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Bridge Street showing Chester Rows and St Peter's Church
Chester shown within Cheshire
|OS grid reference|
|- London||196 miles (315 km) SE|
|Unitary authority||Cheshire West and Chester|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||North West England|
|UK Parliament||City of Chester|
Bridge Street showing Chester Rows and St Peter's Church
Chester shown within Cheshire
|OS grid reference|
|- London||196 miles (315 km) SE|
|Unitary authority||Cheshire West and Chester|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||North West England|
|UK Parliament||City of Chester|
Chester, Cheshire (// CHESS-tər), is a city in Cheshire, England. Lying on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales, it is home to 118,925 inhabitants, and is the largest and most populous settlement of the wider unitary authority area of Cheshire West and Chester, which had a population of 328,100 according to the 2001 Census. Chester was granted city status in 1541.
Chester was founded as a "castrum" or Roman fort with the name Deva Victrix in the year 79 by the Roman Legio II Adiutrix during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian. Chester's four main roads, Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge, follow routes laid out at this time – almost 2,000 years ago. One of the three main Roman army bases, Deva later became a major settlement in the Roman province of Britannia. After the Romans left in the 5th century, the Saxons fortified the town against the Danes and gave Chester its name. The patron saint of Chester, Werburgh, is buried in Chester Cathedral.
Chester was one of the last towns in England to fall to the Normans in the Norman conquest of England. William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a castle, to dominate the town and the nearby Welsh border. In 1071 he made Hugh d'Avranches the first Earl of Chester.
Chester has a number of mediaeval buildings, but some of the black-and-white buildings within the city centre are actually Victorian restorations. Chester is one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain. Apart from a 100-metre (330 ft) section, the listed Grade I walls are almost complete.
The Industrial Revolution brought railways, canals, and new roads to the city, which saw substantial expansion and development – Chester Town Hall and the Grosvenor Museum are examples of Victorian architecture from this period.
The Romans founded Chester as Deva Victrix in the 70s AD in the land of the Celtic Cornovii, according to ancient cartographer Ptolemy, as a fortress during the Roman expansion northward. It was named Deva either after the goddess of the Dee, or directly from the British name for the river. The 'victrix' part of the name was taken from the title of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix which was based at Deva. A civilian settlement grew around the military base, probably originating from trade with the fortress. The fortress was 20% larger than other fortresses in Britannia built around the same time at York (Eboracum) and Caerleon (Isca Augusta); this has led to the suggestion that the fortress, rather than London (Londinium), was intended to become the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Superior. The civilian amphitheatre, which was built in the 1st century, could seat between 8,000 and 10,000 people. It is the largest known military amphitheatre in Britain, and is also a Scheduled Monument. The Minerva Shrine in the Roman quarry is the only rock cut Roman shrine still in situ in Britain. The fortress was garrisoned by the legion until at least the late 4th century. Although the army had abandoned the fortress by 410 when the Romans retreated from Britannia, the Romano-British civilian settlement continued (probably with some Roman veterans staying behind with their wives and children) and its occupants probably continued to use the fortress and its defences as protection from raiders from the Irish Sea.
Chester was captured from the Britons by the Kingdom of Northumbria after the brutal and decisive Battle of Chester in the early 7th century. Deverdoeu was still one of two Welsh language names for Chester in the late 12th century; its other and more enduring Welsh name was Caerlleon, literally "the fortress-city of the legions", a name identical with that of the Roman fortress at the other end of the Welsh Marches at Caerleon in Monmouthshire, namely Isca Augusta. The modern Welsh name is the shortened form, Caer. The early Old English speaking Anglo Saxon settlers used a name which had the same meaning, Legacæstir, which was current until the 11th century, when, in a further parallel with Welsh usage, the first element fell out of use and the simplex name Chester emerged. From the 14th century to the 18th century the city's prominent position in North West England meant that it was commonly also known as Westchester. This name was used by Celia Fiennes when she visited the city in 1698.
