such was the devastation to Cheshire, especially to the Chester and Macclesfield areas, William I recorded much of Cheshire as wasteland in the Domesday survey of 1086. It took many decades for the county to recover from the harsh treatment. At Chester, William built a castle in a defensive location overlooking the River Dee from where it could dominate and control the city and from whence the county would be

administered. Gaps in the old Roman walls were repaired, 10 additional guard towers built, so that the inner city had a 2 mile defensive wall and walkway, making Chester one of the most heavily defended cities in Britain at that time. During the English civil wars, the gentry, whose roots could be traced back to the Norman invasion, faced divided loyalties as the Royalist and Parliamentarian forces surged through the county. The sieges of Nantwich and Chester were particularly devastating with Chester being used as a Royalist stronghold, while the market towns of Stockport, Northwich, Nantwich and Middlewich remaining in Parliamentary hands. In the 19th Century, Cheshire emerged as one of the wealthiest counties in England, with reportedly more fine 18th and 19th Century houses such as Tatton Hall and Dunham Massey. Today, Cheshire and in particularly Chester attracts many tourists, exploring the magnificent history of the county that is Cheshire. n

The Amphitheatre

Life In Cheshire

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