Making a Living
Trade has been the lifeblood of Chester since Roman times. In the past much of the city’s trade arrived by boat from the River Dee, and traders relied on the Walls to keep the city’s shops and markets safe. These days the river trade has dried up and the local economy has evolved, but the Walls remain important to Chester’s prosperity.
Relying on the River
Two thousand years ago there was a busy Roman port where the Roodee is today, where merchants arrived with exotic cargoes from across the Roman Empire. Look through the ‘time viewer’ binoculars at the Roodee to see the Roman quay come to life! Merchants continued to sail their ships up the River Dee into the Middle Ages, when the old port began to silt up. Come and see the amazing Water Tower that was built standing deep in the river! These days it’s surrounded by dry land, but with a little imagination you can still picture the hustle and bustle of merchants and sailors hurrying to and fro. If you want to follow the trade trail further, it’s only a short walk from Water Gate to the Rows – probably the oldest shopping arcade in Britain!
The Craft Guilds controlled trade in the city for hundreds of years, and their members met in the towers around the Walls to feast together and discuss business. Guild members were very proud of their towers, and sometimes they put up commemorative plaques and inscriptions. Can you spot the stone phoenix put up at King Charles Tower in 1613?
The Walls don’t need to protect Chester’s shops and markets any more, but the Walls remain important. Chester is a vibrant international city, attracting thousands of visitors every year. People come from all over the world come to see the Walls, and they help the local economy to thrive.
Chester Canal opened in the 1770s, and by the 1830s canal boats plied back and forth between Chester and Liverpool every day, connecting Chester to the booming cities of the Industrial Revolution. Narrowboats still throng the canal beneath the North Wall today, but be careful if you lean over to have a look – it’s a long way down!