Chester played a significant part in the Industrial Revolution which began in the North West of England in the latter part of the 18th century. The city village of Newtown, located north east of the city and bounded by the Shropshire Union Canal was at the very heart of this industry The large Chester Cattle Market and the two Chester railway stations, Chester General and Chester Northgate Station, meant that Newtown with its cattle market and canal, and Hoole with its railways were responsible for providing the vast majority of workers and in turn, the vast amount of Chester's wealth production throughout the Industrial Revolution.
Grosvenor is the Duke's family name, which explains such features in the City such as the Grosvenor Bridge, the Grosvenor Hotel, and Grosvenor Park. Much of Chester's architecture dates from the Victorian era, many of the buildings being modelled on the Jacobean half-timbered style and designed by John Douglas, who was employed by the Duke as his principal architect. He had a trademark of twisted chimney stacks, many of which can be seen on the buildings in the city centre.
Douglas designed amongst other buildings the Grosvenor Hotel and the City Baths. In 1911, Douglas' protégé and city architect James Strong designed the then active fire station on the west side of Northgate Street. Another feature of all buildings belonging to the estate of Westminster is the 'Grey Diamonds' – a weaving pattern of grey bricks in the red brickwork laid out in a diamond formation.
Towards the end of World War II, a lack of affordable housing meant many problems for Chester. Large areas of farmland on the outskirts of the city were developed as residential areas in the 1950s and early 1960s producing, for instance, the suburb of Blacon. In 1964, a bypass was built through and around the town centre to combat traffic congestion.
These new developments caused local concern as the physicality and therefore the feel of the city was being dramatically altered. In 1968, a report by Donald Insall in collaboration with authorities and government recommended that historic buildings be preserved in Chester. Consequently, the buildings were used in new and different ways instead of being flattened.
In 1969 the City Conservation Area was designated. Over the next 20 years the emphasis was placed on saving historic buildings, such as The Falcon Inn, Dutch Houses and Kings Buildings.
Chester is an unparished area within the unitary authority of Cheshire West and Chester as of 1 April 2009 replacing the old Chester City Council and the local ward is the City ward electing 3 councillors. A small area around Chester Castle remains a civil parish of Chester Castle. The Member of Parliament for the City of Chester is Stephen Mosley. Chester is twinned with: Sens, France; Lörrach, Germany; Lakewood, Colorado, USA; and Senigallia, Italy.
Chester lies at the southern end of a 2-mile (3.2 km) Triassic sandstone ridge that rises to a height of 42 m within a natural S-bend in the River Dee (before the course was altered in the 18th century). The bedrock, which is also known as the Chester Pebble Beds, is noticeable because of the many small stones trapped within its strata. Retreating glacial sheet ice also deposited quantities of sand and marl across the area where boulder clay was absent.
The eastern and northern part of Chester consisted of heathland and forest. The western side towards the Dee Estuary was marsh and wetland habitats.
In common with most of the rest of the United Kingdom, Chester has an oceanic climate. Despite its proximity to the Irish Sea, the temperature regime is similar to areas further inland, owing to the shelter provided by the Pennines to the northeast and the Welsh Mountains to the southwest. The nearest official weather station is at Hawarden Airport, about 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the city centre.
The absolute maximum temperature recorded was 35.2 °C (95.4 °F) during August 1990 (actually the Welsh record). In an average year, the warmest day should reach 29.3 °C (84.7 °F), and 12.0 days in total should attain a temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or higher. Often given the correctly aligned breezy conditions, a föhn effect will operate, meaning local temperatures are somewhat higher than surrounding area.
The absolute minimum temperature recorded was −18.2 °C (−0.8 °F) during January 1982. Annually, an average of 35.5 air frosts should be recorded.
