WORK to improve The Rows in the city centre over the last fours years has been completed.

As part of the Heritage Action Zone project, improvements have helped to safeguard and promote the understanding of the Chester Rows.

Significant works were successfully undertaken to refurbish the upper tier galleries and deliver a range of projects to increase awareness and interaction with Chester’s unique built heritage and support footfall into the heart of the city. 

Councillor Nathan Pardoe, cabinet member for inclusive economy, regeneration and digital transformation said: “This programme has delivered significant new public and private investment to help encourage footfall and restore heritage features on the Rows, assuring and safeguarding their future.

"The programme has proved vital to supporting traders and underpins the jobs they provide and has been especially important following the impacts of the pandemic.

“Although the funding could never have gone far enough to complete all the physical works required, it’s impressive to see the cumulative impact of the improvements and the Rows being brought to life.

"This programme has been successful in showcasing the stories of the Rows, supporting cultural activities and engaging children and local residents in this living environment, thank you to all involved.”

The £1.08m project for Chester Rows was part of Historic England’s programme to help revitalise 67 historic high streets across the UK and was complimented with funding and in-kind support from Cheshire West and Chester Council, Chester Business Improvement District, Marketing Cheshire, the University of Chester, Chester Civic Society, as well as Grosvenor Estates and other private sector partners.

Heritage consultants Donald Insall Associates, based in Chester, worked with the council’s conservation and regeneration teams to identify works in line with historic records and Recclesia, historic conservation specialists, were appointed to undertake the repairs including replacing or refurbishing oak stallboards, repairs to ceilings, balustrades, pedestrian bridges which had lost railings and been boarded up with fly posting and graffiti as well as masonry repairs, works to improve alleyways and painting public walkways in period colours. 

Key highlights of the completed programme included:

  • Making heritage repairs to over 100 properties including removing graffiti, redecorating public walkways, making balustrades and stallboard repairs and installing a new lighting system.
  • Commissioned five specifically developed short films (available to view online).
  • Supported development of popular visitor trails including many seasonal window trails and the family friendly, Rows Time Travelling Treasure Hunt.
  • Developing ‘Browns of Chester exhibition and archive.
  • Hosting more than 450 ‘Medieval Meet & Greet Experiences’ to interact with residents and visitors to enliven the high street and commissioning new photography and marketing materials to help encourage visitor stays in the city post covid.
  • Funded a range of seasonal events – from Halloween trails to Christmas Choirs to make shopping in Chester a unique experience encouraging people to visit their local high streets and breathing new life into them for future generations.
  • Working with twelve local schools, teenage heritage group and local artists to interact and explore the Chester Rows legacy as both personal and universal experiences.
  • Developed a new Business Guide to support the business community and an upper floor study to explore new ways of bringing empty upper floors into usage.
  • Improved CCTV and fire protection to reduce risk to the historic fabric and support business retention and local employment.
  • Partnerships with landlords to support their investment to help reinvigorate empty units.

Carl Crichlow, chief executive, Chester BID, said: “The Rows have hosted businesses for hundreds of years and we were keen to work alongside the Council, Marketing Cheshire and other partners on this programme to help bring spending power back into the city centre and help businesses, as ‘historic guardians’ of these unique properties to better understand how they can work and thrive in this living heritage environment.”  

Chester city centre’s visitor economy is worth £1.13 billion per annum and supports over 20,000 jobs including those in the supply chain. The heritage appeal of the city centre is a key driver of footfall which helps retain business occupation. 

Councillor Pardoe added: “Today the Rows host over 200 shops, including many independent traders and eateries, together with hotels, offices and community spaces.

"More than this, we know how much people love, value and take pride in our historic centre, and as the Heritage Action Zone is completed, we continue to support new initiatives to build on this legacy.

"This includes Shared Prosperity Fund investment in Eastgate Row North and a grant to St Peter’s Church, investment in a new fire aspirator system and a new ‘Rows Spring Clean’ encouraging volunteers to care for our historic city.”