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Historic England Research Records

Chester Castle

Hob Uid: 69135
Location :
Cheshire West and Chester
Chester Castle
Grid Ref : SJ4048065730
Summary : A Medieval castle with later alterations. The Agricola Tower is the only feature of Chester Castle which survived the destruction of the medieval castle by fire in the late 18th century (see record 1100771). The castle was originally an earthwork fortress of motte and bailey type built in 1070 by William the Conqueror. The perimeter was walled in stone in the late 12th century. The lower bailey was added in the 13th century. New gates with drum towers were added to the inner bailey in the 13th century when the gate through the Agricola tower was walled up. The outer bailey was walled with stone 1247-51, a new castle chamber added in 1246-7, and the Great Hall built 1250-3. The outer gatehouse was built 1292-3. This completed the major Mediaeval works. In 1265 the Castle was involved in the Barons' War when it was held for ten weeks by the rebel forces of Simon de Monfort. The Castle served as the administrative centre of the Earldom throughout the Medieval period and later periods. It was also used as the headquarters for Henry III's and Edward I's campaigns of conquest in Wales. During the English Civil War it was the headquarters of a Royalist governor,. In the 17th century it served as an armoury and also asa mint. The castle was replaced after the 18th century fire by the buildings of the Shire Hall circa 1811, which still serve as the county hall. Fragments of wall painting can be seen in the vault and the chapel. The site is in the care of English Heritage.
More information : [SJ 4048 6573] The Castle [TU] Tower [G.T.] (1)

Originally an earthwork fortress of the motte and bailey type, occupying the southern and higher portion of the site covered by the 12th c. castle which was walled with stone. A lower bailey was added mid-13th c. with a gateway and ditch on the north side
(2).

[Plans-See photo AO/LP/63/36]

The only mediaeval work remaining is Caesar's Tower (also known as Agricola's and Magazine Tower) which contains the 12th c. chapel of St. Mary de Castro. The rest of the castle was destroyed mainly in the late 18th c. and replaced in 1811 by the Shire Hall (3). Scheduled (4). (2-4)

There has been considerable rebuilding and restoration of this tower.
A M.O.W. name plate reads "Agricola Tower".
See G.P. AO/64/225/8 (5)

The original earthwork here is regarded by King and Alcock as possibly a ringwork. (6)

The grass covered slopes on the SW side of "The Castle" are probably a relic of the original earthwork. Otherwise no change since report of 28 7 64. (7)

Additional references (8-10)

Listed by Cathcart King. (11)

Although built by William I, except during minorities or once when forfeited to the Crown in 1174, the castle was a possession of the Earls of Chester. However, with the death of the last Earl in 1237, it permanently passed to the Crown. It was extensively renovated in 1246-51 during Henry III's Welsh Wars. Plan of castle as it was in the 18th century. (12)

The Earldom of Chester remained a royal patrimony throughout the Mediaeva period, and the castle at Chester remained a centre of judicial activity. Expenditure on the castle was mainly in the form of mantenance, and usually inadequate at that. The only new construction between 1485 and 1649 was the Prince's Hall to provide accomodation for the shire court. Although never wholly neglected, the sums spent on the fabric of the castle were comparatively small. (13)

Full conservation plan for the castle. (14)

Excavation of the 17th century and later armoury and mint. (15)

The altar recess was decorated with elegant busts of angels in roundels, extremely similar in style to 13th century sculpture found in Westminster Abbey. The vault contains a fine depiction of the Visitation. More than 20 figures were found, as well as an inscription and ornamental decoration. Fragmentary figure subjects were also found on the upper parts of the chapel wall, though to show the Miracles of the Virgin. Earlier twelfth century paintings survive beneath the thirteenth century paintings. The original technique appears to be based on lime using a suprisingly limited range of pigments. The paintings may date from c1220 from the time of Earl Rannulf III and may be a rare example of baronial wall paintings of this period. (16)

The wall paintings in the chapel may have been exectued for Henry III in c. 1240, the scenes show Christ's Infancy, and are set in a complex arrangement of trefoils and quarefoils. (17)

Brief accessible overview of Chester Castle for visitors. (18)

Building work at the colonnade in 1980 enabled a cross section of the castle ditch to be excavated, evidence for a possible causeway across the ditch was recorded. Between 1980-81, a test hole below the chapel floor was also excavated. A pit yielding mid to late 17th century finds was revealed. (19)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : 1/1250 1959
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Source Number : 2
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : 1938 (Hamilton Thompson)
Page(s) : 310
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 94
Source Number : 11
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details :
Page(s) : 67
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1
Source Number : 12
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 607-612
Figs. :
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Source Number : 13
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 3 : 1485-1660 (part 1)
Source details :
Page(s) : 169-171
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Plates :
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Source Number : 14
Source : Conservation Plan: Chester Castle
Source details : Volumes 1-2 (Volume 2 includes a gazetteer of features at the site)
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Source Number : 15
Source : Excavations at Chester. Chester Castle, the seventeenth-century armoury and mint : excavation and building recording in the inner ward 1979-82
Source details :
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Vol(s) : no.10
Source Number : 16
Source : Our painted past : wall paintings of English Heritage
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Source Number : 17
Source : Conserving the Painted Past: Developing Approaches to Wall Painting Conservation
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Source Number : 18
Source : Heritage Unlocked: Guide to free sites in the North West
Source details :
Page(s) : 08-Sep
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Source Number : 19
Source : Chester - The Castle; The Castle Chapel
Source details :
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Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Old Cheshire Churches 1947 photo. (R.Richards)
Page(s) : 101-2
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Source Number : 4
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : List of Ancient Monuments of England and Wales 1961 (M.O.W.)
Page(s) : 22
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Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 TPW 28-JUL-64
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Source Number : 6
Source : Chateau Gaillard, 3. Conference at Battle, Sussex, 19-24 September 1966
Source details : (DJC King & L.Alcock)
Page(s) : 112
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Vol(s) : 3
Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 DJC 25-FEB-76
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Source Number : 8
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Chester Castle, 26-FEB-1985
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Source Number : 9
Source : The English Heritage visitors' handbook 1998-99
Source details :
Page(s) : 169
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Source Number : 10
Source : County list of Scheduled Monuments : March 1996
Source details :
Page(s) : 3
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Chapel, Castle, Motte And Bailey, Ringwork, County Court, Gatehouse, Curtain Wall, Great Hall, Wall Painting
Evidence : Building, Documentary Evidence, Demolished Building, Extant Building, Modified Surface
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : C17 onward
Monument End Date : 1899
Monument Start Date : 1700
Monument Type : Armoury, Mint
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Castle destroyed by fire in late C18
Monument End Date : 1799
Monument Start Date : 1767
Monument Type : Castle, Tower, County Court
Evidence : Demolished Building, Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Tower converted and reused
Monument End Date : 1811
Monument Start Date : 1811
Monument Type : Chapel, Tower
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA98/04512
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 452991
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 452995
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 452996
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : CH 24
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 146
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SJ 46 NW 44
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1100771
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1126951
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1416452
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SJ 46 NW 44
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1964-07-28
End Date : 1964-07-28
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SJ 46 NW 44
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1976-02-25
End Date : 1976-02-25
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1982-01-01
End Date : 1982-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1985-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : MANAGEMENT SURVEY
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHESTER CASTLE: INNER BAILEY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT CHESTER CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2012-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31