Chester Rows

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Photochrom of the Chester Rows as seen from the Cross, 1895 The Cross and Rows, Chester, Cheshire, England, ca. 1895.jpg
Photochrom of the Chester Rows as seen from the Cross, 1895

Chester Rows consist of covered walkways at the first floor behind which are entrances to shops and other premises. At street level is another set of shops and other premises, many of which are entered by going down a few steps. The Rows, found in each of the four main streets of the city of Chester, Cheshire, England, are unique. [1] [2] [3] [lower-alpha 1]

Contents

Dating from the medieval era, the Rows may have been built on top of rubble remaining from the ruins of Roman buildings, but their origin is still subject to speculation. In some places the continuity of the Rows has been blocked by enclosure or by new buildings, but in others modern buildings have retained the Rows in their designs. Undercrofts or "crypts" were constructed beneath the buildings in the Rows. The undercrofts were in stone while most of the buildings in the Rows were in timber.

Today about 20 of the stone undercrofts still exist, but at the level of the Rows very little medieval fabric remains. Many of the buildings containing portions of the Rows are listed and some are recorded in the English Heritage Archive. The premises on the street and Row levels are used for a variety of purposes; most are shops, but there are also offices, restaurants, cafés, and meeting rooms. Chester Rows are one of the city's main tourist attractions.

Description

Bridge Street, showing shops both at street level and on the Row Chester Row ext.jpg
Bridge Street, showing shops both at street level and on the Row

At street level the shops and other premises are similar to those found in other towns and cities, although many of the premises are entered by going down a few steps. On the first floor level are more shops and other premises, set back from the street, in front of which is a continuous walkway. The storey above this overlaps the walkway, which makes it a covered walkway, and this constitutes what is known as the "Row". On the street side of the walkways are railings and an area which was used as shelves or stalls for the display of goods. The floors above the level of the Rows are used for commercial or domestic purposes, or for storage. [4] The Rows are present, to a greater or lesser degree, in all the streets radiating from Chester Cross, namely Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Upper Bridge Street. They are continuous on both sides of Upper Bridge Street, along most of Watergate and Eastgate Street, but only for a short stretch along the east side of Northgate Street. Originally there were also Rows in Lower Bridge Street but these were blocked during the 17th and 18th centuries. [5]

As the ground floor buildings are usually lower than the street level, they are sometime known as "crypts". [6] However, as the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner points out, this is not a strictly accurate description because the level of the floors of the buildings is a half-storey rather than a full-storey level below the street. [7]

Origins

Inside Watergate Street Row, showing premises on the right and space for stalls and the railings overlooking the street on the left Chester Row int.jpg
Inside Watergate Street Row, showing premises on the right and space for stalls and the railings overlooking the street on the left

Rows were built in the four main streets leading from Chester Cross, [8] each of which originated during the settlement's early development. In the Roman period the main street, now Watergate Street and Eastgate Street, lay on an east-west axis. It was joined at what is now Chester Cross by the main road from the south, present-day Bridge Street. [9] During the Saxon period a road to the north was added, now called Northgate Street. [10] Dendrochronological evidence shows that the Rows go back as far as the 13th century, [4] but it is unlikely that they originated before 1200. The first record of the Rows appears in 1293, although it is uncertain whether it refers to a Row as it would be recognised today. The "earliest unambiguous instance" of the use of the term for an elevated walkway is in 1356. [11]

Because the Chester Rows are unique and their precise origins are unknown, they have been the subject of speculation. Chester has suffered from a series of fires. In 1278 the fire was so severe that almost the entire town within the walls was destroyed. [12] It has been suggested that following this fire, the owners were ordered to make their ground floors fireproof, leading to the stone-lined undercrofts. [13] [14] From this, the suggestion has been made that there was "a general undertaking by the citizens of Chester ... to improve the commercial potential of their property by providing two-level access for customers". [14]

