The pick of buildings showcased at Heritage Open Days

Every September, the Heritage Open Days festival highlights thousands of lesser known historical buildings, including ones in Chester. Several events were held at Chester buildings this , allowing visitors to learn more about the city’s architectural heritage.

Chester is of course well-known for its rich architectural heritage. The Roman Amphitheatre, the City Walls and the shopping terraces attract tourists at all times of the year. However, there are a number of lesser-known Chester buildings that are equally fine examples of excellent architectural design.

Although Heritage Open Days is over for 2017, you can visit many of the building featured in the festival, though not all the interiors of the buildings are accessible to members of the public.

The Heritage Open Days festival selected both old and modern buildings, showing how Chester’s architectural history has influenced modern local architectural practices.

Cheshire Record Office

The Cheshire Record Office in Duke Street stores records and printed materials that relate to Cheshire county.

The building that houses the office looks like a large warehouse, which is what it used to be. In the 19th Century, it was the furniture depot for the Browns of Chester store.

The building is a typical example of 19th Century industrial architecture and is a reminder that Chester and Cheshire have a rich industrial history, as well as being associated with the Romans and the nobility. There are many examples of old industrial buildings being adapted to modern uses in the area, and the Record Office is one of them.

Chester Blue Coat CE Primary School

The extension to the Blue Coat School CE Primary School in Walpole Street is an impressive example of modern architecture. Its main feature is the cross laminated timber (CLT) walls.

Designed by Tweed Nuttall Warburton architects, CLT was chosen for its sustainability and environmental properties. The wood is exposed internally and externally. One of its designers, Sarah Pegg, said:

“The design deliberately exposes the CLT at significant intervals because we wanted to experience the inherent warmth and tactile qualities of the wood and express the form and superstructure of the building at the same time.”

CLT contributes to a calm atmosphere in the school, which helps the wellbeing of the teachers and pupils. It is claimed that this contributes to a good learning environment.

Chester City Baths

Chester City Baths was built in 1901 to a design by John Douglas. The baths have been extensively refurbished but keep many of their original features. Its two baths host a variety of swimming sessions and events each week.

In 1893, bathing premises with changing rooms were built on the banks of the River Dee. Known as the Floating Bath, it was open only during the summer, but it sparked interest in swimming. Douglas was asked to design indoor swimming baths that could remain open all year and be accessible to many people.

At the front of the Baths is a two-storey structure: the lower Ruabon brick with stone dressing, and the upper half-timbered with stone chimneys. Behind the baths is the one-storey boiler room.

There are two arched entrances on the ground floor with double doors and windows. Between the two entrances is a stone panel with the city’s coat of arms. The upper storey is jettied with three gables. A five-light mullioned canted oriel window is under the middle gable with four-light mullioned casement windows under the other two.

There are two swimming baths: the 25-yard-long Atlantic, and the smaller 20-yard Pacific.

Chester Railway Station

Chester Railway Station was opened in 1846 and designed by architect Francis Thompson, while C.H. Wild designed the engine shed. Built in Staffordshire blue brick, it has an Italianate frontage with slate roofs. There is a long two-storey facade with five bay lateral projecting pavilions. Each pavilion is topped with a pair of towers, and carvings by John Thomas feature on the central station bays.

An unusual feature is the carved wooden ceiling owls designed to scare off birds.

Opposite the booking hall is a plaque to commemorate Thomas Brassey, who constructed the station to Francis Thompson’s design. Brassey was born in Buerton, six miles from Chester and is often regarded as the world’s greatest railway station constructor.


Heritage Open Days featured a number of what are called SuperHomes, which are ones that have high environmentally friendly standards. SuperHomes are older homes that have been converted to save energy, have fewer carbon emissions and are extremely comfortable to live in.

The SuperHome that Heritage Open Days chose for Chester was at Elmwood Avenue in Hoole. The project extended the original 1930s three-bedroom family home without increasing the energy bills. Recycled paper loft insulation was added and all walls insulated. Solar panels are installed on the roof to heat the water. An efficient gas boiler heats the home alongside a wood burning stove.

Wooden frame double glazing preserves the 1930s look. The owners of this SuperHome hoped that visitors to their home on the Heritage Open Day took back some ideas that they could apply to their own homes to make them more energy efficient.

Capital House

Chester is associated with Roman military history, but the city played a large role during the Second World War too. Capital House Chester was the Western Command headquarters and was visited by the leaders of the war effort Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Charles De Gaulle.

The building was completed in 1938, and is a Neo-Georgian style building that now acts as the Chester Business School at Chester University. It was renovated in 1997 and refurbished for the 2015/2016 academic year.

The distinctive portico and pillars at the front may look old, but they were part of the 1997 renovations to make the building look impressive for the then owners, Lloyds Bank.

Under Capital Homes is an extensive network of subterranean rooms, which were used as secure meeting rooms during the World War II and bunkers during the Cold War.

Heritage Open Days certainly demonstrated that Chester has a wide range of historic and architecturally interesting buildings that still stand proud today.

Posted by Mark
November 3, 2017

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