Whether you’re a casual traveller or a die-hard fan, there’s a host of absolutely incredible Roman sites in Cheshire to visit and 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, 39 Bridge Street and Heronbridge Roman Site. Scroll down the page to get a taste of the Cheshire’s top ancient ruins and everything they have to offer locals and tourists alike.
What are the best Roman Sites in Cheshire?
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.
Two amphitheatres were actually built on the site of Chester Roman Amphitheatre, both stone-built with wooden seating but each quite different in other respects.
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.
Sadly, little has remained of this once great structure. Most of its materials were used to construct the Chester City Walls and much of it is buried under the modern landscape. However, the outline of the amphitheatre is clear.
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. Initially the site had been a small fort used to defend Chester’s harbour and crossing point of the river Dee during campaigns against tribes in Wales and to the north and east of Chester. The name ‘Deva’ in Latin means ‘Holy One’, and takes its name from the river.
The Romans based themselves at Chester temporarily in the beginning, as resources were diverted to dealing with the Boudiccan uprisings in AD 60. A permanent military presence was established soon after, however, as the Romans attempted to conquer Britain in its entirety. The Second Legion was later stationed in Chester, circa AD 78, but the legion was withdrawn in AD 87 to help defend the Rhine frontier.
The Romans set great store by fighting conflicts at sea – Chester’s excellent harbour was therefore ideally suited as a base, and was subsequently developed into a major military centre. Its importance was demonstrated when the Romans chose it as the intended point of departure for a planned invasion of Ireland, although the plan never came to fruition.
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.
Today, visitors to Dewa Roman Experience may immerse themselves in Roman Chester – the fort was excavated in 1991 and visitors can wander through the streets and explore archaeological remains.
The visit begins with a virtual trip on board a Roman galley. There is a museum on site, and visitors can also take part in a number of historical themed activities, such as trying on Roman armour, firing a catapult and creating a mosaic. Additionally there is a soldier patrol, where visitors may experience life as a soldier, preparing for battle and defending a Roman amphitheatre.
Contributed by Chris Reid