Whether you’re a casual traveller or a die-hard fan, there’s a host of absolutely incredible Roman sites in Cheshire to visit. Among the very best are Chester Roman Amphitheatre, the Dewa Roman Experience, and Chester Roman Gardens. Besides these popular places sit a delightful array of less prominent Roman ruins in Cheshire, such as Minerva’s Shrine and 39 Bridge Street. Here’s our pick of Cheshire’s top ancient ruins.
1. Chester Roman Amphitheatre
Chester Roman Amphitheatre is Britain’s largest known Roman amphitheatre. Originally part of the Roman settlement of ‘Deva’ which was founded in around 79AD and is now modern day Chester, Chester Roman Amphitheatre would have been able to seat between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators.
At its peak, Chester Roman Amphitheatre was a place where Rome’s 20th Legion trained and where the people of Deva were entertained. More recent findings have suggested that it was also the site of gruesome shows where gladiators were chained and tortured. The exact activities which would have taken place are unclear and archaeologists are still exploring Chester Roman Amphitheatre.
2. Dewa Roman Experience
Built on the former site of an ancient Roman fort, Dewa Roman Experience is a hands-on archaeological site containing the remains of this a Roman legionary base. The Roman fort site at Chester was a strategic base for the Roman army circa AD 50.
Circa AD 90 the fort was occupied by the Twentieth Legion, and the legionary depot was rebuilt with stone. The Twentieth Legion was involved in campaigns against the Picts in Scotland whilst stationed in Chester, as well as periodically being involved in refurbishment work until the Romans’ departure from Britain in the 5th Century.
3. Chester Roman Gardens
Chester’s Roman past is one of Britain’s most famous, with the ancient fortress of Deva once positioned there. Deva was first built in around 70 AD by the Romans as they advanced north against the native Brigante tribe, and was rebuilt twice over the following two centuries. When the Romans left Britain Deva was abandoned in the late 4th or early 5th century, however the civilian settlement that had grown around the fort remained, eventually becoming the city of Chester.
Originally built in 1949 by Charles Greenwood and Graham Webster, Chester Roman Gardens were designed to showcase a number of artefacts from the city’s Roman past in an open public setting. Most of the artefacts derive from the city’s 19th century excavations, with items from Deva’s most important buildings, such as its baths and legionary headquarters, now on display.
4. Minerva’s Shrine
Minerva’s Shrine is a shrine to the Roman goddess Minerva in Edgar’s Field, Handbridge, Chester. Dating from the early 2nd century, the shrine is carved into the face of a sandstone quarry. It is an extraordinary monument, both for its historical significance and because it is the only monument of its kind in Western Europe that remains in its original location.
The shrine stands beside the route of the old main Roman road into the fortress of Deva from the south. As the Roman goddess of war, knowledge, and craftmanship, Minerva is often depicted with a helmet, shield, breastplate, and spear. In this instance, however, she is shown simply standing in a representation of a temple.
5. 39 Bridge Street
39 Bridge Street is the address of a building in Chester which contains the remains of a Roman hypocaust in its cellar. The remains of the hypocaust – a system of central heating that circulates warm air underneath the floor, and occasionally through the wall – were discovered during the reconstruction of the property in 1864.
The hypocaust dates to the 2nd century, when Chester was under Roman occupation. In the late 13th or 14th century a medieval undercroft – a cellar or storage room – was built adjacent to the hypocaust, with a house above.