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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ECONOMY AND SOCIETY, 1662-1762
By 1700 Chester was on the verge of losing its dominance as a regional economic hub, as nearby towns, especially in south Lancashire, began to specialize in trade or manufacturing in a manner which suited neither Chester's traditions nor its position. Even so its markets and fairs remained important and well attended, (fn. 1) and it developed a diverse economy based mainly upon consumption and services offered to an extensive hinterland. In comparison with Liverpool, its main rival as a trading port, it had poor commun ications. Only the London road was turnpiked before 1750, (fn. 2) and links with the hinterland were relatively bad. Salt from central Cheshire, for instance, was from 1721 carried on the newly opened Weaver navigation, bypassing Chester altogether. (fn. 3) Road access to the expanding Flintshire coal and lead mines was difficult, and their production was usually loaded at the ports along the north-east coast of Wales, nominally outports of Chester. (fn. 4)
The revival of the city's overseas commerce after 1660 was hampered by wars and privateering, and it was never large even in the best years. In 1700, for example, there were only 10 outward international sailings and 20 inward. The export of tanned calfskins to France and Spain continued on a much reduced scale, with many interruptions. Instead, lead exports expanded markedly during the 1690s, when nearly 1,800 tons, two thirds of it ore and the rest pig lead smelted in Flintshire, was shipped to the Low Countries, with smaller quantities to Spain, Portugal, and France. Exports rose again after the peace of 1713, mainly of pig lead to France, and after 1740 Portugal, with totals sometimes reaching 2,300 tons a year. (fn. 5) Miscellaneous cargoes were also shipped to French, Iberian, and Mediterranean ports. (fn. 6)
Imports of French wine were displaced in the later 17th century and the earlier 18th by Spanish and especially Portuguese products, which arrived with cargoes of fresh and dried fruits, especially oranges and raisins. The quantities of wine were small in comparison with those at other provincial ports. Other imports from the Mediterranean included modest volumes of almonds, anchovies, and skins. (fn. 7) Sugar must also have been imported, since by 1715 a Liverpool merchant had a refinery at Chester. (fn. 8) Iron imports from Spain were replaced by supplies from the Baltic, along with flax, hemp, timber, and other naval stores, a sizeable trade by 1695 which continued throughout the earlier 18th century, sometimes through Holland. (fn. 9) Even by 1700 Chester had thus been eclipsed as a port for foreign trade, and what remained was mainly dependent on lead exports. Only a very few Chester ships went further afield, for instance in the 1720s to South Carolina for rice, tar, and pitch. In the mid 1750s and the 1770s one or two Chester merchants were in the African slave trade, mostly in partnership with Liverpool men. (fn. 10)
Coastal traffic, in contrast, doubled in both volume and shipments between 1660 and 1700, and although stagnant for much of the earlier 18th century was beginning to expand again from 1750. (fn. 11) Trade increased with all Chester's main partners (Liverpool, London, and the south-western ports), and mainly involved coal, lead, and cheese. In the earlier 18th century there was also some re-export of silk, sugar, and other luxuries. (fn. 12) Of the staples, only cheese passed through the city. Ships carrying cheese, coal, and lead frequently returned in ballast. (fn. 13)
The trade in coal grew to between 1,000 and 1,400 chaldrons a year by 1700, mainly to Lancashire, Wales, and London, but then fell in the early 18th century and did not recover until the 1750s. (fn. 14) Lead shipments grew from the 1690s because of the London Lead Company's operations in Flintshire, from 1,400-1,800 tons a year to a peak of over 5,700 tons in the later 1720s, of which four fifths went to London. By the early 1760s the total had fallen back to no more than 3,500 tons a year, of which Liverpool took the largest share. The tonnage of cheese carried, mainly to London, doubled between 1664 and 1676 and exceeded 1,000 tons in 1683 before dwindling rapidly because of French privateering after 1689. (fn. 15) From the 1710s, with the renewal of peace, the trade grew enormously under London cheesemongers who used local cheese factors to collect from all over the Cheshire plain and neighbouring counties. About 1730 there were supposedly 20 ships making three round trips each and carrying over 5,500 tons a year, though no more than 1,500 tons a year was ever registered through the port records. (fn. 16) In the 1750s there were also some shipments from Chester of wheat, timber, (fn. 17) and cannon made at a foundry near Wrexham. (fn. 18) Imports from London and Liverpool comprised sugar, tobacco, and other colonial products, while ships from Wales delivered wheat, barley, fish, lead, and large quantities of slates (445,000 in 1689, for example). (fn. 19)
