Chester views

During our first research trip to Chester I spent some time exploring the city itself: getting to know the medieval streets, visiting the city gates, and walking the famous walls (all whilst huddled under my umbrella!). I was particularly struck by the views from Chester out across the landscapes beyond, and the ways in which these vistas and lines of sight may have worked to shape urban identity in the Middle Ages.

Our research project is interested in medieval Chester as a frontier town, located on the border between England and Wales. Walking through the heart of medieval Chester, I noticed how many vantage-points within the city offer views over the Welsh landscape in the distance.

These vistas set up powerful juxtapositions and contrasts: Chester’s man-made fortifications set against the immense hills on the horizon; the crowded, enclosed spaces of busy urban life alongside the open landscape of mountains and moors in the distance. I gained some sense of how, for a medieval inhabitant of the city, the contrasts embodied in these vistas might have underlined their ideas about Welsh difference, otherness and the dichotomy between English city life and the wild world of North Wales beyond.

Catherine and Mark recover their breath and admire the view at the top of St Werburghs tower (not normally open to the public)

Catherine and Mark recover their breath and admire the view at the top of St Werburghs tower (not normally open to the public)

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3 Responses to “Chester views”

  1. Liz Herbert McAvoy Says:

    I also have spent some time in Chester and its environs recently, chasing up references to Cheshire anchorholds. Like Catherine, I was struck by the proximity of the city to Wales and the vistas of the ‘borderlands’ from the walls. I was also struck by the notion of Chester as having been built on the banks of an entirely unpredictable river (‘fluvio transcurso’, according to Geraldus Cambrensis) which, again according to Geraldus, sometimes moved towards Wales and sometimes towards England. I suspect that such a configuration of this particular area as physically and geographically unstable may well have had a bearing on the early references to anchorites which we find in connection with the city and the wider region. A moving terrain certainly needed something to ‘anchor’ it!

  2. Hooligan Says:

    Hi – best of luck with the project! If you haven’t found the alternative “wiki” site yet, please feel free to take a look and re-use anything you find useful.


  3. cclarke Says:

    Hello Peter – yes, I know and have often visited your Chester Wiki site. It’ll definitely help me plan my next research trip!

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