Chester (Deva Victrix) was one of the three permanent legionary fortresses of Roman Britain. Home to the 20th Legion, or Valeria Victrix, for around two centuries, it was founded in the early AD 70s. Inscriptions reveal that at least some of the primary buildings were built under the governor Agricola, celebrated by his son in law, the Roman historian Tacitus.
As one of the largest legionary fortresses in the Roman Empire, Deva Victrix is characterised by unique and anomalous buildings. Archaeologists still puzzle over whether these could have been built with rather a greater intended status in mind...
The site of Chester guarded the access across the river Dee into north Wales in a strategic position that separated the potentially troublesome people of north Wales from those of northern England. The city remained a military base for the entire period of Roman occupation of Britain. The Dee was navigable up to Chester, making the site the principal Roman port of the Irish sea coast. However, as the Dee silted up, it became eclipsed by the rise of the deep water port of Liverpool.
Outside the fortress a civilian settlement sprang up, and in around AD 100, an amphitheatre was built as part of the original conception. This grew to be the most elaborate and largest amphitheatre in the province, with a capacity of up to 7,000. Half of it is still standing, allowing us to view north and east entrances.
Study Day -
Please note that the start and finish times below are exact, but other timings may vary slightly.
10:15 - We gather at the Grosvenor Museum for tea and coffee
10:30 - Introductory lecture from Tony Wilmott
11:30 - Half the group will have a guided tour of the museum with Tony, the other half will go behind the scenes with Jane Hebblewhite
12:45 - Walk to lunch
14:00 - The afternoon will be spent on a walking tour, taking in some of the Roman walls, the Amphitheatre and Roman traces beneath the city. We end the tour at the Norman cathedral and monastic church of St Johns
16:00 - Finish and disperse