Visiting Chester Castle

Chester Castle stands in ruins, overlooking the River Dee in Chester, England. The castle hails back to 1070, standing in the southwest end of the city walls. Chester Castle and the Agricola Tower, and the inner bailey are opened a few times a week in season, but visitors can walk the city walls.

Parking

There are plenty of public car parks in the city centre, all within walking distance from the site. You find access via the Assizes Court car park on Grosvenor Str.

Price

Free to view the Chester castle exterior from the circuit of the city walls during reasonable daylight hours. There’s a fee for the guided tours of the castle proper seasonally that visitors will find here.

Opening

The city walls are open for a year-round visit at any reasonable time during daylight hours. However, visitors may only access the castle itself, Inner Bailey and Agricola Tower in guided, seasonal tours announced here.

Location and Access

The Chester castle is accessible by both buses and trains and is located at:

Grosvenor Street, Chester, CH1 2DN.

You may walk the circuit of the City Walls at any reasonable daylight hours, and visitors may enjoy viewing the surviving masonry from the Roman and Medieval periods. Visitors may also enjoy the ruins of a former legionary fortress and Shrine dedicated to Minerva near the castle ruins. 

You may access the little Rodee car park site and take a walk up the hill towards town. You can't miss the motte as it stands above the car park.

Know Before You Go

Chester Castle stands in ruins, and a courthouse and car park occlude a large part of the castle site.

Chester Castle is often closed to the public and only open to visitors by appointment. Dogs are allowed at the castle site as long as they’re on a lead.  Visitors may view the castle exterior as they walk the city walls.

 

Places To Stay Nearby

Travelodge Chester Central Bridge Street

In the heart of historic Chester, this Travelodge is located just a few minutes from the castle and offers affordable lodging options for individuals and groups of any size. The rooms are clean and spacious, and the hotel is conveniently located near bars and restaurants. If you need a night in after a day of exploring, this hotel also has a restaurant on-site.

Book Travelodge

Premier Inn Chester Central North Hotel

This 3-star hotel is in a quiet location near to the historic city walls and castle. With 41 rooms to choose from, the hotel accommodates both single and family guests. The hotel offers free wifi, a bar and restaurant and is close to an outdoor playground called Swonownia national park and Chester Zoo. Standard rooms range from $35-$59 depending on rate options.

Book Premier Inn

Ye Olde King’s Head

This historic building and hotel dates back to 1622 and reveals Tudor-style architecture. It stands on an earlier 13th foundation and once housed Peter the Clerk, administrator of Chester Castle. Their site stated that there are 7 rooms and a restaurant for visitors to enjoy, with a good chance of ghost sighting.

Book Ye Olde Kings Head

History of Chester Castle

Chester Castle was an administrative centre of the Chester Earldom throughout the medieval and later periods. William the Conqueror founded it in 1070 as an earth and timber (motte and bailey) castle. In the 12th-century, occupants rebuilt the wooden fortress in stone.

Time Line


-74 or 75 AD

The Roman Legion named Legio II Adiutrix established a fortress in Chester, which was an earth rampart protected by a wooden palisade and surrounded by a ditch. 

-907 AD

Historians refer to the Mercian King Aethelfleda refortifying the Roman fortress of Deva at the castle site at this time. It’s not certain whether the Normans reused the Saxon fort, but William I extensively plundered the Saxon houses in Chester to make the Chester Castle. 

-1069-1070

Chester was a thriving port town under the control of the Crown but resisted Norman rule until William the Conqueror laid Chester to ruin. After destroying over 200 houses in the town, the Normans built a fortress of earth and timber south of a previous Anglo-Saxon burh.

-1070 (First Castle Built) 

Hugh d'Avranches, the second Earl of Chester, built the first Chester Castle. De Avranches, along with the Earls of Hereford and Shrewsbury, worked together to secure the north of the Anglo-Welsh border, establishing a base of Anglo-Norman operations in resistance to their Welsh opponents.  

-1210 (Agricola Tower)

The Agricola Tower was built as the bailey gatehouse and included a chapel on the first floor called the Chapel of Mary de Castro. 

-Mid-12th Century

The Castle construction prompted the expansion of the town defences, and by the mid-1200s, the surrounding town walls were established, including three new gates:

  • Watergate
  • Shopgate
  • Bridgegate

-1237 (Reverts to the Crown)

John the Scot, the last Earl, died, and the earldom fell away, leaving Chester Castle in the hands of the Crown, but it remained the administrative centre of the area. The Royals further built the castle and gave the chapel of Mary de Castro a second coat of paintings devoted to the Virgin Mary, 

-1241 (Henry III Base of Campaigns)

Chester Castle became the base of Henry III's campaigns in Wales and built an oriel or large bay window in front of the chapel's doorway. The King ordered the Great Hall built in the south wall of the inner bailey at the cost of £350. In this period, the castle also began its purpose as a jail.

