Old Photographs & Drawings
The Building of Chester's Inner Ring Road. On to parts 2 and 3
These photographs illustrate some of the chaotic scenes that ensued
in Chester during the construction of the new Inner Ring Road, which was completed
in January 1972.
Right: a detail from the 1944 Greenwood Plan for a new Chester relief road, showing how the road would curve round to meet Northgate Street, obliterating King Street in the process, and exit the City Walls via a new, enlarged Northgate. Instead, the Inner Ring Road continued straight on and passed through the walls via the new St. Martin's Gate to the St. Martin's Way flyover.
Moving on a few yards, here is the continuation of St. Oswald's Way just past the junction with Hoole Way. The road rises to meet the bridge that carries it over the Shropshire Union Canal.
The large building on the right started life as a grand cinema, the Gaumont Palace, but today hosts a lively bingo club. The tall chimney in the background belongs to what was then the Griffiths Brother's mill, "Provender Millers and Merchants", which was later restored and converted into what is today the excellent Mill Hotel.
Illustrated below is what is now known as Brookdale Place, but was then the end of Brook Street, photographed from Cow Lane Bridge, which crosses the canal to connect with Frodsham Street and the city centre- the exact route of the old Roman road to Warrington. On the right is Union Terrace, which runs alongside the canal in the direction of the Chester Leadworks.
On the left was once the site of the Cattle Market. For centuries, livestock were driven in from the surrounding countryside to be sold here, but when this photograph was taken, the entire area had been recently flattened to make way for the widening of the road leading from a rebuilt Cow Lane Bridge, for car parking and for a traffic island at the junction of St. Oswald's Way and Hoole Way.
Reader Valerie Sheckler, now resident in Florida USA, wrote to us: "I spent many hours playing at the Cattle Market on George Street, hoping that a sheep or pig would escape as the farmers loaded and unloaded them. It was hilarious to watch grown men chasing a squealing pig down the road with kids in tow!"
Writing in the local press in 1999, Mrs J Moore recalled, "I've been reminiscing about the days of my youth when cows and sheep grazed on the middle of the big Roodee when the grass was higher than me. It was cows in summer and sheep in winter. I can't remember when they started to cut the grass by machine- some time after the war, I think.
Here is a fine 19th century photograph of the historic Yacht Inn, which for centuries stood on the corner of Watergate Street and Nicolas Street. This was where the Dean of Dublin Cathedral- and, more famously, the author of Gulliver's Travels- Jonathan Swift, after having been 'stood up' for a dinner date with local churchmen, reputedly scrawled with his diamond ring on one of the inn's windows,
The venerable Yacht, together with every other building on the left hand side of the photograph, was destroyed when Nicolas Street was doubled in width and their cellars now lie buried beneath the modern Ring Road. This side of the modern street now boasts a motley collection of mediocre modern structures including a multi-storey car park, tyre depot and office buildings.
(More of the immortal Swift's less-than-complementary rhymes about Chester and its people may be enjoyed here...)
Commercial considerations were paramount and the car was king. Heritage- all that made Chester unique- took very much second place when there was money to be made. This was drastically illustrated when a vast and miraculously well preserved Roman bath house complex, "with walls up to two hundred feet long, standing to twelve feet in height" was destroyed to make way for an underground car park beneath the ghastly Grosvenor Laing Shopping Precinct which was being developed at around the same time as the Ring Road.
All of these geographical details may make more sense when you view this aerial photograph of the area, dating from around the same time or this interesting 1950s map of Chester showing how the city looked just before the new road was built.
A Ring Road Gallery part 1
|This fascinating old photograph shows Nicolas Street in the 1950s, before the coming of the Inner Ring Road. This area was anciently known as St. Martin's Ash. Two millennia ago, the southern wall of the Roman fortress of Deva ran along the right hand side of the road and Nicolas Street has its origins in the patrolling track that ran outside the wall.
On the far left a row of old almshouses stand where the Chester Conservative Club is now. The Castle Inn may be seen just beyond them. All of the splendid buildings on the right were demolished to allow for the doubling of the roadway when the Ring Road was created in the early 1960s. One of the casualties was the medieval Church of St. Martin which can be seen on the right. This is one of the very few photographs we've ever seen of the place.
The same location in 1964- the Castle Inn's sign remains and will give you your bearings. Cuppin Street is on the right. The church and all of the fine houses have gone, as have the almshouses on the left, and the road is closed to allow new construction and road widening to take place.
Below we see the identical spot, photographed during a rare lull in the traffic on a cold, dull day in January 2013. This is progress.
|We're now on the same road as above, but this final stretch was known as Castle Esplanade. It is a decade earlier than the above photographs, 1952, and the scene is both handsome and quiet, a far cry indeed from the scene today.
On the left are the castle-like Militia Buildings which were built just after the Crimea War in 1854-6 and were used as married quarters for the families of troops serving at Chester Castle. They were demolished in 1964 to may way for the Police Headquarters- which, in turn, was knocked down in 2006 and replaced by an office and apartment development by the name of 'HQ'.
The obelisk on the right is a memorial to the bible commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714). It remains in situ today, albeit sitting in the middle of a busy roundabout on the Inner Ring Road.
|Ten years or so after the photograph above was taken, we are looking at the same spot from the other direction. The changes are profound. The brand-new Ring Road is in place, heading down to the Castle, and palings close off the raw wounds of demolished streets and houses. The Castle may be seen in the distance and the Castle Inn's sign continues to hang on the right..|
|The corner of Nicolas Street and Watergate Street as they were before the Ring Road. The ancient Yacht Inn may be seen on the corner, just before the church. Below we see the same scene, photographed by the author in 2010. The fine old mansions have given way to a tyre depot and other mundane structures and a torrent of traffic pours by. Only the Guildhall and 'Pill Box Terrace', Joseph Turner's fine row of 18th century houses from where the photographs were taken, remain today.|
|Across the city, here is the junction of Hoole Road and Black Diamond Street in 1969, just before the construction of the Hoole Way section of the Inner Ringroad. The George public house may be seen on the left. The new road passes immediately in front of this now-disused pub and all of the buildings on the right were demolished to make way for it.|
Old Pics of Liverpool & Chester
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