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Chester

Chester, city (1991 pop. 80,154), Cheshire West and Chester, W central England, on a sandstone height above the Dee River. It is a railroad junction. Manufactures include electrical equipment, paint, and window panes. Tourism is also important. Chester has a long military history, and it was a significant port for centuries. Under the name Castra Devana or Deva, it was the headquarters of the Roman 20th legion. The area was ravaged by Æthelfrith of Northumbria in the 7th cent. and the Danes in the 9th cent. Æthelflæd of Mercia fortified Chester again in the 10th cent. William I took it in 1070 and the following year granted it to his nephew, Hugh Lupus, as a palatine earldom. Chester served the English crown as a defensive bastion and was used as a base for operations against Wales from 1275 to 1284. During the English civil war, parliamentarians took Chester by siege in 1646. Its role as a port peaked from c.1350 to 1450; silting and the rise of Liverpool contributed to the decline of port trade by the late 18th cent. Chester remains medieval in appearance and is the only city in England that possesses its entire original wall. Notable features are this red sandstone wall, with a walk along the top; Agricola's Tower; 15th- and 16th-century timbered houses; the cathedral, with architecture of styles from Norman to Late Perpendicular; the Roodee, on which races have been held since 1540; St. John's Church; Grosvenor Museum; and "The King's School," a public school founded by Henry VIII in 1541. Characteristic of Chester are the Rows, a double tier of shops formed by projecting the second stories of the buildings along the main streets. The Chester Plays (see miracle play) originated in the town.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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