What are the best Roman Sites in Cheshire?
Chester Roman Amphitheatre is Britain’s largest known Roman amphitheatre. Originally part of the Roman settlement of ‘Deva’ which was founded in around 79AD and is now modern day Chester, Chester Roman Amphitheatre would have been able to seat between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators.
Two amphitheatres were actually built on the site of Chester Roman Amphitheatre, both stone-built with wooden seating but each quite different in other respects.
At its peak, Chester Roman Amphitheatre was a place where Rome’s 20th Legion trained and where the people of Deva were entertained. More recent findings have suggested that it was also the site of gruesome shows where gladiators were chained and tortured. The exact activities which would have taken place are unclear and archaeologists are still exploring Chester Roman Amphitheatre.
Sadly, little has remained of this once great structure. Most of its materials were used to construct the Chester City Walls and much of it is buried under the modern landscape. However, the outline of the amphitheatre is clear.
Built on the former site of an ancient Roman fort, Dewa Roman Experience is a hands-on archaeological site containing the remains of this a Roman legionary base.
The Roman fort site at Chester was a strategic base for the Roman army circa AD 50. Initially the site had been a small fort used to defend Chester’s harbour and crossing point of the river Dee during campaigns against tribes in Wales and to the north and east of Chester. The name ‘Deva’ in Latin means ‘Holy One’, and takes its name from the river.
The Romans based themselves at Chester temporarily in the beginning, as resources were diverted to dealing with the Boudiccan uprisings in AD 60. A permanent military presence was established soon after, however, as the Romans attempted to conquer Britain in its entirety. The Second Legion was later stationed in Chester, circa AD 78, but the legion was withdrawn in AD 87 to help defend the Rhine frontier.
The Romans set great store by fighting conflicts at sea – Chester’s excellent harbour was therefore ideally suited as a base, and was subsequently developed into a major military centre. Its importance was demonstrated when the Romans chose it as the intended point of departure for a planned invasion of Ireland, although the plan never came to fruition.
Circa AD 90 the fort was occupied by the Twentieth Legion, and the legionary depot was rebuilt with stone. The Twentieth Legion was involved in campaigns against the Picts in Scotland whilst stationed in Chester, as well as periodically being involved in refurbishment work until the Romans’ departure from Britain in the 5th Century.
Today, visitors to Dewa Roman Experience may immerse themselves in Roman Chester – the fort was excavated in 1991 and visitors can wander through the streets and explore archaeological remains.
The visit begins with a virtual trip on board a Roman galley. There is a museum on site, and visitors can also take part in a number of historical themed activities, such as trying on Roman armour, firing a catapult and creating a mosaic. Additionally there is a soldier patrol, where visitors may experience life as a soldier, preparing for battle and defending a Roman amphitheatre.
Contributed by Chris Reid
Perhaps in contrast to the above, this pretty reconstructed Roman site is made up of a number of Roman finds and artefacts gathered from various sites in Roman Chester.
One of the most tranquil places on our list of Roman Sites in the UK.
Minerva's Shrine is a shrine to the Roman goddess Minerva in Edgar's Field, Handbridge, Chester, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. The shrine dates from the early 2nd century and is carved into the face of a sandstone quarry. It is the only monument of its kind in Western Europe that remains in its original location. It is protected by a 19th-century stone surround with a hood, which was refurbished in the late 20th century. The carving has weathered over the centuries and has also been damaged by human activity. Next to the shrine is an opening into the rock face which is possibly a natural fissure that has been enlarged and which is known as Edgar's Cave.The shrine stands beside the route of the old main Roman road into the fortress of Deva from the south. Minerva was the Roman goddess of war, knowledge, and craftsmanship. She is often depicted with her attributes of helmet, shield, breastplate, and spear, but in this instance she is shown in a simplified form, standing in a representation of a temple. The Roman quarry, together with Edgar's Field and the image of Minerva, is a Scheduled Monument.A cast of the shrine is kept in the Grosvenor Museum, in Chester.
39 Bridge Street is a building in Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building, its major archaeological feature being the remains of a Roman hypocaust in its cellar.The building has four storeys, with a shop at street level and a portion of Chester Rows in the storey above. The hypocaust in the cellar dates to the 2nd century during the Roman occupation of Chester. In the late 13th or early 14th century a medieval undercroft was built adjacent to the hypocaust, with a house above. In 1864 a new floor was inserted at street level and a shop front was added in the 20th century. The ground floor is now used as a café. The remains of the hypocaust were found during the reconstruction of the property in 1864. They consist of 27 square columns in a rectangular chamber which originally contained 32 columns in eight rows of four.
Heronbridge Roman Site is the remains a Roman settlement on both sides of Watling Street, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) south of Chester in Cheshire, England, with evidence of industrial activity (furnaces) in the late 1st and 2nd centuries. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.