The Bridge, Chester

This is in-progress research and probably contains errors and typos.  It will be updated in due course.

George Borrow and his family stayed in Chester from Friday 28 July 1854 to Tuesday 1 August.  In his account in Wild Wales Borrow repeatedly crosses and refers to “the bridge” without naming it.  In modern Chester there are three bridges over the river Dee:

1.  The very attractive suspension bridge known as the Queen’s Park footbridge.

Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge, Chester

2.  The old and attractive multi-arch Old Dee Bridge.

The Old Dee Bridge

3.  The high and single arch Grosvenor Bridge, built 1833.

The Grosvenor Bridge

To the modern Borrovian the question is: Which was Borrow’s bridge?  The following are Borrow’s references in Wild Wales:

In the evening I went out again, passed over the bridge, and then turned to the right in the direction of the hills.  Near the river, on my right, on a kind of green, I observed two or three tents resembling those of gypsies ... continued my course till I arrived near a large factory ...

Wild Wales, Chapter 3

I then left them, and without returning to the inn strolled over the bridge to the green, where the tents stood ...

Wild Wales, Chapter 4

Late in the evening I directed my steps across the bridge to the green, where I had discoursed with the Irish itinerants ...

Wild Wales, Chapter 5

Early the next morning I departed from Chester for Llangollen, distant about twenty miles; I passed over the noble bridge and proceeded along a broad and excellent road

Wild Wales, Chapter 5

It’s the last reference that shows which bridge Borrow was using: as he was heading for Llangollen via Wrexham he’d be using the Grosvenor Road and the bridge would be the Grosvenor Bridge.

Borrow confirms this as after leaving Chester he writes:

I passed over the river Allan and through two villages called, as I was told, Pulford and Marford ...

Wild Wales, Chapter 5

Again, these are on the road to Wrexham, which is reached via the Grosvenor bridge.

Today there’s still a meadow by the river Dee on the right of Grosvenor bridge, and it’s known as The Dingle.  Alan F. Dakin wrote an article recounting Borrow’s time in Chester (Cheshire Life, January 1936: Chester and George Borrow; Our County Town of 80 Years Ago) in which he said the meadow was then known as the Roodee.  It presumably still is today as on the Chester side of the bridge is the Roodee cafe.

Items Still to be Investigated

1.  Which was the large factory Borrow saw?

2.  Are there contemporary pictures of the bridges?

3.  A contemporary map needs to be checked to ensure there wasn’t a bridge which is no more.

4.  Why would the Irish tinkers camp on the Roodee?

5.  Do contemporary newspapers throw any light on any of this?

6.  Why didn’t Borrow mention the Old Dee Bridge: it seems more Borrovian than the relatively new Grosvenor?

7.  Would be nice to have a bit of background on the bridge.