Our events aim to bring history at the margins of local consciousness to the fore. 

Through three strands of events, we plan to uncover little-known elements of Cheshire’s history, whether marginalised voices, under-represented histories, or challenging existing ideas. 

  • Strand One: Discovering and Remembering Stories of Migration and Refuge
  • Strand Two: Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester: Walking Tours
  • Strand Three: Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester: Online Talks

Alongside a diverse panel and community workshop focusing on stories of migration and refuge, we will highlight hidden histories of Chester through walking tours, and ensure these untold parts of our past are heard through online talks.

These events are led by the Department of History and Archaeology, University of Chester in collaboration with Cheshire Archives (CALS) and  
Cheshire Halton & Warrington Race & Equality Centre (CHAWREC).

Walking Tours

10 May | Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester

Date: 10 May
Time: 2-4pm BST
Guide(s): Dr Donna Jackson & Jackie Spencer

Liverpool may be synonymous with the Beatles, but Chester too had its part to play in the band’s history. Led by top Blue Badge Guide, Jackie Spencer, this walking tour will take visitors around the city from the railway station to the racecourse and reveal the many ways that Chester featured in the development of the global phenomenon that was the Beatles, uncovering a hidden history of Chester during the Swinging Sixties. Featured sites include venues where the Beatles played, the birthplace of John Lennon’s grandmother, and inspirations for Beatle songs.

The walking tours are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

18 May | Uncovering Chester’s Hidden Dead of the World Wars

Date: 18 May
Time: 1-2pm BST
Guide: Dr Tim Grady

This walking tour sets out to explore the diverse range of soldiers and civilians buried in Chester during the First and Second World Wars. The tour traces a path from the Chester Royal Infirmary building, in which many soldiers lost their lives, to Overleigh cemetery. Although the most visible graves in the cemetery are British, the burial ground also contains the remains of Australian, Belgian, German, Czechoslovakian and Canadian dead. 

The walking tours are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

18 May | Uncovering the post-Restoration ‘urban renaissance’ in Chester

Date: 18 May
Time: 1pm-2.30pm BST
Guide: Prof. Peter Gaunt

From the 1970s, Professor Peter Borsay argued for an urban renaissance in the early modern period, beginning in 1660 and ending in the late 1700s. It is claimed that an urban renaissance of this period can be detected in many English provincial towns, including Chester. Evidence can be found in four key areas: its economy; the provision of facilities (parks, bowling greens, race courses, theatres); improvement of public amenities (installing raised pavements, street lighting, regular street cleaning); and refinement of its buildings and architecture. This guided walk re-assesses Borsay’s thesis for Chester, exploring the extent to which its urban environment, surviving buildings, and architectural styles, can reveal a post-Restoration urban renaissance.

The walking tours are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

25 May | Patrolling the Hidden Ramparts - The Hidden History of Chester's Civil War

Date: 25 May
Time: 2pm BST
Guide: Dr Sam Chadwick

This tour will take in the City Walls and some of the surviving fortifications from the English Civil war, and look at some of the key events during the siege. 

Towns and cities actually account for the bulk of the fighting during the civil war period. The size mean that they had to have large garrisons to hold them, that they were vulnerable to assaults at multiple points and that any defensive resources would be spread over a large perimeter. On the other hand, they had a large civilian workforce that could provide extra support in the case of breaches and assaults, large areas of dead ground and established infrastructure to produce supplies and repair equipment. 

Chester was one of the major cities in England. It was a large trading port, had considerable rights, and was considered the key to Ireland. It had many links to the Crown, initially its allegiance was uncertain until the king visited Chester in autumn 1642. As a major royalist centre, it was repeatedly attacked, blockaded and besieged by the parliamentarians, who eventually captured Chester in early 1646 after a long hard siege.

