By the late 1960s, much of Abbey Green had become
exceedingly run-down and the Insall Report of 1968 recommended
that the area be redeveloped to provide new shops and maisonettes facing
upon Northgate Street with larger town houses behind. However, the landowners,
the Dean and Chapter of Chester Cathedral,
drew up their own plans which included the erection a five-storey
office block immediately next to the Northgate
which was intended to fund both a housing scheme and the restoration of
adjacent listed buildings.
Rufus Court downpour: 2013
With potential redevelopment in mind, extensive archaeological digs
were conducted in 1975-8 which led to the discovery of substantial portions of the
Roman rampart and associated structures and this in turn led to the entire
area being scheduled as an Ancient Monument. Consequently, severe restrictions
were wisely placed upon any new buildings.
The Cathedral authorities, pleading lack of money, had long delayed vital
restoration to their properties hereabouts until a new Dean was appointed
in 1978, when, assisted by grants, a gradual programme of repairs was
embarked upon. The new protected status of the area helped to persuade
them to give up any idea of building over Abbey Green and of replacing
the old shops in Northgate Street with their office block, and these thankfully
remain with us today.
The city council around this time expressed an interest in putting the
excavated Roman buildings on permanent public display and of taking over
no.1 Abbey Green (the building with the tall, round-topped window) to
serve as an interpretive centre. Sadly, again apparently due to lack of
money, this failed to come about; the archaeology was carefully reburied
and the fine house continued to decay until the early 1990s, when it was
superbly restored and converted into a restaurant as part of the Rufus
Right: Rufus Court: Summer 2012
Rufus Court, seen below on a snowy day, was built by Thompson Cox Developments and is one of the finest examples of that rare thing in Chester city centre,
a sympathetic modern development which blends perfectly with the existing
old buildings around Abbey Green.
Accessed from Northgate Street or via
a narrow stairway from the City walls, you will find some excellent restaurants
and specialist shops here, a fine live music venue, Alexander's
You can learn much more about this fascinating part of the city in the Northgate
and North Wall chapters of our
internet guide, Chester: A
Virtual Stroll Around the Walls.