Chester is a cathedral city and the county town of Cheshire, England. It is located on the River Dee, close to the English–Welsh border. With a population of 79,645 in 2011, it is the most populous settlement of Cheshire West and Chester (a unitary authority which had a population of 329,608 in 2011) and serves as its administrative headquarters. It is also the historic county town of Cheshire and the second-largest settlement in Cheshire after Warrington.
The city walls of Chester are some of the best-preserved in the country and have Grade I listed status. It has a number of mediaeval buildings, but many of the black-and-white buildings within the city centre are Victorian restorations, originating from the Black-and-white Revival movement. Apart from a 100-metre section, the walls are almost complete. The Industrial Revolution brought railways, canals, and new roads to the city, which saw substantial expansion and development; Chester Town Hall and the Grosvenor Museum are examples of Victorian architecture from this period. Tourism, the retail industry, public administration, and financial services are important to the modern economy. Chester signs itself as Chester International Heritage City on road signs on the main roads entering the city.
The more unusual landmarks in the city are the city walls, the Rows and the black-and-white architecture. The walls encircle the bounds of the mediaeval city and constitute the most complete city walls in Britain, the full circuit measuring nearly two miles. The only break in the circuit is in the southwest section in front of County Hall. A footpath runs along the top of the walls, crossing roads by bridges over Eastgate, Northgate, St Martin’s Gate, Watergate, Bridgegate, Newgate, and the Wolf Gate, and passing a series of structures, namely Phoenix Tower (or King Charles’ Tower), Morgan’s Mount, the Goblin Tower (or Pemberton’s Parlour), and Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower with a spur leading to the Water Tower, and Thimbleby’s Tower. On Eastgate is Eastgate Clock which is said to be the most photographed clock face in England after those that share the tower with Big Ben.
The city is home to the University of Chester. Formerly a teacher training college, it gained full university status in 2005 and is the county’s main provider of tertiary education. The University of Law also has a campus in nearby Christleton.
Cheshire College – South and West is a vocational college with campuses in Handbridge as well as Ellesmere Port and Crewe.
The King’s School, an independent school, was established by King Henry VIII in 1541. The girls-only Queen’s School, another independent school, was founded in 1878.
The major museum in Chester is the Grosvenor Museum which includes a collection of Roman tombstones and an art gallery. Associated with the museum is 20 Castle Street in which rooms are furnished in different historical styles. The Dewa Roman Experience has hands-on exhibits and a reconstructed Roman street. One of the blocks in the forecourt of Chester Castle houses the Cheshire Military Museum.
The £37m Storyhouse arts centre opened in the city centre in 2017, and includes a theatre, cinema, restaurant and the city’s main library. It is housed in the city’s remodelled 1936 Odeon Cinema, and replaces the Gateway Theatre and the former library on Northgate Street.
Normal scheduled departures from Chester station are: a quarter-hourly Merseyrail electric service on the Wirral Line to Liverpool, half-hourly in the evenings and on Sundays; frequent services on the North Wales Coast Line (thereby connecting with Holyhead for ferries to Dublin); Avanti West Coast to London Euston via Crewe and to Holyhead; Transport for Wales to Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington Bank Quay and Cardiff Central/Birmingham International via Wrexham General as well as North Wales Coast Line trains to Crewe, Llandudno Junction, Llandudno, Holyhead; and Northern to Manchester Piccadilly via Northwich.
Chester was home to Chester City F.C., who were founded in 1885 and elected to the Football League in 1931, and played at their Sealand Road stadium until 1990, spending two years playing in Macclesfield before returning to the city to the new Deva Stadium – which straddles the border of England and Wales – in 1992. The club first lost its Football League status in 2000, only to reclaim it four years later as Conference champions, but were relegated again in 2009 and went out of business in March 2010 after 125 years in existence.
Chester Rugby Club (union) plays in the English National League 2 North, having been promoted in 2012. It won the EDF Energy Intermediate Cup in the 2007–08 season and has also won the Cheshire Cup several times.
Chester Racecourse hosts several flat race meetings from the spring to the autumn. The races take place within view of the City walls and attract tens of thousands of visitors. The May meeting includes several nationally significant races such as the Chester Vase, which is recognised as a trial for The Derby.