Annual rainfall is barely over 700mm due to a rain shadow effect caused by the Welsh Mountains. Over 1mm of rain is reported on 131.6 days. All averages refer to the observation period 1971–2000.
|Climate data for Chester/Hawarden Airport, elevation 5m, 1971–2000, extremes 1960–|
|Record high °C (°F)||16.0|
|Average high °C (°F)||7.5|
|Average low °C (°F)||1.6|
|Record low °C (°F)||−18.2|
|Precipitation mm (inches)||61.00|
The more unusual landmarks in the city are the city walls, the Rows and the black-and-white architecture. The walls encircle the bounds of the mediaeval city and constitute the most complete city walls in Britain, the full circuit measuring nearly 2 miles (3 km). The only break in the circuit is in the southwest section in front of County Hall. A footpath runs along the top of the walls, crossing roads by bridges over Eastgate, Northgate, St Martin's Gate, Watergate, Bridgegate, Newgate, and the Wolf Gate, and passing a series of structures, namely Phoenix Tower (or King Charles' Tower), Morgan's Mount, the Goblin Tower (or Pemberton's Parlour), and Bonewaldesthorne's Tower with a spur leading to the Water Tower, and Thimbleby's Tower. On Eastgate is Eastgate Clock which is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben.
The Rows are unique in Britain. They consist of buildings with shops or dwellings on the lowest two storeys. The shops or dwellings on the ground floor are often lower than the street and are entered by steps, which sometimes lead to a crypt-like vault. Those on the first floor are entered behind a continuous walkway, often with a sloping shelf between the walkway and the railings overlooking the street. Much of the architecture of central Chester looks mediaeval and some of it is but by far the greatest part of it, including most of the black-and-white buildings, is Victorian, a result of what Pevsner termed the "black-and-white revival".
The most prominent buildings in the city centre are the town hall and the cathedral. The town hall was opened in 1869. It is in Gothic Revival style and has a tower and a short spire. The cathedral was formerly the church of St Werburgh's Abbey. Its architecture dates back to the Norman era, with additions made most centuries since. A series of major restorations took place in the 19th century and in 1975 a separate bell tower was opened. The elaborately carved canopies of the choirstalls are considered to be one of the finest in the country. Also in the cathedral is the shrine of St Werburgh. To the north of the cathedral are the former monastic buildings. The oldest church in the city is St John's, which is outside the city walls and was at one time the cathedral church. The church was shortened after the dissolution of the monasteries and ruins of the former east end remain outside the church. Much of the interior is in Norman style and this is considered to be the best example of 11th–12th century church architecture in Cheshire. At the intersection of the former Roman roads is Chester Cross, to the north of which is the small church of St Peter's which is in use as an ecumenical centre. Other churches are now redundant and have other uses; St Michael's in Bridge Street is a heritage centre, St Mary-on-the-Hill is an educational centre, and Holy Trinity now acts as the Guildhall. Other notable buildings include the preserved shot tower, the highest structure in Chester. and *St Thomas of Canterbury Church
Roman remains can still be found in the city, particularly in the basements of some of the buildings and in the lower parts of the northern section of the city walls. The most important Roman feature is the amphitheatre just outside the walls which is undergoing archaeological investigation. Roman artefacts are on display in the Roman Gardens which run parallel to the city walls from Newgate to the River Dee, where there's also a reconstructed hypocaust system. An original hypocaust system discovered in the 1720s can be seen in the basement of the Spudulike restaurant at 39 Bridge Street, which is open to the public.
Of the mediaeval city the most important surviving structure is Chester Castle, particularly the Agricola Tower. Much of the rest of the castle has been replaced by the neoclassical county court and its entrance, the Propyleum. To the south of the city runs the River Dee, with its 11th century weir. The river is crossed by the Old Dee Bridge, dating from the 13th century, the Grosvenor Bridge of 1832, and Queen's Park suspension bridge (for pedestrians). To the southwest of the city the River Dee curves towards the north. The area between the river and the city walls here is known as the Roodee, and contains Chester Racecourse which holds a series of horse races and other events. The first recorded race meet in England at Roodee Fields was on 9 February 1540. The Shropshire Union Canal runs to the north of the city and a branch leads from it to the River Dee.
The major museum in Chester is the Grosvenor Museum which includes a collection of Roman tombstones and an art gallery. Associated with the museum is 20 Castle Street in which rooms are furnished in different historical styles. The Dewa Roman Experience has hands-on exhibits and a reconstructed Roman street. One of the blocks in the forecourt of the Castle houses the Cheshire Military Museum.
