Chester Weekend, 11th–13th October 2019

[We have some accommodation options listed on a separate page, but it’s not exhaustive and you’re welcome to shop around.]

George Borrow, his wife Mary and step-daughter Henrietta, stayed in Chester, 28th July–1st August 1854, on their way to Llangollen.  The George Borrow Society are planning to have a weekend in Chester on 11th–13th October 2019 where we’ll visit the places the Borrows did, have some talks, a Society dinner, coach trip, and our A.G.M.  There’ll be plenty of time to meet up, chat and explore the very pleasant City of Chester.

Fortunately for us, Borrow wrote about his stay in Chester in Wild Wales, and so we know a few places go:

1.  The Borrows stayed at the Pied Bull Inn in Northgate Street.  This is a very attractive old inn today, a real-ale pub. and they serve very good meals.

2.  The Borrows went to Chester Cathedral on the Sunday morning, probably more at Mary’s insistence than George’s!

3.  George walked Chester walls, which still remain.  We’ll probably not walk the entire circuit as some members might find it a bit too much, but will take in some of them.

4.  Mary and Henrietta “leaving me to go into a shop” as George put it, enjoyed the old covered shopping area of Chester, and whilst we’ll not go shopping, we’ll see The Rows as they are known.

5.  George went to see a Methodist meeting “in a field near the railroad station” where nearly two thousand people had gathered.  There aren’t any fields near the railway station these days, so we’ll perhaps look at some of the many Roman remains, where folk also gathered, and which Borrow seems to have ignored.

6.  George visited a group of Irish travellers encamped to the west of the city, near a large factory.  No doubt the site has been developed but with a bit of luck we’ll be able to see it from the walls.

7.  George crosses “the bridge” to the West of Chester a number of times.

A provisional plan is:

Friday, 11th October

Those already in Chester will gather at the Storyhouse, Chester for an informal time from around 6.30 p.m.  Those who have never been inside Storyhouse are in a for a surprise!

Saturday, 12th October

We’ll be meeting in the Lock Keeper, around 9.30 a.m. for registration, tea/coffee and a 10 a.m. start.

10.00 a.m. Welcome, last minute updates etc.

10.10  Michael Rawbone

10.55  Simon Hopkins

11.40  Timothy Peters

And then the A.G.M. (lead by Mike Skillman), which will be more informal that in the past, but the suggestion is:

a.  Tribute to Ann;

b.  Apologies for absence;

c.  Minutes / reports;

d.  Committee members;

e.  The George Borrow Society going forward (discussion).

12:30 p.m. (approx.)  Buffet lunch at Lock Keeper

1.45 p.m. (latest) short guided walk: The Walls, Rows, Cathedral close, Northgate and seeing Chester Cathedral (good if it rains!)  Should finish around 3 p.m.  If folk would like to see a bit more this will be arranged then (e.g. Roodeye, Castle), or rest of time free to explore

7.00 p.m.  Gather at Pied Bull, Northgate street (near the Northgate end)

7.30 p.m.  Society meal in Pied Bull, where the Borrow’s stayed

Sunday, 13th October

The coach will pick us up in Delamere Street, opposite the Funeral Parlour(!), around 9.30 a.m.  Please could everyone be prompt as we have a lot of activities.

For those unsure: from the Pied Bull go north under the Northgate, past the Blue Coat Hospital and keep walking down the road (you want to be on the right hand pavement before it gets too wide).  Go past the Bull and Stirrup Hotel, and Delamere is the next street you come to: it has a big green Papa Johns pizza place on the corner.

We’ll first loop Chester so that people who cannot work far get to see things.

a.   Northgate street so people can see Pied Bull [I think coaches are allowed]

b.   Past the cathedral from Northgate street.

c.   St. Werburgh Street to see the older buildings [it’s Sunday and allowed]

d.   To Railway station to see where the Borrow’s arrived etc.  Include City Road and Brook Street

e.   Round the southern bit of the ring past Grosvenor Park (not in Borrow’s time); Little John Street (ruined church and Roman Amphitheatre); Lower Bridge Street and over old Dee Bridge (see chain bridge to right); coming back via Overleigh Road and Grosvenor Road to go over the Grosvenor Bridge (Borrow’s bridge)

f.    Pull into Little Rhodee car park so can see Grosvenor bridge from below, also castle.  Point out meadow of the Irish Tinkers.

g.   Back onto Grosvenor Road (going north) so can see Rhodee and Military Museum.

Estimate: 30 minutes at most.

10.00 a.m.  Head to Wrexham over Grosvenor Bridge using Borrow’s route (B5445): Pulford (just past Grosvenor Hotel we enter Wales), Rossett (note Golden Lion), cross over river Alyn (and note watermill which Borrow didn’t); up Marford Hill (pause to read story of Borrow’s meeting there); then via Gresford and into Wrexham, where I believe we can park in the High Street.

Estimate: 40 minutes (bus goes this way and takes about 26 minutes).

10.40 a.m.  Wrexham High Street [coach can pick up drop off, don’t know about staying, might have park nearby]: have a drink in the Wynnstay Arms as did Borrow, general look and then look at Church (cannot go in, Service in progress which starts 11 a.m.), grave of Elihu Yale etc.

Estimate: 45 minutes

11:25 a.m.  Continuing Borrow’s walk from Wrexham to Llangollen: down B5605 through Johnstown and Ruabon and then the A539 through Acrefair, Trevor, and ending up in the Llangollen main car/coach park.

Estimate: 40 minutes (bus is 33)

12:05 a.m.   A bit of recovery time and the chance for folk to look at Llangollen but we’re not going to Dee House etc.

12:30 a.m. Lunch in Llangollen, suggest the Corn Mill:

1.45 p.m. off to Chirk Castle

Estimate 20 minutes: it’s around 8 miles.

2.05 p.m. Looking at Chirk Castle as did Borrow: it’s expensive (£11.50 if we do it as a group, min. size 15).  Suggest about an hour

3.05 p.m. Depends if we’re running early or late!

a.     Straight back to Chester is just over 30 minutes.

b.     or, visit Whittington Castle (about 15 minute drive, look around (have tea room), and around 40 minutes back to Chester).

Again as usual we’ll have lunch as part of our coach trip, and would expect to be back in Chester around 4.30 p.m., allowing those with trains to catch them.