The expansion of Chester's Irish trade from the 1650s to the early 1670s was followed after 1680 by five slack decades during which the number of sailings fell below those from Liverpool and Whitehaven (Cumb.). (fn. 20) Even then, however, Ireland was much the city's most important overseas trading partner: in the 1710s, for example, of 150-200 ships cleared for overseas voyages each year only 20-30 were for other destinations. (fn. 21) Exports from Chester were led by Welsh coal, shipped largely in Chester vessels, which amounted in 1699, for example, to as much as 7,800 chaldrons. Other exports included limited quantities of lead and iron, clothing, woollen cloth from Yorkshire and Lancashire (the latter 'cottons'), cheese and other foodstuffs, hops, and supplies for the English military expeditions. (fn. 22) The main import from Ireland was at first livestock. Government legislation began to interfere with the trade in the earlier 1660s by imposing duties on imported live cattle, followed in 1667 by a total ban. Smuggling flourished, and when the Act temporarily lapsed in 1679 the trade resumed on a large scale: in 1680 more than 12,700 head of cattle and over 41,000 sheep were imported. The ban was reimposed in 1681, forcing Chester's leather industry into a greater dependence on imported Irish skins and hides, which numbered 3,000 or more a year c. 1705 but became fewer in the later 1710s and did not grow again until the 1750s. (fn. 23)
In the later 17th century the city's trade with Ireland also included small-scale imports of wool, woollen cloth, linen yarn, and linen cloth. (fn. 24) Quantities of the last remained small at first despite the reduction of the city's tolls between 1707 and 1710, (fn. 25) since Irish linen merchants preferred to ship through Liverpool. (fn. 26) The linen trade grew from the mid 1730s. Some Irish yarn was imported, but much more cloth, which doubled in quantity between 1744 and 1755 to almost 1 million yards, and trebled again by 1761. Most came directly from Ireland, some by Liverpool. All the importers did extensive business at Chester's Michaelmas fair, (fn. 27) which required a succession of ever-larger linen halls. (fn. 28) Most of those involved in the linen trade were outsiders present only during the fairs, and even in the 1730s and 1740s there were probably fewer than 15 resident linendrapers. (fn. 29)
From the 1660s the royal yachts, provided by the Royal Navy for the lord lieutenant of Ireland, plied between Dublin and the Dee anchorages, carrying officials, dispatches, and money for troops, but also taking ordinary passengers by arrangement. At first they used Dawpool (in Thurstaston) but by the 1680s had transferred to Parkgate, where from 1686 a regular packet boat service for passengers developed. (fn. 30) Parkgate remained the main port for Ireland until the first improvements to the London-Holyhead road in the 1760s. (fn. 31) As a result, many travellers passed through Chester, including the lords lieutenant of Ireland, (fn. 32) John Wesley, (fn. 33) Handel, who attempted to rehearse Messiah in Chester on his way to its first Dublin performance, (fn. 34) and Irish casual labourers. (fn. 35)
In Chester two anchorages were accessible to smaller vessels after 1660: the quay and warehouses across the Roodee from the Watergate, and the anchorage near the Dee Bridge and old cheese warehouse. Shipbuilding was also well established on the Roodee. Thirty ships were owned at Chester in 1672, and at least 25 (totalling 1,925 tons) in 1701, though not all were locally built. The industry seems to have expanded during the 1690s, when the company of Drawers of Dee complained that a new shipyard would encroach on the ground where they hung their fishing nets. The number of roperies on the Roodee had also grown by the 1690s. (fn. 36) Ships continued to be built on the Dee in the earlier 18th century, many intended for traders elsewhere, (fn. 37) and a few shipwrights and ship's carpenters were freemen of the city. (fn. 38)