The major public park in Chester is Grosvenor Park. On the south side of the River Dee, in Handbridge, is Edgar's Field, another public park, which contains Minerva's Shrine, a Roman shrine to the goddess Minerva. A war memorial to those who died in the world wars is in the town hall and it contains the names of all Chester servicemen who died in the First World War.
Chester Visitor Centre, opposite the Roman Amphitheatre, issues a leaflet giving details of tourist attractions. Those not covered above include cruises on the River Dee and on the Shropshire Union Canal, and guided tours on an open-air bus. The river cruises start from a riverside area known as the Groves, which contains seating and a bandstand. A series of festivals is organised in the city, including mystery plays, a summer music festival and a literature festival. Chester City Council has produced a series of leaflets for self-guided walks. Tourist Information Centres are at the town hall and at Chester Visitor Centre.
Chester has a large White British proportion of around 94.3% of the population. 1.3% described themselves as Irish. 2% as other White. 0.9% described themselves as Asian. 0.7% described themselves as mixed race. 0.3% described themselves as Chinese. 0.2% described themselves as Black or Black British and 0.3% are classed as other.
Chester also has a large number of Christians at 76.4%. 14% have no religion and 8.2% are not stated. 0.7% are Muslim. 0.1% are Sikhs. 0.1% are Jewish. 0.2% are Buddhists.
There is a Shah Jalal Mosque in Blacon.
There were 90,925 living within the Chester urban area, which includes Saltney and Broughton, in 2001. This population is forecast to grow by 5% in the period 2005 to 2021. The resident population for Chester District in the 2001 Census was 118,207. This represents 17.5% of the Cheshire County total (1.8% of the North West population).
The city is home to the University of Chester. Formerly a teacher training college, it gained full university status in 2005 and is the county's main provider of tertiary education. The University of Law also has a campus in the city.
West Cheshire College is a vocational college in the North West of England. It has over 20,000 students at its two main campuses in Ellesmere Port and Chester as well as in workplaces and community venues. The science and technologies campus is based in Chester and offers a wide range of vocational courses and qualifications to local and international students.
Other secondary schools include:
The major museum in Chester is the Grosvenor Museum which includes a collection of Roman tombstones and an art gallery. Associated with the museum is 20 Castle Street in which rooms are furnished in different historical styles. The Dewa Roman Experience has hands-on exhibits and a reconstructed Roman street. One of the blocks in the forecourt of Chester Castle houses the Cheshire Military Museum.
In 2007 the Gateway Theatre closed as part of the Northgate Development, and so too the Odeon cinema, which opened on 3 October 1936. The Odeon site has now been acquired by Cheshire West and Chester Council for conversion into a new producing and touring theatre. Later in 2007 the Gateway's studio theatre was reopened as The Forum Studio Theatre, run by an independent theatre company.
Chester has a substantial annual festival season each summer run by arts producer Chester Performs. It includes Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, the only full-time professional open air theatre company outside London . The season runs for eight weeks in the city's park. The company also runs the MBNA Chester Music Festival in June and the Chester Literature Festival each October.
Chester Little Theatre is based in Newtown and run by Chester Theatre Club. It generally stages 5 or 6 plays each year. Chester Music Theatre is based in a converted church in Boughton. There is a multiplex cinema and a ten pin bowling alley at Greyhound Retail Park on the edge of the city. Chester has its own film society, a number of amateur dramatic societies and theatre schools.
Numerous pubs, nightclubs and bars, some of which are based in mediaeval buildings, populate the city.
Chester has had a professional classical music festival - the Chester Summer Music Festival, since 1967 and regularly from 1978. The festival went into liquidation  in 2012. A major new music festival was launched in March 2013 by producers Chester Performs  and is now known as the MBNA Chester Music Festival, running from 1–16 June in 2013.
Chester has a brass band that was formed in 1853. It was known as the Blue Coat Band and today as The City of Chester Band. It is a fourth section brass band with a training band. Its members wear a blue-jacketed uniform with an image of the Eastgate clock on the breast pocket of the blazer.