Daniel Defoe, writing around 1724 in A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain , describes the Rows of Chester as “long galleries, up one pair of stairs, which run along the side of the streets, before all the houses, though joined to them, and is pretended, they are to keep the people dry in walking along. This they do effectually, but then they...make the shops themselves dark, and the way in them is dark, dirty, and uneven.” [15]

The 19th-century writer George Borrow makes the following claim in his book Wild Wales , published in 1862: "All the best shops in Chester are to be found in the rows. These rows, which you ascend by stairs up narrow passages, were originally built for the security of the wares of the principal merchants against the Welsh. Should the mountaineers break into the town, as they frequently did, they might rifle some of the common shops, where their booty would be slight, but those which contained the most costly articles would be beyond their reach; for at the first alarm the doors of the passages, up which the stairs led, would be closed, and all access to the upper streets cut off, from the open arches of which missiles of all kinds, kept ready for such occasions, could be discharged upon the intruders, who would soon be glad to beat a retreat."

Another theory links the Rows with the debris left from the Roman occupation of Chester. [14] The rubble from the Roman buildings which had fallen into ruin was piled up alongside the streets. It is suggested[ by whom? ] that in the medieval period buildings were constructed along the top of this debris. [3] [14] The buildings were set back from the street, a footpath passed in front of them, and wheeled vehicles passed along the street below. In time, the properties were improved and, possibly during the 13th century, cellars or undercrofts were excavated in the debris beneath them. When the buildings were further improved, upper stories were built which overlapped the lower storey, providing a covered walkway. Stalls or shelves were added on the street side of the walkway for the display of goods, and so the system of Rows was developed. In a few places, for example at the corner of Eastgate Street and Northgate Street, another building was constructed between the walkway and the street. [11] [14] It is thought that, apart from a relatively small number of later buildings, the system of the Rows had reached its full extent by about 1350. [11]

Medieval period

During the medieval period the Rows gave access to living accommodation. The doorway led into a hall, which was usually at right angles to the street. In some cases the front portion of the hall was used as a separate shop, and in other cases the whole hall was the shop. In the storey above the hall was the solar, a room providing private accommodation for the residents. In some cases, where the hall was larger, there were several shops on its frontage. Below the Rows, at street level, were crypts or undercrofts. Many of these were stone-lined with ribbed vaults, and they were used for storage or for selling more valuable goods. Behind the hall, on the level of the Rows, was more domestic accommodation. Normally the kitchen was a separate building in the yard behind the house. The back yard was also used for cesspits and for the disposal of rubbish. [11] [16]

Subsequent development

Although many of the Rows are still continuous, in some areas they have been blocked. In Lower Bridge Street there was originally a continuous Row; the first building to break the sequence was at the north end of the street, the public house now known as The Falcon. In the 17th century this was the town house of the Grosvenor family. It was rebuilt in 1626, maintaining its section of the Row. [17] However, in 1643, during the Civil War siege of Chester, Sir Richard Grosvenor moved his family there from his country estate at Eaton Hall. In order to increase the size of the house he gained permission to enclose the Row. This set the fashion for other houses in Lower Bridge Street to enclose their sections of the Row. Later, completely new houses were constructed which did not incorporate the Row. One of these was Bridge House, built by Lady Calveley in 1676; it was the first house in Chester to be designed in neoclassical style. [18] In 1699 John Mather, a lawyer, gained permission to build a new house at 51 Lower Bridge Street, which also resulted in the loss of part of the Row. In 1728 Roger Ormes, rather than building a new house, enclosed the Row at his home, Tudor House, making it into an additional room. [3]

During the Georgian era more sections of the Rows were blocked, especially by commercial development on the north side of Watergate Street. In 1808 Thomas Harrison designed the Commercial Coffee Room in Northgate Street in neoclassical style, with an arcade at the ground-floor level, rather than continuing the Row on the first floor. In 1859–60 Chester Bank was built in Eastgate Street, again obliterating its part of the Row. [19] However other architects continued the tradition of maintaining the Rows in their designs; examples include the Georgian Booth Mansion of 1700 in Watergate Street, [20] T. M. Penson's Gothic Revival Crypt Chambers of 1858 in Eastgate Street, [21] and buildings in modern style constructed in Watergate Street in the 1960s. [22]

