Wednesday 17th August saw a group of Forum members climbing into a Mayne's coach in Ashton for a trip to Chester.

By 10 am we were being welcomed by Alison Watson, remembered by many of us from her days at Portland Basin. She has moved to Chester Heritage Centre, and our first stop was to look at the imposing surroundings in which Alison now works. The converted church of St Michael, on Bridge Street Row East, is an atmospheric setting for anyone with ancestry in the Chester area to visit. It has been open as a heritage centre since 1975, one of the first in the country, and was revamped only five years ago, now serving as the community history and heritage centre. Only a few minutes walk to just about any of the city's other historical attractions there couldn't be a better place to start a visit.

Our next stop was the amphitheatre excavation, where Alison handed us over to a member of the excavation staff, Marie. We had an explanation of the ongoing work, and a chance to walk around the site. The brilliant sunshine certainly encouraged us to linger and take photographs here, but we eventually moved off to the Chester Visitor Centre, where Peter Carrington updated us on the finds coming out of the excavation. We took a look at the processing of the finds, and handled some of them, including glass and coins, as well as discussing potential new dating evidence and the possibility that gladiators at Chester had their own bath house.

The afternoon saw us at the County Record Office, Duke Street, where County Archivist Jonathan Pepler gave an introductory talk before showing us round. We had a look at the conservation and storage facilities, and met what may be the oldest document at the Record Office - a 12th century land deed written on a very small rectangle of parchment. Also in evidence was one of the newest collections to be deposited in Chester, which relates to the salt industry. A selection of documents with Tameside connections was brought out for us to inspect; these included the Dukinfield tithe map, school records, and records of Mottram parish church. Shortly before our scheduled departure rime, historical bliss was shattered by the sound of the fire alarm. As we assembled outside, the staff assured us that this was not part of the usual visitor welcome package. Our day in Chester thus ended rather unexpectedly with the arrival of the Cheshire Fire Brigade!

What a treat to spend a day in Chester with other people who share an interest in the history and archaeology of the city rather than its shopping facilities. Our thanks to Christine and Julie for the splendid organisation.

For further information check out the following sites:-

Kathleen Morris
18 August 2005


Watchout for a report about the Forum's next visit to Mellor