Chester Music Society was founded in 1948 as a small choral society. It now encompasses four sections: The Choir has 170 members drawn from Chester and the surrounding district; The Youth Choirs support three choirs: Youth Choir, Preludes, and the Alumni Choir; Celebrity Concerts promote a season of six high quality concerts each year; The Club is a long established section which aims to encourage young musicians and in many cases offers the first opportunity to perform in public.
 The Chester Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), was founded in 1884 and is one of the premier non-professional orchestras in North West England. Formerly the Chester Orchestral Society they perform music from a wide repertoire. The Orchestra is a registered charity and usually perform four or five concerts, under the direction of well known professional conductors, each year (including an annual carol concert), which take place in the magnificent setting of Chester’s ancient Cathedral.
Telford's Warehouse and Alexander's Jazz Bar are the city's main live music venues.
An annual popular music festival started in 2011 – Chester Rocks, held on the grounds of the Chester Racecourse is due to continue in July 2012.
The founder members of the band River City People (guitarist Tim Speed, his drummer brother Paul Speed) are from Chester. They had a number of hits in the early 1990s. Later into the same decade, Mansun formed in the city, after singer Paul Draper met guitarist Dominic Chad whilst working in the local former Fat Cat Bar. More recently, Shy and the Fight, featuring Chester based musicians have achieved national attention via airplay on Radio 1 and Radio 2, also appearing at Wychwood and Swn festivals.
Chester's newspapers are the daily Chester Evening Leader, and the weekly Chester Chronicle. It also has free publications, such as the newspapers Midweek Chronicle and Chester Standard and the free student magazine Wireless. Dee 106.3 is the city's radio station, with Heart Wrexham and BBC Radio Merseyside also broadcasting locally. Lache FM is currently Chester's only Community radio station. Chester is where Channel 4's soap-opera Hollyoaks is set (although most filming takes place around Liverpool).
Chester's main industries are now the service industries comprising tourism, retail, public administration and financial services. Many domestic and international tourists visit to view the city's landmarks and heritage with a complementary benefit to hotels and restaurants.
The city's central shopping area includes its unique Rows or galleries (two levels of shops) which date from mediaeval times and are believed to include the oldest shop front in England. The city has many chain stores, and also features an indoor market, a department store (Browns of Chester, now absorbed by the Debenhams chain), and two main indoor shopping centres: The Grosvenor Shopping Centre and the Forum (a reference to the City's Roman past). The Forum, which houses stores and the indoor market, will be demolished in the Northgate Development scheme to make way for new shopping streets, a new indoor market, an enlarged library, a car park and bus station, and a performing arts centre. There are retail parks to the west and south. Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet and Broughton Retail Park are near the city.
Chester has a relatively large financial sector including Bank of America, formerly MBNA Europe, NFU Mutual, HBOS plc and M&S Money. The price comparison website moneysupermarket.com is based over the Welsh border in Ewloe. Chester has its own university, the University of Chester, and a major hospital, the Countess of Chester Hospital, named after Diana, Princess of Wales and Countess of Chester.
Just over the Welsh border to the west, Broughton is home to a large Airbus UK factory (formerly British Aerospace), employing around 6,000 staff, where the wings of the Airbus aeroplanes are manufactured, and there are food processing plants to the north and west. The Iceland frozen food company is based in nearby Deeside.
In 2007 Chester Council announced a 10-year plan to see Chester become a "must see European destination". At a cost of £1.3 billion it has been nicknamed Chester Renaissance. A website was launched by the Renaissance team, so that interested parties could monitor progress on all the projects.
The Northgate Development project began in 2007 with the demolition of St. Martin's House on the city's ring road. At a cost of £460 million, Chester City Council and developers ING hope to create a new quarter for Chester. The development will see the demolition of the market hall, bus station, theatre and NCP car park. In its place will be a new multi-storey car park, bus exchange, performing arts centre, library, homes, retail space and a department store which will be anchored by House of Fraser.
On 31 October 2008, it was revealed that the Northgate development was to be put on hold until 2012 due to the ongoing economic downturn. However a number of Chester's other Renaissance projects continue. The current active projects are; The Delamere Street development and The £60million HQ development.
