ONE of the city's grisliest tourist attractions that documents diseases through the ages has quashed rumours its current closure is due to its own plague of rats.

Sick to Death, located in Water Tower and Bonewaldesthorne's Tower on the city walls, announced on its website that it has shut temporarily due to “urgent maintenance issues”.

But the operators of the attraction say it is not due to rats as some citizens believed – especially with the recent warning that Chester faces a rat population explosion due to recent cold and wet weather.

But Big Heritage, which runs Sick to Death, added the venue has had to deal with other uninvited creatures in its first year of operation – including a falcon, pigeons, and a cat.

Dean Paton, managing director of social enterprise Big Heritage, said: “The Grade I-listed Water Tower and Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower that house Sick to Death on Chester’s world famous Roman Walls have been home to more than a few difficult-to-shift pests since they were built in the 14th century.

“Since we opened last year, we’ve dealt with a mouse or two, plenty of stray pigeons, a particularly stubborn falcon from Chester Cathedral and even a ginger cat.

“As is the case with any building that has stood the test of time, they do need a little general maintenance work every once in a while to make sure they’re in good working order.

“The doors will be closed for a short time while this work takes place. But fear not, they will be reopening as soon as possible to reveal more new displays charting Chester’s fantastic, gory history.”

Sick to Death blends blood and guts with science, family fun and archaeology.

Set within the 700-year-old medieval towers, it tells the story of Chester through the health, diseases, injuries and cures experienced by inhabitants of the city over hundreds of years.

One visitor said on Facebook: “I hope it reopens soon. I was gonna take my sister and her husband there when they next visited.

“It's full of cool horror stuff, such as a box you put your hands in so you can feel sores and you have to guess what disease the person died of.”

Meanwhile, Chester residents have been warned by experts to brace themselves for a rat invasion as cold weather is likely to force rodents out of the sewers in their hunt for cosier homes.

People have already reported seeing more rats, particularly near bins in the city in recent months.

Dee Ward-Thompson, technical manager at the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), said: “Rain washes rats out of sewers and other nesting places and, inevitably, they go looking for shelter in higher ground.

“They’ll try to find some sort of dwelling and that could be lofts, garages or sheds. Quite apart from the health risks, they’ll foul water tanks and chew on wood or electrical wires, which can cause a lot of damage and pose a fire hazard.

“They’ll also do their best to find sources of food, which means they can soon move to other areas of the house occupied by humans.

“Rats also breed rapidly and will create nests in attics or walls – so it’s vital to act as soon as any evidence is found.”