PARTS of Chester’s ancient City Walls will be closed for a total of seven months for vital conservation work.
Starting in September, the project will also involve restoration work on the 18th century Eastgate Bridge and its world-famous clock, built by public subscription to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
The clock will be scaffolded and completely encased in protective plastic while metal workers carry out restorations to sections of its ornamental ironwork which are showing the ravages of time.
Masons will repair sections of damaged sandstone on the Eastgate, built by Lord Grosvenor in 1768-9 to replace the original medieval main entrance to Chester damaged by Cromwell’s troops.
During the facelift, heraldry on the bridge – including the arms of the County Palatine Richard Grosvenor, and the sword of justice and three sheaves, will be re-gilded.
North of the Eastgate a section of the walls – excavated internally and propped since 2010 – when it was found that the outside sections were moving, will be permanently stabilised with sandstone masonry to replace the temporary polystyrene backfilling.
A further section of the wall needs to be investigated by archaeological excavation and a design solution for repair work submitted to English Heritage for Scheduled Monument Consent.
To the south of the Eastgate a length of the walls requires diversion of the drainage, improvement of that system, waterproofing and masonry repairs.
While the phased work continues, there will be a small pedestrian diversion in place re-routing the City Walls walk along St Werburgh Street and along Bell Tower Walk.
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for culture and economy, said: “The City Walls embody 2,000 years of our history.
“They are one of Chester’s major visitor attractions and it’s vital we preserve them for future generations.
“Ongoing preservation and the restoration of the historic towers through the Portico Project is designed to create one of Europe’s finest heritage trails and provide a major contribution to the city’s future economic prosperity.”
The works are part of the council’s yearly maintenance programme – averaging around £500,000 – designed to preserve the two-mile sandstone circuit for its 2m-plus visitors annually.
City centre Cllr Samantha Dixon said: “Regular maintenance keeps every building in order and Chester's historic Walls are no different. The work will cause some disruption.
“Council officers will be doing as much as they can to lessen the impact of the works on retailers, residents and visitors.
“Businesses have notice of the project, which will be phased to make sure there will still be as much access to the Walls as possible. Diversion routes will need to be well publicised so the Walls can still be enjoyed.
“Responding to concerns expressed by local businesses, the timetable of works has been changed so the work on the Eastgate and the Clock happens after Christmas.
“No one wants to see Chester’s famous clock wrapped in scaffolding at the busiest time of the year.”
See full story in the Chester Leader