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St Mary de Castro, Chester, Cheshire

(53°11′6″N, 2°53′30″W)
SJ 405 657
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Cheshire
now Cheshire West and Chester
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

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.


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).


Interior Features

Vaulting/Roof Supports


The keeled ribs, water-holding bases and elongated forms of the capitals indicate a date c.1190-1210 for this work.


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.

N. Pevsner and E. Hubbard, The Buildings of England. Cheshire. Harmondsworth 1971 (repr. 1978), 157.