Today

Three Old Arches Three Old Arches, Chester.jpg
Three Old Arches

About 20 stone undercrofts still exist, some of them vaulted, dating from the 13th or early 14th century. [7] One of the finest is Cowper House at No. 12 Bridge Street, with an undercroft of six bays built in sandstone rubble. It has plain rib-vaulting on plain corbels; the ribs are single-chamfered. [23] [24] [25] On the other side of Bridge Street, at No. 15, is another undercroft, this one having two double-chamfered arches. [26] [27] The Falcon, in Lower Bridge Street, has an undercroft which formerly had three bays but which has now been divided into two chambers. [28] [29] At No. 11 Watergate Street is a two-naved undercroft with four bays. [30] [31] Also in Watergate Street are undercrofts at Nos. 23 [30] and 37, the latter having 5½ bays. [32] Crypt Chambers, at No. 28 Eastgate Street, has a four-bay undercroft. [33] [34]

At the Row level, the medieval building was usually built in timber, and few examples remain. One which does remain is the building known as Three Old Arches. Consisting of three arches, the frontage of this shop is stone and is probably the earliest identified shopfront in England. The building also retains its undercroft and hall, the latter also built in stone. [23] [35]

According to the records in the English Heritage Archive, 14 buildings incorporate sections of Chester Rows. [36] The records in the National Heritage List for England show that at least 95 of the buildings containing sections of the Rows are listed; 9 of these are listed as Grade I, 20 as Grade II*, and 66 as Grade II. [37] The National Heritage List for England records the uses made by the premises at street level and in the Rows. Most of these are shops, but other uses include offices, restaurants and cafés, and private dwellings. The building at No. 1 Bridge Street has shops at both street and Row levels. [38] A department store occupies the street and Row levels (and the storey above) of Crypt Chambers. [34] Bishop Lloyd's House in Watergate Street has a shop at the street level and above this there are meeting rooms, [39] and the office of Chester Civic Trust. [40] As of 2010, Booth Mansion, also in Watergate Street, contains a solicitors' office. [41] The former St Michael's Church, which is now a heritage centre, includes part of Bridge Street Row in the lowest stage of its tower. [42] A remaining example of a section of a Row with a building between the walkway and the street is No. 22 Eastgate Street. [43]

Since 1995 access to the Rows has been improved by a pedestrianisation scheme, which affects all the streets containing Rows. Most vehicles are prohibited from using the area between 08:00 and 18:00, although unloading is allowed until 10:30 and from 16:30. [44] Chester Rows are a major tourist attraction in the city because of their unique nature, their attractive appearance and the covered shopping they provide. [45] [46]

On 7 July 2010 it was announced that Chester Rows were being considered as an applicant for the new United Kingdom Tentative List for World Heritage status by the Department of Culture Media and Sport. [47]

See also

Related Research Articles

Northgate, Chester

The Northgate is in Chester, Cheshire, England, where it carries the city walls footpath over Northgate Street. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.

Bishop Lloyds House

Bishop Lloyd's House is at 41 Watergate Street, and 51/53 Watergate Row, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner considered it to be "perhaps the best" house in Chester.

The Falcon, Chester

The Falcon is a public house in Chester, Cheshire, England. It stands on the west side of Lower Bridge Street at its junction with Grosvenor Road. The Falcon is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. The building formerly incorporated part of Chester Rows, but it was the first building to have its portion of the row enclosed in the 17th century.

Gods Providence House, Chester

God's Providence House is at 9 Watergate Street and 11–11A Watergate Row, Chester, Cheshire, England. The house incorporates part of the Chester Rows, is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building, and is included in the English Heritage Archive.

Gamul House

Gamul House is at 52–58 Lower Bridge Street, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building, and contains the only medieval stone-built open hall to survive in Chester.

