Late Georgian and Victorian Chester 1762-1914: Introduction

Page 146

A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 1, the City of Chester: General History and Topography. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2003.

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In the 1760s Chester was still a regional capital despite the rise of Liverpool and Manchester. It dominated the economy of the western half of Cheshire and north-east Wales, and provided a focus for the leisured classes of a much larger area. (fn. 1) On the other hand, its traditional manufactures were already in decline, its maritime trade was as good as dead, and its politics were completely overshadowed by the Grosvenors of Eaton Hall. The creation of new institutions of local government in 1757 and 1762 and repeated but unsuccessful challenges to the Grosvenor interest from the 1770s were not harbingers of renewed vitality, but political reform at a national level in the 1830s freed municipal politics from Grosvenor influence and was followed shortly by thirty years of railway-led industrialization and population growth. The boom faltered after 1870, but Chester was able by 1914 to reposition itself as a county town, historic cathedral city, and tourist centre which provided a wide range of shops and other services for a still sizeable hinterland.


  • 1. For social and cultural activities in this period, V.C.H. Ches. v (2), esp. Craft Guilds: Activities after 1750; Leisure and Culture, passim.