St Mary de Castro, Chester, Cheshire
- Site Location
- National Grid Reference
- SJ 405657
Lichfield to 1075
Chester to c.1086
Coventry and Lichfield to 1541
now: Chester from 1541
St Mary de Castro
now (or name of monument): St Mary de Castro
- Type of building/monument
- Originally castle chapel, now Regimental chapel
II General Description
The present Chester Castle is largely Thomas Harrison's group of county buildings, dating from 1788-1822, and including the courts and the Shire Hall. The main medieval survival is Agricola's Tower, a three-storey tower on a rectangular plan, with a doorway to the south. The tower dates from the 12thc., but there was a fire in 1302, after which the lower room was remodelled entirely. Romanesque interest centres on the 2nd-storey chapel. This is a single space vaulted in two rectangular bays with quadripartite rib-vaults and an altar at the east. The present author was unable to gain access, and this report is based on what can be seen of the chapel through the grille that closes it off. For the guidance of future researchers, the chapel is now the Regimental Chapel of the Cheshire Regiment, and entry is controlled by the staff of the Military Museum, also on the castle site, who require at least two weeks' notice in advance of any visit.
IV Interior Features
4. Vaulting/Roof supports
(i) Rib vault
The rib vault has two quadripartite bays; all ribs have a central keeled roll between two smaller rolls. The ribs are supported on single capitals on slender en-delit shafts with water-holding bases; one shaft at each corner and one in the centre of the N and S walls of the chapel. Such capitals as were visible were tall volute capitals with roll neckings, tall abaci and plain chamfered impost blocks. The capital in the centre of the N wall has a tongue decorated with a row of nailhead between the angle volutes. That at the NE angle has a pellet in the valley between the volutes and above this a furled leaf.
The castle was founded by William I after he crushed a rising by the Anglo-Saxon earls of Mercia in 1069-70. The new Anglo-Norman earl, Hugh I, received Chester as his seat in the 1070s. Records of building work at the castle exist from 1153-62, including work on fortifications and on the castle bridge. The Agricola tower probably dates from the period of Earl Ranulph III (1181-1232).
- N. Pevsner and E. Hubbard, The Buildings of England. Cheshire. Harmondsworth 1971 (repr. 1978), 157.
- A. Thacker, 'The Early Medieval City and its Buildings', A. Thacker (ed), Medieval Archaeology, Art and Architecture at Chester (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions 22), Leeds 2000, 16-30.