The walking tours are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

27 June | Uncovering Chester’s Viking Past

Date: 27 June
Time: 10am-12pm BST
Guide: Dr Tom Pickles

Tantalising fragments of historical evidence, some hidden in plain sight around Chester, suggest that the city was a significant place in the Viking diaspore – the places in which Scandinavians raided, traded, conquered, and settled in the ninth and tenth centuries. This tour will take in a series of places through which the story of Viking Age Chester can be uncovered. It will link them to Chester’s patron saint, Werburgh, and some famous Anglo-Saxon rulers – Aethelfflaed, lady of the Mercians, Aethelstan, emperor of Britain, and Edgar, king of the English. 

The walking tours are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

27 June | Uncovering an International City: Chester in the Middle Ages

Date: 27 June
Time: 1-3pm BST
Guide:  Dr Katherine Wilson

This walking tour sets out to explore Chester as an interconnected and international city in the Middle Ages. The tour will start at the Medieval Water Tower on the city walls, once home to the most important port in the North West and then will move into the centre of Chester itself to explore the homes of Chester’s wealthy merchants. It will finish ‘behind the scenes’ at the Grosvenor Museum to explore some medieval objects with global links found in Chester.

The walking tours are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

Online Talks

31 May | The forgotten histories of Cheshire’s witches

Date: 31st May
Time: 7pm BST
Location: Microsoft Teams
Speaker: Dr David Harry

The European witch hunts saw tens of thousands of people, the majority women, charged and executed for supernatural offences. A common pattern among the hunts was the expression of violence against women, often of low status, by powerful state apparatus which believed women would seek to redress their social and economic oppression through diabolic means.

In England, as many as five hundred people were executed as witches and while Cheshire is perhaps less-well known for its role in the hunts than neighbouring Lancashire, the hidden histories of the women brought to answer for charges of witchcraft are revealed in the county’s rich legal records. This talk will introduce some of these sources and explore what they reveal about the interconnectedness of the British and European witch hunts, as well as life in the villages of early modern Cheshire – a world in which conflict and fantasy could quickly escalate into violence.

The online talks are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

7 June | The Hidden History of Women in Power: Conversations with Aethelflaed, Leader of the Mercians, queen, carer, coniunx

Date: 7 June
Time: 7pm BST
Location: Microsoft Teams
Speaker: Dr Morn Capper

Aethelflaed, daughter of King Alfred of Wessex, died in 918 as sole ruler of the Mercian kingdom. One of the first recorded female rulers in England’s history, she led her people in war against Viking armies, was acclaimed as founder of Chester and a network of other fortified towns in the West. She was a builder and strategist, negotiator of Viking migration from Ireland, a general and a diplomat. Yet, for Aethelflaed, expectations of marriage, family and religion were never far away. 

Throughout history, women’s leadership has been hidden behind ideas of exceptionalism and even sainthood, rather than ability. This ‘in conversation’ event, explores the myth of Aethelflaed’s exceptionalism, uncovering the hidden history of how a woman in leadership negotiated her burdens and position, to become a queen in power. It encourages the audience to share and reflect on examples of women in leadership, asking why Aethelflaed’s example faded to that of a mythic hero, de-aged in 21st century public imaginings, rather than becoming a genuine role model.

The online talks are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

14 June | Uncovering Change in Port Sunlight’s Historic Landscape

Date: 14th June
Time: 7pm BST
Location: Microsoft Teams
Speaker: Dr Rebecca Andrew

The historic garden village of Port Sunlight was founded in 1888 on the banks of the River Mersey, by entrepreneur William Hesketh Lever (the first Lord Leverhulme), to house his ‘Sunlight Soap’ factory workers. Lever imagined a better way of life was possible for industrial workers, and employed architects to transform his vision into a reality, which included green spaces, recreational facilities, and affordable, sanitary homes in a considered architectural form. The village preceded the Garden City movement by several years, therefore holding a unique, yet under-researched, place in the history of town and country planning.

Now a thriving tourist destination, containing 900 Grade II listed buildings, it is popular with film crews as a backdrop to period dramas. While Port Sunlight’s place identity focuses heavily on its supposedly unchanging and timeless nature, the village has undergone considerable development, change and renewal throughout its relatively short history. This talk challenges popular representations of Port Sunlight, uncovering the place identity Lever originally envisioned, and offering an alternative view of the village. 

The online talks are free to attend.

Book online to attend.

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