Roman Chester - DEVA
Chester in the mid third century. Looking from the south east, over the amphitheatre and fort, out towards the Irish Sea. At that time, a settlement would be become established outside of the fort. It is thought that Deva was placed in a strong position for access via the sea to Hadrian's Wall, along the North Wales Coast for trading copper, tin, silver and gold, as well as close proximity to the salt plains of Cheshire. Soldiers were even part paid with salt as it was such an extremely valuable commodity.
Chester in the mid third century. Looking from the south west, over the fort, out towards the Cheshire Plain. At that time, the Irish Sea came up close to the fort and that area of sea in the bottom left of the image has silted up over hundreds of years and is now the Roodee, Chester's racecourse.
Published in January 2018 by Oxbow Books, The Roman Amphitheatre of Chester Volume 1: The Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology, by Tony Wilmott and Dan Garner, contains reconstructions and interpretation by Julian, as well as him being a contributory author within the volume.
The volume is available to buyhere.
The Roodee is the racecourse in Chester. Back in time, the Irish Sea encroached up close to the fort. We recreated 3 time periods showing how the area may have looked during the Roman, Medieval and Tudor times. Over the years, the area silted up and the River Dee now runs along the far side of the racecourse and the Dee estuary is about 2 miles out of the city.
Roman. We depict a flat bottomed barge unloading wine amphora on a small jetty. There is a market up on the quay to the right. It is known that even at full tide the sea level would not have risen much up the quay wall, so it's likely that the port was further down the estuary and goods unloaded onto carts or the flat bottomed barges to be brought further in land.
The area that is now the Roodee racecourse during Medieval times. The area has begun to silt up and a small cross, known as a Rood, gives the area it's name. Rood Eye, meaning the island of the cross, became corrupted to become Roodee.
Tudor. It's 1539 and the first documented horse race was held on the site in February. At that time there was a mini Ice Age, so we have depicted a flurry of horse riders galloping in the snow. It is known that the race started at the water tower and ended at the castle. The prize for the winner was 3 silver bells. Previously there had been inter village football matches held there, but as they always seemed to end in a brawl, Mayor Gee (start of the term gee gee's perhaps?) came up with the idea of holding a horserace instead. We do not know who, or how many took part in the race.
The Elliptical Building
The building known as The Elliptical Building is part of a series of extensive building foundations that were found in the 1960's. There are no records of any of buildings of this type ever having been found within a fort, and its use is unknown. The main building formed two halves of an ellipse, with 6 chambers on either side. A lead water pipe, leading to the centre of the ellipse was presumably to feed a water feature of some sort. Julian worked with archaeologist, Dr David Mason, who had worked on the site, to create these reconstructions of how the buildings may have looked. Whilst the foundations were found, nothing survived about ground level, but given how substantial the foundations were, Dr Mason felt that the building(s) would more than likely have been 2 storeys, if not higher!
To learn more about the academic study and archaeology of Chester, the book, Roman Chester; City of Eagles, by David J P Mason will provide facts and figures. You can buy ithere.
Back to top