All traffic, however, was hindered by navigational hazards in the Dee, which despite repeated efforts from the 1660s were not removed until Nathaniel Kinderley's new cut along the Welsh shore was opened in 1737. (fn. 39) The reopening of the Dee did not halt Chester's relative decline as a port. About 1701 its shipowners had only 25 vessels, and in the early 1710s the total tonnage, no more than 3,400, was less than half that owned at Liverpool. By the 1730s it had fallen to c. 1,650 tons, barely a tenth of Liverpool's total, and in the late 1750s Chester's 1,000-1,400 tons was scarcely a twentieth of Liverpool's fleet. (fn. 40) The tonnage of all Chester's foreign and Irish trade, which in the 1710s had reached at least 9,500 tons both inward and outward, seldom exceeded 6,000 tons each way from the 1730s to the 1750s. (fn. 41)
Occupations and Economic Regulation
In the later 17th century the Assembly still insisted that traders and craftsmen take up the freedom of the city before working there. (fn. 42) Between 1660 and 1699 at least 1,930 new freemen were admitted, an annual average exceeding 48. Chester's occupational structure was probably changing. (fn. 43) The proportion of new freemen in the wholesale and distributive trades fell from 24 per cent in the period 1660-74 to less than 20 per cent between 1675 and 1699, the manual crafts remained steady at about 46 per cent, and the service trades increased from 30 to 36 per cent. Markedly more professional men were being enfranchised. Occupations meeting basic needs for catering, clothing and textiles, and building amounted to about a third of all identifiable admissions: the leather crafts, with tanneries in Foregate Street and between St. John's church and the river, remained buoyant, (fn. 44) and there was steady growth in the building industry, metalworking, victualling, and the clothing and textile trades until the later 1670s. In 1679, however, the Tailors' company obstructed applications for admission, and in 1691 renewed its opposition on the grounds that trade was poor. Feltmaking attracted fewer new freemen and attempts to revive cloth production were a failure. (fn. 45)
The corporation waived the rules for enfranchisement for a few men with desirable skills, including those of cooper, confectioner, distiller, soap boiler, musical instrument maker, watchmaker, upholsterer, periwig maker, button maker, tinplate worker, and sugar refiner. (fn. 46) Such admissions became more common in the 1690s, when a tobacco cutter, a silk weaver, a flax dresser, watchmakers, a sievemaker, a linen printer, a brassfounder, a forge smith, and a needlemaker were admitted under a new scale of fees, and several mariners and an inkhorn turner were enfranchised gratis. (fn. 47) Occupations in the city became much more diverse in consequence, but the corporation's policy was not always welcome to the guilds, and it overruled opposition to discretionary admissions from the Innholders, the Smiths and Pewterers, the Joiners and Carvers, and others. (fn. 48)
The basic urban trades remained numerically important after 1700: (fn. 49) of c. 1,000 resident craftsmen and tradesmen polled in 1732 and 1747, almost a sixth supplied food and drink, another sixth were engaged in construction, and almost a fifth in the clothing trades. There were well over 50 tailors, (fn. 50) but only a few silk weavers or dyers and barely 20 woollen weavers; the fulling mill on the Dee was converted after 1725 for making paper and snuff. (fn. 51) Fifty or more men specialized in making felt hats. Among the distributive trades the most numerous were chandlers and ironmongers. From the late 17th century several workshops made clay tobacco pipes, (fn. 52) a trade supporting c. 25 workmen by the 1730s. The Pembertons, who by 1700 had a ropewalk under the city's western walls, were still in business c. 1760, (fn. 53) and another ropemaker was established from 1733 close to the Water Tower. (fn. 54) Chester's largest specialism, occupying possibly a fifth of its skilled workers, remained leather and its products, using skins produced locally or imported from Ireland and the Mediterranean. (fn. 55) Besides tanners and curriers, there were c. 25 wet glovers, making leather gloves mainly in workshops between the river and the south western walls. (fn. 56) Most numerous were the shoemakers, for whom a few corkcutters produced heels.