-1254

King Henry III grants the title of the Earl of Chester to his son, Prince Edward.

-1264 (Battle of Lewes) 

Rebels led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, defeated the King and took him as a prisoner. The insurgents seized Chester Castle, and it fell under the power of Lucas of Taney. 

-1265 (Battle of Evesham)

The rebel control of the castle was short-lived as the King's son Prince Edward retook possession of the castle after defeating Monfort in the battle of Evesham. 

-1251-67 (Prince Edward Establishes Base)

Edward I took control of Chester Castle as his base of campaigns against the Welsh invasion. At this time, he ordered a gateway built connecting to the outer bailey with two drum towers. He added a drawbridge and moat and added separate quarters for himself and the Queen. 

1272

At the ascension of King Edward I, Chester became pivotal in the rising conflict in Northern Wales. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd refused to pay homage to Edward, prompting an English invasion.

-1275 (First War of Welsh Independence)

Edward I stays at Chester Castle awaiting homage from Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. When Gruffudd refused tribute, the First War of Welsh Independence was launched from Chester into Wales.

-1282-3: (Second War of Welsh Independence)

Chester Castle again formed the base of Edwards's second campaign in Wales called The Second War of Welsh Independence. Edward caught and imprisoned Price Llewellyn's brother and five squires in the castle gaol. 

-1284-1291 (Fortification Upgrades)

Edward follows up his defeat of the Welsh by enhancing the existing castle fortifications and defences and upgrading the residences to support royal visits to the sum of £1,400, a considerable amount for that time. 

-Early 1300s 

As Wales moved into a period of relative peace, Chester castle fell back into its administrative role. The castle lost its importance as the river between Chester and the ocean silted up, causing the maritime supply to shift from Chester to Liverpool. 

-1322  

Edward II grants Chester Castle to the despised Hugh Despenser. 

-1326

After Hugh Despenser's fall from the King's grace, the castle reverts to the Crown.

-1327 

Thomas of Warwick took custody of the castle and began repair and provisioning. 

-1347 (Beginning of Disrepair)

Historical documents suggest that the castle began falling into disrepair, including the Great Hall and the Chapel.

-1399

Richard II occupied Chester Castle and had a heated bathroom built and his apartments lavishly decorated. 

-1310-1401

Castle occupants decided to move the courthouse and exchequer outside the castle precincts.

-The 15th Century

The 15th century was not a pivotal time for Chester Castle, and the main notable event was Chamberlain of Chester successfully defended the castle from a siege during the Epiphany Rising. At the time, Chester Castle garrison consisted of 35 archers (14 hectares) and eight men-at-arms.

-1642 (English Civil War)

Chester supported the Royalist cause and became a pivotal base of operations with its port facilities for soldiers and weapons. The Royalists conducted extensive earthworks around the town, including artillery posts to guard against the parliamentarian approach. 

-1643-46 (Parliamentary Troops Attack)

Parliamentary forces assaulted Chester Castle in July 1643, as well as in January and April 1645. 

-June 1645 (Siege and Surrender)

The royals suffered a crushing defeat at The Battle of Naseby, prompting yet another Parliamentarian siege of Chester. At the subsequent battle of Rowton Heath, the King was defeated and fled to Wales. As a result, in 1646, Chester surrendered. 

-After 1646 (Ruins)

Although the castle avoided slighting after the English Civil war, Parliamentary troops took occupation of Chester Castle. Both Cromwell used the area as a supply base, and William III used the area as a supply base at different times, but by the early 1800s, the castle was falling to ruin.

-1685

Suspects implicated in Monmouth's Rebellion were imprisoned in Chester Castle.

-1687

James II visited the castle and joined a mass.

-1696 

Edward Halley of the comet fame set up a mint in the castle. Visitors can still find the remains of the mint behind the Half Moon Tower, 

-1715 (Prison)

The powers that be briefly revived Chester Castle as a prison to house Jacobite's captured after their defeat at the Battle of Preston. 

-1760 (Collapse)

A large section of the curtain wall of the inner bailey fell at this time.

-1776

The military made substantial alterations to the castle, removing the south wall of the inner bailey for a gun platform. They also partially destroyed the tops of the Flag and Half Moon towers to form a stable base for their mounted cannons. 

-The Early 1800s (Ruins)

By the early 1800s, Chester castle had fallen into a state of ruin. 

-1792 

Thomas Harrison designs and completes a new prison in Chester Castle to great acclaim. 

-Late 18th Century/Early 19th Century

Between 1900 and 10902, they demolished the prison buildings, and The City Walls were restyled as a promenade walk around Chester City. Many vital areas of the castle were sadly destroyed to make way for new buildings.