Black-and-white Revival architecture

The Black-and-white Revival was an architectural movement from the middle of the 19th century which re-used the vernacular elements of the past, using timber framing. The wooden framing is painted black and the panels between the frames are painted white. The style was part of a wider Tudor Revival in 19th-century architecture.

Booth Mansion

Booth Mansion is a former town house at 28–34 Watergate Street, Chester, Cheshire, England. It contains a portion of the Chester Rows, is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building, and is included in the English Heritage Archive. Its frontage was built in 1700 in Georgian style but much medieval material remains behind it.

Crypt Chambers

Crypt Chambers is at 28–34 Eastgate Street and 34–40 Eastgate Row, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building and incorporates a section of the Chester Rows.

Cowper House

Cowper House is a former town house at 12 Bridge Street, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building, and it incorporates a section of the Chester Rows.

Leche House

Leche House is at 17 Watergate Street and Row, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building, and incorporates a section of the Chester Rows. It is considered to be the best preserved medieval town house in Chester.

Old Crypt, Chester

The Old Crypt is a building at 11 Watergate Street and 15/15A Watergate Row, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building and incorporates part of Chester Rows.

1 Bridge Street, Chester

1 Bridge Street, Chester, is located at the junction of Bridge Street and Eastgate Street at Chester Cross in the centre of the city of Chester, Cheshire, England. Its architecture is that of the black-and-white revival, it incorporates part of the Chester Rows, and is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building. Because of its prominent position and its black-and-white architecture, the historian Simon Ward has described it as an "iconic" building.

Chester Cross (junction)

Chester Cross is a junction of streets at the centre of the city of Chester, Cheshire, England.

3–31 Northgate Street, Chester

3–31 Northgate Street is a terrace of shops, offices and a public house on the west side of Northgate Street, Chester, Cheshire, England. All the buildings have a set-back ground floor with a covered walkway, are timber-framed in their upper storeys, and are listed buildings, being graded II* or II. The part of the terrace comprising numbers 5–31 is known as Shoemakers' Row, or Sadler's Row.

Boot Inn, Chester

The Boot Inn is at 17 Eastgate Street and 9 Eastgate Row, Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building. The building consists of a shop occupying a former undercroft at street level, above which is a public house at the level of the Row and above.

43 Bridge Street, Chester

43 Bridge Street is an undercroft and shop in Chester, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building. It is also known as St Michael's Rectory.

Thomas Mainwaring Penson

Thomas Mainwaring Penson (1818–64) was an English surveyor and architect. His father and grandfather, who were both named Thomas Penson, were also surveyors and architects. His grandfather Thomas Penson worked from an office in Wrexham, North Wales, and was responsible for the design of bridges, roads, gaols and buildings in North Wales. His son Thomas Penson (1790–1859) was county surveyor to a number of Welsh counties and also designed bridges. He later moved to Oswestry, Shropshire where he established an architectural practice. Thomas Mainwaring Penson was born in Oswestry, and was educated at Oswestry School. His elder brother was Richard Kyrke Penson who became a partner in the Oswestry practice in 1854, before developing an extensive architectural practice of his own, mainly in South Wales. Thomas Mainwaring Penson trained in his father's practice. Thomas Mainwaring initially designed buildings in the area of the practice, including stations for the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway.

Grade II listed buildings in Chester (central)

Chester is a city in Cheshire, England containing over 650 structures that are designated as listed buildings by English Heritage and included in the National Heritage List for England. Of these, over 500 are listed at Grade II, the lowest of the three gradings given to listed buildings and applied to "buildings of national importance and special interest". This list contains the Grade II listed buildings in the central unparished area of the city within Chester city walls or located adjacent to them.

References

Notes

  1. There are similar structures elsewhere, but the same, nor on the scale of Chester; for example, on the south side of Gerechtigkeitsgasse, Bern, Switzerland, is a short stretch of covered elevated walkway with shops, but the level below is more of a half-storey containing lock-ups rather than full-sized premises.