The guild system, involving active regulation by individual companies and the attempted exclusion of unfree interlopers, continued well into the 18th century; (fn. 57) until c. 1730 the city authorities were closely concerned with guild affairs, trying to settle internal differences and to ensure the correct enrolment of apprenticeship indentures, though the magistrates' attempts to regulate wages seem to have ended well before 1700. (fn. 58) Prolonged demarcation disputes from the 1660s to the 1690s among craftsmen in the building industry, especially joiners and carpenters, perhaps resulted from its expansion. (fn. 59) The corporation several times prevented the formation of new guilds, placing six masons in the Carpenters' company c. 1691, and forbidding new guilds for both pewterers and plasterers, the latter in 1705. (fn. 60) The Tanners' company was the most active in defence of its members' interests after 1700. (fn. 61) In the 1710s, in concert with tanners' guilds in London and elsewhere, it campaigned against new taxes on leather and sought to restrict the export of oak bark to Irish competitors. (fn. 62) The Butchers, presumably to limit numbers, doubled their entry charge for 'foreigners' to £20 in the 1730s, and required any member taking an apprentice also to pay £20. (fn. 63) About 1750 they still tried to enforce a traditional closing time for butchers' stalls in the shambles. (fn. 64)
Numbers of guild members were falling sharply by 1740 as the guilds turned themselves into social clubs, (fn. 65) and in most trades fewer men took up the freedom from the 1730s, except when elections were imminent: in 1732 qualified resident applicants accounted for almost three quarters of c. 600 freemen admitted in the three months before a mayoral election. (fn. 66)
The city's fairs declined during the later 17th century then revived after 1700, partly through the growing trade in Irish linen, and partly through horse dealing, which drew purchasers from a wide area. (fn. 67) A flourishing trade in saddle, pack, and draught animals also developed in Chester's markets, and focused on the inns because innkeepers bought horses either for resale or for hiring to travellers. (fn. 68) By the later 17th century Chester had largely overcome competition from smaller markets in the region, and as late as 1677 the corporation successfully opposed a proposed market and fair at Neston. (fn. 69) Chester's role as the main regional market was enhanced by the expansion of livestock farming in the county, especially in the production of cheese, which was marketed by local cheese factors and sent through the port or overland to cheesemongers in London and elsewhere. (fn. 70) By 1700 the city was publicizing its markets and fairs in national and local newspapers. (fn. 71)
The city played an important part in the distribution of wine and especially groceries, including luxury foodstuffs imported from abroad through London or increasingly Liverpool. (fn. 72) There were, however, sporadic difficulties over the ways ordinary victuals were produced and sold. In the 1670s the tightly regulated bakers renewed their campaign to exclude country bakers from the markets. (fn. 73) The corporation was still trying to enforce the assize of bread c. 1710, and in 1736 reaffirmed the right of country bakers to sell in the markets at prices set by itself. (fn. 74) During the 1690s the Butchers' company tried to monopolize the cheaper standings at the new flesh shambles and seized meat sold by country butchers, (fn. 75) though by the 1720s the country butchers' right to trade was established. (fn. 76) The Fishmongers' company, too, complained about sales by unfree interlopers during the 1670s. (fn. 77)
From the 1670s Chester's development as a shopping centre led to frequent applications for leases of plots of land for building, and of shops and chambers in the Rows. (fn. 78) Imports of luxuries and a great variety of other goods from London stimulated both wholesaling and retailing, and well stocked shops began to attract more gentry, professionals, and wealthier country people. By 1700 the central shopping area was thus becoming more clearly defined, with the beginnings of the later separation of high-class retailers and more workaday shops in distinct areas of the city. (fn. 79) In particular Eastgate Street in the earlier 18th century was increasingly given over to high-class shops, though some older methods of retailing persisted: as late as the 1760s London milliners hired premises in the street during the fairs to put their goods on view. (fn. 80)
