Thursday 17 June 2021

Living Memory: A 'Talking' Tour of Chester!

Living Memory: A Talking Tour of Chester is a historic walking tour by Cheshire Archives and Local Studies.

The tour was created using the Chester Archaeological Society’s collection of oral history recordings, which have been newly-digitised thanks to the British Library’s National Lottery Heritage project Unlocking Our Sound Heritage. 

It features interviews with a range of Chester residents, talking about their experience of the city over the course of the 20th century.  You will be able to hear the voices of these local residents as you explore some of Chester’s most scenic spots.  Find out how the park’s flower beds were put to use during the Great War, hear from an eyewitness to the unearthing of the amphitheatre, and even discover local residents’ favourite 1920s ice creams!

The tour is self-guided, so you can choose which sites you want to visit and in which order (our suggested route can be found below).

You can access the sound recordings below. As you walk along the suggested route you can listen to the appropriate clips by hitting the play button. 


You can download a copy of the walking tour map here.

Let's get started!


1. Cheshire Record Office

Welcome to Cheshire Archives & Local Studies where this converted warehouse holds miles of shelving full of records that document almost 1000 years of Cheshire life. Some of these records are oral histories recorded on cassettes, and tape cannot be trusted to survive for decades. Without the National Lottery Heritage Fund project run by British Library and the expertise at the north west hub at Archives+ in Manchester the voices on our talking tour would have been lost. In the early 1980s the Chester Archaeological Society recorded older residents’ recollections of life in the city throughout the twentieth century – we hope you enjoy a tour of the city through their eyes.

2. Roman Amphitheatre


A schoolgirl, when Dee House was the Ursuline Convent School, is an eyewitness when the first trace of an amphitheatre is discovered in 1929 – but to discover more the sweet shop must be demolished.


3. Grosvenor Park

Flower beds are planted with beetroots during the war – the park-keeper’s son recalls the park was planted very differently when his father was in charge.



4. Grosvenor Park Lodge

The park-keeper’s family lived in the Lodge – what was it like inside?


5. Duke’s Monument

A little girl witnesses a zeppelin appear over the city in 1917 or 1918. But did she? We have not found any evidence that zeppelins carried out raids as far north as Chester, but this memory is so vivid we can only imagine the terror they inspired that perhaps a nightmare or an eyewitness account made this very real 80 years later.



6. Belvedere

A view of the river – perfect vantage point to watch the regatta!



7: Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge

Opened in 1923 – replacing a narrow private bridge that allowed businessmen from Queen’s Park to catch their trains!



 8: The Grand Opening 

Two women are determined to cross the new Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge before the Mayor on the day of its Grand Opening!



9: Bandstand


Promenade along the Groves and imagine the sounds and sights of the city illuminated.


10: Ice Cream on the Dee


Fancy an ice cream? In this clip you can almost taste the ice cream from the 1920s – though we think ice cream today is probably closer to how it was in the 1920s than what was available in the early 1980s!

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