In March 2012 a proposal was made for a city region to be identified for economic development purposes, covering Chester, Wrexham and Deeside. A preliminary report was issued for further consideration.
The city is a hub for major roads, including the M53 motorway towards the Wirral Peninsula and Liverpool and the M56 motorway towards Manchester. The A55 road runs along the North Wales coast to Holyhead and the A483 links the city to nearby Wrexham and Swansea to the far south.
Bus transport in the city is provided by Stagecoach Group and Arriva, the council owned and operated ChesterBus (formerly Chester City Transport) having been sold to First Group in mid-2007. There are plans to build a new bus exchange in the city as well as a new coach station.
Chester formerly had two railway stations. Chester General railway station remains in use but Chester Northgate closed in 1969 as a result of the Beeching Axe. Chester Northgate, which was located North East of the city centre, opened in 1875 as a terminus for the Cheshire Lines Committee. Trains travelled via Northwich to Manchester Central. Later services also went to Seacombe (Wallasey) and Wrexham Central via Shotton. It was demolished in the 1970s and the site is now part of the Northgate Arena leisure centre.
Chester General, which opened in 1848, was designed with an Italianate frontage. It now has seven designated platforms but once had fourteen. The station lost its original roof in the 1972 Chester General rail crash. In September 2007 extensive renovations took place to improve pedestrian access, and parking. The present station has manned ticket offices and barriers, waiting rooms, toilets, shops and a pedestrian bridge with lifts. Chester General also had a large marshalling yard and a motive power depot, most of which has now been replaced with housing.
Normal scheduled departures from Chester Station are: a quarter-hourly Merseyrail electric service on the Wirral Line to Liverpool, half-hourly in the evenings and on Sundays; frequent services on the North Wales Coast Line (thereby connecting with Holyhead for ferries to Dublin); Virgin Trains to London Euston via Crewe and to Holyhead; Arriva Trains Wales to Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington Bank Quay and Cardiff Central/Birmingham New Street via Wrexham General; and Northern Rail to Manchester Piccadilly via Northwich.
In late 1847 the Dee bridge disaster occurred when a bridge span collapsed as a train passed over the River Dee by the Roodee. Five people were killed in the accident. The bridge had been designed and built by famed-railway engineer Robert Stephenson for the Chester and Holyhead Railway. A Royal Commission inquiry found that the trusses were made of cast iron beams that had inadequate strength for their purpose. A national scandal ensued many new bridges of similar design were either taken down or heavily altered.
On 19 June 2008, then Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly named Chester as a Cycling Demonstration Town. This initiative allows for substantial financial support to improve cycling facilities in the city, and a number of schemes are planned or already in development.
Potential schemes include a new pedestrian and cycling bridge across the River Dee, linking the Meadows with Huntington and Great Boughton, an access route between Curzon Park and the Roodee, an extension to the existing greenway route from Hoole to Guilden Sutton and Mickle Trafford, and an access route between the Millennium cycle route and Deva Link.
From about 1794 to the late 1950s, when the canal-side flour mills were closed, narrowboats carried cargo such as coal, slate, gypsum or lead ore as well as finished lead (for roofing, water pipes and sewerage) from the leadworks in Egerton Street (Newtown). Grain from Cheshire was stored in granaries on the banks of the canal at Newtown and Boughton and salt for preserving food arrived from Northwich.
The Chester Canal had locks down to the River Dee. Canal boats could enter the river at high tide to load goods directly onto seagoing vessels. The port facilities at Crane Wharf, by Chester racecourse, made an important contribution to the commercial development of the north-west region.
The original Chester Canal was constructed to run from the River Dee near Sealand Road, to Nantwich in south Cheshire, and opened in 1774. In 1805, the Wirral section of the Ellesmere Canal was opened, which ran from Netherpool (now known as Ellesmere Port) to meet the Chester Canal at Chester canal basin. Later, those two canal branches became part of the Shropshire Union Canal network. This canal, which runs beneath the northern section of the city walls of Chester, is navigable and remains in use today.
