Chester Amphitheatre 1967

In the Summer of 1967 I was fortunate enough to get first hand practical experience in an archaeological excavation being carried out at the newly exhumed Chester amphitheatre just outside the Newgate of the city walls.

During this time, using a basic 'Brownie' box camera I took a number of photographs of the excavations in progress.
Chester amphitheatre is the largest known in Britain unless York can identify where theirs is located, perhaps under the King's Manor and the university's dept. of archaeology!



1. Nemesium, Chester Amphitheatre, north wall containing an altar to the god Nemesis. Founded here, according to an inscribed stone, by a Roman named Sextius Marianus.


2. Amphitheatre east wall and gate, dumper in foreground, main drain centre, utility sheds on the Roman seating area.


                          3. Main arena drain and main gate from the seating bank.


                             4. Main gateway to the amphitheatre with main drain.


5. Nemesium in foreground and arena wall. The building in the background is now a museum.


 6. East passageway gate entrance to the arena. Wheelbarrow in foreground with utility hose.


                                    7. Lead hinge socket, main gate.


          8. Main drain of the arena with the then telephone exchange in the background.


9. Nemesium in the foreground and arena wall. Utility sheds in the mid-ground. These were later narrowly missed being crushed by heavy road haulage that slipped off a transporter.


                         10. The Amphitheatre from Chester City Wall, Summer 1967.


11. Steps to the seating bank inside the main gate. The sighting staff is measured in feet, ruler in inches, trowel in foreground.


                    12. ?Wheel ruts in the threshold of the main gate with the arena wall.



          13. Medieval facade being refurbished in Park Street, Summer 1967.

To see this building today click here and enter 'Park Street, Chester, Cheshire'. The comparison is worth examining. Opposite this house you will see the eastern city wall, the 'Roman Gardens' are on the other side of this wall as is the amphitheatre- take a walk like I did every morning to the amphitheatre!


                                  14. Medieval facade being refurbished, Summer 1967.


                      15. Chester High Street, Summer 1967. Love those cars.


        17. Riverside hire boats, Chester, River Dee, the footbridge is in the mid-ground.


1              8. River Dee, Old Quarry of Edgar's Field with Handford Church.


                                   19. Dee Bridge downstream from Handford side.


                    20. The Old Chester Markets being demolished, Summer 1967.


                                   21. Chester Cathedral gate with marching band playing.


16. The 'Roman Gardens', re-sited from the area of the excavated amphitheatre. In the foreground is the 'High Cross' that in 1975 was returned to its original site in the city centre. The upper part on the pedestal and perhaps the base date from the 1300's the remainder from 1476..


Retrospectively, those who have come later have made comment that the infill in the arena, mainly medieval rubbish, was removed by mechanical earth movers rather than painstaking trowel and spade etc. This mass removal of post-Roman spoil was gouged out before my arrival at Chester. However, having picked over some of it by hand the material looked uniformly grey with some pieces of very broken medieval coarse ware. It would appear from the material that it had been principally putrescible and in anaerobic conditions thus forming a relatively uniform grey infill. I do not recall seeing any bones which is unusual for medieval rubbish sites unless the town dogs had removed them shortly after being deposited.

At the time, the then 'Ministry of Works' was principally intent on exposing the Roman amphitheatre, there were time constraints and of course budgetary considerations so I suspect it was considered to be expedient to remove the post-Roman overburden quickly. The fortunate aspect of the dig of course is that at the time only the northern half of the amphitheatre could be excavated as at that time the southern half was occupied by a Catholic girls school, The Sisters of Mercy. This other half of the amphitheatre would be well worth exposing if the relevant authorities could see their way to exposing it. I'm sure there would be many willing volunteers to assist in this endeavour if it were to eventuate.

Video: Chester, England

Take a walk on the mild side for a change: Click here then enter '18, Handbridge, Chester' and see if you can find your way from the Dee Bridge to the amphitheatre in Chester. It's fun and a very interesting historical walk. Then visit the city in real life and experience the great cuisine, appetising aromas the beautiful cathedral and  fine shopping, that no computer can recreate.


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© Copyright Tim Midgley 2013, internal links revised August 2023..