Keeping the Romans Alive in Chester

Chester, England

Two significant Roman remains sit side by side just outside the city walls: the Roman Gardens and the amphitheatre.  There isn’t a lot to see.  There’s no sugar-coating it.  But they are worth a potter.

Roman Gardens

Dating from the 1950s, the Roman Gardens were created to display the larger fragments from the legionary fortress at Deva.  Between 1781 and 1917, the site had been occupied by a clay pipe factory, but it is now planted with trees and has pretty landscaping and bits of Roman-ness.

Roman style mosaic in the Roman Gardens, Chester, England

Roman style mosaic in the Roman Gardens, Chester, England

Most of the columns along the main path of the gardens come from the exercise hall of the baths, though the tallest column came from the headquarters building.  The bases for the columns came from various sites around the city.

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Roman Gardens, Chester, England

Pretty path in the Roman Gardens, Chester, England

Pretty path in the Roman Gardens, Chester, England

There is a reconstruction of a hypocaust in the Gardens, which shows how the under floor heating system of the Romans worked.  Several hypocausts have been found in Chester, and this reconstruction uses the pillars from the main baths of the Deva fortress.

Reconstructed hypocaust in the Roman Gardens, Chester, England

Reconstructed hypocaust in the Roman Gardens, Chester, England

It’s a lovely little park and there were lots of families there so there was a good vibe.  It’s actually quite nice that the Roman parts are almost inconsequential – it’s just a park that’s pleasant to sit in on a sunny afternoon.

Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre is the largest that has been discovered in Britain – but there’s really not much there.  It’s from the 1st century, built the same time as the fortress, and it was used until around AD 350.  It would have staged all the usual blood-sports that the Romans went for, including gladiatorial combat.

Roman Amphitheatre, Chester, England

Roman Amphitheatre, Chester, England

The amphitheatre is thought to have been able to seat about 8,000 people.  The mural across the back is from 2010 and gives a nice idea of what the audience view would have looked like.  

Roman amphitheatre with the modern mural, Chester, England

Roman amphitheatre with the modern mural, Chester, England

In a room at the side of the north entrance of the amphitheatre, archaeologists found an altar which reads DEAE: NEMESI SEXT MARCI ANVS EX VISV (Centurion Sextrius Marcianus [set up this altar] to the goddess Nemesis after a vision).  Nemesis, who brought retribution to those who committed bad deeds (or had an undeserved run of success) was apparently associated with theatres, amphitheatres and stadia; altars and shrines dedicated to her have been found all across the Empire.

Altar dedicated to Nemesis, found in the Amphitheatre in Chester, now in the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, England.  It reads: DEAE: NEMESI SEXT MARCI ANVS EX VISV (Centurion Sextrius Marcianus [set up this altar] to the goddess Nemesis after a vision)

Altar dedicated to Nemesis, found in the Amphitheatre in Chester, now in the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, England.  It reads: DEAE: NEMESI SEXT MARCI ANVS EX VISV (Centurion Sextrius Marcianus [set up this altar] to the goddess Nemesis after a vision)

Practical Information

Both the gardens and the amphitheatre are an easy walk away from the centre of Chester and there were plenty of signs to help you find your way.  The amphitheatre is managed by English Heritage who have a page dedicated to it here: www.english-heritage.org.uk

The Grosvenor Museum is the place to go for looking at more Roman archaeology.  If you want to read my take of the museum, please click here.

How to Get There

Information about local transport is available via www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk but long distance trips via train can be checked out here: www.thetrainline.com

 

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