The original plan to complete the Ellesmere Canal was to connect Chester directly to the Wrexham coalfields by building a broad-gauge waterway with a branch to the River Dee at Holt. If the waterway had been built, canal traffic would have crossed the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct heading north to Chester and the River Dee.
As the route was never completed, the short length of canal north of Trevor, near Wrexham was infilled. The Llangollen Canal, although designed to be primarily a water source from the River Dee, became a cruising waterway despite its inherent narrow nature.
However, although Wrexham itself was bypassed, the plan to join the rivers Severn, Mersey and Dee was completed, first by cutting the Wirral Arm from Chester to Ellesmere Port (Whitby wharf) then by extending the Llangollen Arm via Ellesmere, Whitchurch and Bettisfield Moss through to the Chester Canal at Hurleston. The network became the Shropshire Union Canal.
Chester had a tram service during the late 19th and early 20th centuries which ran from Saltney, on the Welsh border, in the west to Chester General station, and thence also to Tarvin Road and Great Boughton. It featured the narrowest gauge trams (3' 6") in mainland Britain, due to an act of Parliament which deemed that they must be the least obstructive possible.
The tramway was established in 1871 by Chester Tramways Company. It was horse-drawn until its was taken over by the council in 1903. Renamed as Chester Corporation Tramways, it was reconstructed to the 3'6" gauge, and electrified with overhead cables. The tramway was closed in February 1930, a fate experienced by most other systems in the UK. All that remains are small areas of uncovered track inside the bus depot, and a few tram-wire supports attached to buildings on Eastgate/Foregate Street, although substantial sections of the track remain buried beneath the current road surface.
Chester was home to Chester City F.C., who were founded in 1885 and elected to the Football League in 1931, and played at their Sealand Road stadium until 1990, spending two years playing in Macclesfield before returning to the city to the new Deva Stadium – which straddles the border of England and Wales – in 1992. The club first lost its Football League status in 2000, only to reclaim it four years later as Conference champions, but were relegated again in 2009 and went out of business in March 2010 after 125 years in existence.
Following their demise, a new team – Chester FC – was founded. They play at Chester City's Deva Stadium, also known as the Exacta Stadium for sponsorship reasons, and were elected to the Northern Premier League Division One North for the 2010–11 season, ending their first season as that division's champions, securing a place in the Northern Premier League Premier Division for the 2011–12 season. The team were confirmed champions in early April 2012, after a 1–1 draw with Northwich Victoria, which took them to an unassailable points total. After achieving promotion for the second consecutive year, the club will from the 2012–2013 season play in the Conference North league.
The city also has a professional basketball team in the country's top competition, the British Basketball League. Cheshire Phoenix – formerly known as Cheshire Jets – play at the city's Northgate Arena leisure centre; and a wheelchair basketball team, Celtic Warriors, formerly known as the Chester Wheelchair Jets.
There is a successful hockey club, Chester HC, who play at the County Officers' Club on Plas Newton Lane, a Handball team Deva Handball Club, who boast to be the largest handball team in the country. Deva handball club play in National league 1 of handball, and also an American Football team, the Chester Romans, part of the British American Football League.
Chester Racecourse hosts several flat race meetings from the spring to the autumn. The races take place within view of the City walls and attract tens of thousands of visitors. The May meeting includes several nationally significant races such as the Chester Vase, which is recognised as a trial for the Epsom Derby.
The River Dee is home to rowing clubs, notably Grosvenor Rowing Club and Royal Chester Rowing Club, as well as two school clubs, The King's School Chester Rowing Club and Queen's Park High Rowing Club. The weir is used by a number of local canoe and kayak clubs. Each July the Chester Raft Race is held on the River Dee in aid of charity.
Chester Golf Club is near the banks of the Dee, and there are numerous private golf courses near the city, as well as a 9 hole municipal course at Westminster Park.
The Northgate Arena is the city's main leisure centre, there are smaller sports centres in Christleton and Upton. The Victorian City Baths are in the city centre.
Sunday 11 December 2011 saw the first Chester Santa Dash. A 4 km run around the streets of Chester in aid of local charities, the Santa Dash is a festive event open to everyone of all ages and abilities.
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