-21st Century

Chester Castle falls under the care of English heritage, and certain structures of the castle fall under both Grade I and Grade II heritage sites.

Chester Castle Occupants

 

Chester Castle has been home to an abundance of famous figures over its lengthy lifespan. As well as willing royal occupants, Chester castle was also home to some prominent figures who did not stay there willingly. Some of the more notable residents include:

11th Century Occupants

12th Century Occupants

  • 1237 - A succession of Earls of Chester occupy the castle until the last Earl, John the Scot, dies.
  • 1241-64 - King Henry III established Chester castle as his base of campaigns.
  • 1264-65 - Lucas of Taney takes possession of Chester for a short year after the revolt of the rebel Simon de Montfort.
  • 1251-67 - Prince Edward I established his base at Chester Castle.

 13th Century Occupants

  • 1322-1326 - King Edward II grants ownership of the castle to his favourite Hugh Despenser, who falls from grace after four years at Chester Castle.
  • 1327 - Thomas of Warwick occupies the castle.
  • 1399 - Richard II occupied Chester Castle and decorated it lavishly.

14th Century Occupants

  • 1442 - Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, was detained at the castle for conspiring in the King's death.
  • 1479 - Richard Grey was appointed constable of Chester castle.

Images of Chester Castle

Chester Castle Chester Castle
Chester Castle Chester Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Chester Castle Facts

  • Chester Castle was once the site of one of three permanent Roman legionary fortresses in England, which the Romans named Deva Victrix.
  • The largest Roman amphitheatre in England once stood outside the original fort and could sit between 8000 and 10,000 people. 
  • The civilian amphitheatre, built in the 1st century, could sit between 8,000 and 10,000 people.
  • In a Parliamentarian siege on Chester town, by 1646, the Chester citizens (17,000) had been reduced to eating their dogs. 
  • In 1399  Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, stayed at Chester Caste twice.
  • In 1687 King James II visited the castle and joined the mass.
  • In November 1950, workmen uncovered a treasure hoard near Chester Castle with 547 coins, 27 ingots, and 120 broken hacksilver jewellery dating back to AD 965-970.

Chester Castle Q&A

What Kind of Castle Is Chester Castle?

Chester Castle is described as both a Timber and Masonry Castle as it was initially made of earthworks and timber and then replaced in stone. Although many used it in a military capacity in its lifespan, the castle functioned primarily as an administrative center. 

How Old Is Chester Castle?

Chester Castle is about 951 years old. William I built the first motte and bailey structure in 1070, followed by the perimeter walls in the late 12th century and the gates and inner bailey added in the 13th century.

The gates and drum towers were a 13th-century addition when they walled up the Agricola tower gate. They walled the outer bailey with stone around 1247 and the great hall in between 1292-93. Finally, they added the Great Hall and the outer gatehouse in the mid and late 1200s

Location of Chester Castle

The location of Chester Castle hasn’t changed much since the original earthwork structure. Although the many occupants over history rebuilt the castle many times, the building phases were extensions rather than a shift from the original position.

The original castle was built on the spur of rock above the sloping riverbank and flanked by a mound to the west, probably the vase for a sturdy wood tower. A sizable outer bailey stood to the north, and broad ditches surrounded the area with palisades.

A small harbour lay between the castle and the river to take advantage of the water links to Holt and the North Wales coast.

Sadly only fragments of the 12th-century curtain wall remain with the Flag Tower and Agricola Tower. Callous developers levelled the remaining medieval buildings to make way for the new barracks and County Courts. The castle still commands the bridge of River Dee from the southern corner of the city wall. 

Other Places To Visit Near Chester Castle

Grosvenor Museum 

Grosvenor Museum offers a glimpse into the history of the area with impressive exhibits of art and silver from the Roman occupation. It also offers a Period House with interesting artifacts from the 17th century onwards. Entrance to these exhibits is free of charge, and donations of £3 are left to visitor discretion.

Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral is a beautiful structure, some of which dates back to 1093. The site was previously a Saxon place of worship, but Benedictine monks built the first Norman church. 

Chester Cathedral first started as a Benedictine Abbey in 1093. During Saxon times, the site was used as a place of worship, but the Benedictine monks were the first to build a church there in the Norman style.

The Cathedral still offers services as well as a gift shop and cafe. Beautiful gardens surround the site, and there are falconry displays, too. Visitors can see various birds of prey at the cost of around  £10 for 2 adults and up to three children.

Chester Rows

Chester Rows are a labyrinthine structure of galleries with some original 13th-century buildings with plenty of shops to explore. The Three Old Arches are a fine example of an original 13th build, and the rows are an architecturally unique area for visitors to enjoy while shopping. Entrance is free to the public.