Stuff for Kids
Although this tower seems old to us now, it was called the ‘New Tower’ in the Middle Ages! A mason called John of Helpston was contracted to build the tower in 1322, for £100. John came all the way from Lincolnshire to do this job, and to work on new castles in Wales. Why do you think there was so much work for John in Chester and Wales at this time?.
This was the first bridge across the river Dee – can you think of ways people may have got across the river into Chester before it was built? .
A lady called Margaret Hawarden lived next door to St Olave’s church in the late Middle Ages. When she died, her will showed some of the clothes she owned: dark gowns trimmed with fur, embroidered and decorated girdles (a sort of belt), and gold rings including ones set with jewels and images. What clues do these clothes give us about Margaret’s lifestyle? .
In 1467–8 the hardwareman Jo Soresbury paid 14 shillings annual rent for a shop here – quite a large amount. Why do you think this was such a good location for traders to set up business? .
From the top of the Northgate you can just see the hills of Wales in the distance: walls and gates were built to protect the city against attacks and keep out the Welsh. One medieval Welsh poem describes the people of Chester as ‘fleas’, ‘dogs’ and ‘toads’. Why might Welsh people have had this attitude to Chester? .
St Werburgh's Abbey
Medieval texts tell us how pilgrims and local people gave gifts to the shrine of St Werburgh in the abbey. These included candles, golden crosses and jewels. Why do you think people gave gifts to Werburgh’s shrine? What were they for? .
St John's Church
Not everyone was able to read and write in medieval Chester, so people went to scribes working near St John’s when they needed a document. A parchment clip and metal pen have been found here – what would you use to do the same job today? .
St Peter's Church
In December 1467, the master of a ship and all his sailors had to swear an oath in St Peter’s church, promising that it was not their fault that the goods on their ship had got wet. Why do you think they had to come and swear this oath?.
St Mary on the Hill
The church of St Mary on the Hill was dedicated to Mary the Virgin, the mother of Jesus. This ring, made in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century, was found in Chester. Perhaps it slipped off the finger of a medieval citizen... The inscription on the ring means ‘Hail Mary full of grace’. Why do you think a medieval person might have worn this ring? .
People in medieval Chester were very proud of the city’s trade around the world. Lucian tells us that goods came into the city from France, Spain, Ireland and Germany. How do you think these goods travelled into Chester? .
When King Richard II came to stay at Chester castle in February 1399, a heated bathroom was constructed in the inner royal chamber, furnished with glass and expensive timber from Norway and countries on the Baltic Sea. The royal rooms were decorated with tapestry hangings, cushions embroidered with gold thread and silk. How do you think this compared with the houses of ordinary people? .
The Pentice was the centre of local government and trouble in the city was dealt with here. In the late fifteenth century, the tailor John Man had to come here for causing a nuisance by driving his pigs though the city streets and letting them into his neighbours’ gardens. Can you imagine the results of that? No wonder people were cross! .
Some medieval texts and legends tell that the city and walls of Chester were built by a mighty giant called Lleon Gawr. Why do you think that medieval people might have believed the city walls were built by a giant? .
Traders and craftsmen in medieval Chester belonged to guilds. Every year, the guilds put on the ‘Mystery Plays’, based on bible stories, in the city streets. The play of ‘The Three Kings’, with its tale of gold, frankincense and myrrh, was performed by the Mercers – merchants – and the Spicers, who traded spices. Why do you think this guild paid for this particular play? .
In the medieval period, lots of people from Wales moved to Chester to work and live in the city. Many of them settled in the Bridge Street area. John of Ewloe was one resident of Bridge Street who came from a Welsh family. He was very successful and rose to become mayor of Chester. But when he got into trouble with the city authorities, the court described him as ‘wholly Welsh’. What do you think this says about the attitudes of some English people in medieval Chester towards the Welsh? .
This is one of the places people entered the city. The blacksmith set up here and would often have put new iron shoes on horses. Why do you think this would this have been a good place for his business to be based? .
Some of the medieval cellars still exist today. They were once used for storing beer and wine. Why do you think they would be a good place to do this? .
People brought pots and dishes through the Eastgate and had to pay a tax as they entered the city, sometimes paying money and other times a pot or a dish. What do you think you would give if you had to pay to get into the city? Would you be willing to give up your pocket money or some of your sweets?! .
St Mary's Nunnery
Some historians think that in the fourteenth century, the prioress of St Mary’s – the nun in charge – was perhaps running a school at the nunnery. What kind of things do you think children would have been taught at a nunnery school? .