Citations

  1. Ward 2009 , p. 50.
  2. Bilsborough 1983 , p. 17.
  3. 1 2 3 City Rows, Chester City Council, archived from the original on 25 July 2009, retrieved 18 July 2009
  4. 1 2 Morriss 1993 , p. 13.
  5. Morriss 1993 , pp. 15, 23.
  6. Morriss 1993 , pp. 13–14, 18.
  7. 1 2 Pevsner & Hubbard 2003 , p. 132.
  8. Ward 2009 , p. 8.
  9. Ward 2009 , p. 7.
  10. Ward 2009 , p. 29.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Thacker, A. T.; Lewis, C. P. (eds.) (2005), Major buildings: The Rows, A History of the County of Chester: The City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions, 5, pp. 225–239, retrieved 1 August 2009CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  12. Ward 2009 , p. 51.
  13. Morriss 1993 , p. 18.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Alcock, N. W. (2001), The Origin of the Chester Rows: A Model (PDF), Medieval Archaeology, 45, pp. 226–228, retrieved 7 July 2009
  15. Defoe, Daniel (1724–1726). Rogers, Pat (ed.). A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain. Penguin. ISBN   978-0140430660.
  16. Ward 2009 , pp. 50–51.
  17. Morriss 1993 , p. 23.
  18. Ward 2009 , pp. 74–75.
  19. Ward 2009 , p. 86.
  20. Morriss 1993 , p. 97.
  21. Morriss 1993 , p. 106.
  22. Morriss 1993 , p. 39.
  23. 1 2 Pevsner & Hubbard 2003 , p. 167.
  24. Morriss 1993 , pp. 17, 91.
  25. Historic England, "Number 12 Bridge Street and Row, Chester (1376063)", National Heritage List for England , retrieved 5 July 2013
  26. Pevsner & Hubbard 2003 , p. 166.
  27. Historic England, "Number 15 Bridge Street and Row, Chester (1376066)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  28. Pevsner & Hubbard 2003 , p. 168.
  29. Historic England, "Falcon Inn, Chester (1376292)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  30. 1 2 Pevsner & Hubbard 2003 , p. 169.
  31. Historic England, "Number 11 Watergate Street and Row, Chester (1376424)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  32. Historic England, "Number 37 Watergate Street and Row, Chester (1376436)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  33. Pevsner & Hubbard 2003 , p. 163.
  34. 1 2 Historic England, "Number 28 Eastgate Street and Row, Chester (1376232)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  35. Historic England, "Number 48 and 50 Bridge Street and Row, Chester (1376095)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  36. Search Results, English Heritage: Pastscape, retrieved 31 July 2009
  37. Images of England, English Heritage, archived from the original on 13 August 2009, retrieved 1 August 2009
  38. Historic England, "No 1 Bridge Street, Chester (1376055)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  39. Historic England, "41 Watergate Street, Chester (1376439)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  40. Bishop Lloyd's Palace, Chester Civic Trust, archived from the original on 17 May 2008, retrieved 16 July 2009
  41. Oliver & Co Solicitors, Oliver & Co Solicitors, archived from the original on 23 January 2010, retrieved 11 March 2010
  42. Historic England, "Heritage Centre, Chester (1376107)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  43. Historic England, "No. 22 Eastgate Street, Chester (1376221)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 July 2013
  44. City Centre Vehicle Access, Cheshire West and Chester Council, archived from the original on 20 April 2010, retrieved 3 August 2009
  45. Chester, Visit Chester and Cheshire, retrieved 8 July 2009[ permanent dead link ]
  46. The Rows, Visit North West, retrieved 8 July 2009
  47. Applicants for UK Tentative World Heritage Status, Department for Culture Media and Sport, retrieved 8 July 2010

Sources

Coordinates: 53°11′25″N2°53′30″W / 53.1902°N 2.8916°W / 53.1902; -2.8916