To accommodate visitors on business or pleasure, and especially those travelling between England and Ireland, there were many inns, mostly clustered in the main central streets and Foregate Street. In 1686 the city's 682 guest beds and stabling for 871 horses far exceeded the figures for any other place in the North-West. (fn. 81) The importance of the city's role within the region was emphasized in other ways, for example by the existence of regular coach services to London, (fn. 82) by its continuing status as a head port for customs administration, based on the customs house in Watergate Street, (fn. 83) and by the assay office set up permanently in 1700. (fn. 84)
In the mid 1660s Chester had 1,666 households which paid tax on 4,273 hearths, (fn. 85) a low average of 2.5 hearths a household. Two fifths of the households (671 in number) were exempt because of poverty and in all almost half (781 households) had only one or no hearth. The most modest houses, those with no more than two hearths, accounted for some two thirds of the city's dwellings and accommodated not only the very poor but also many labourers and humbler craftsmen, especially in the textile and leather industries. About a sixth of householders had three or four hearths, among them many master craftsmen, shopkeepers, butchers, bakers, small-scale dealers, and clergy. Those with five or six hearths included cathedral clergy, merchants, drapers, and medical men. Householders taxed on seven, eight, or nine hearths comprised aldermen, Sir Peter Pindar, Bt. (the collector of customs in the port), a goldsmith, the subdean Dr. William Bispham, and several merchants and ironmongers. Occupiers with 10 or 11 hearths included the former recorder John Ratcliffe and Sir Richard Grosvenor. Among householders with 12 or 13 hearths were the diocesan chancellor John Wainwright and the castle governor Sir Geoffrey Shakerley. Lady Calveley (Mary, widow of Sir Hugh Calveley of Lea) (fn. 86) and Lady Kilmorey (Eleanor, widow of Robert Needham, Viscount Kilmorey) (fn. 87) each had 16 hearths and the bishop's palace 17, as did two inns. The two largest establishments in the city, with 20 and 33 hearths, were also inns. Some five per cent of families were headed by armigerous or professional people, but the town houses of the gentry were still mostly modest, as many of them containing only two, three, or four hearths as had thirteen or more. There was some social segregation: many of the poorer sort dwelt in the outer wards, the cathedral clergy around the precinct, tanners mainly in St. Giles's ward, and exchequer officials, lawyers, and gentry in Bridge Street and Watergate Street.
In the later 17th century the Assembly was often anxious lest vagrants be attracted to Chester and add to the numbers of its poor. In the 1660s it ordered the constables to make monthly reports on 'undersettlers' to the magistrates, (fn. 88) but thereafter left the aldermen, sitting as J.P.s in the inner Pentice, to deal with vagrants and supervise the regular relief provided by parish officers. In the 1690s the magistrates occasionally made supplementary payments, for instance to shipwrecked seamen and indigent travellers with passes. (fn. 89) The able-bodied poor were sent to the house of correction, which caused the authorities many difficulties. There was already dissatisfaction with the master, John Barker, in 1660 when the Weavers' company claimed that it could put more poor people to work than the 60 whom he employed. The Assembly eventually removed him in 1670. (fn. 90) In 1675 a weaver and a woolcomber came from Norwich to employ the poor in a new manufactory, with unknown success, and the objective of providing work and correction together was still being pursued in 1698, in a scheme to set the poor to work in silk weaving. (fn. 91)
Until the new house of industry was opened in 1759 the poor were maintained by their own parishes, some of which founded poorhouses, including St. John's c. 1730 and St. Oswald's by 1750. (fn. 92) The law of settlement was, however, handled centrally for the whole city by the magistrates sitting in the inner Pentice, with individual settlement rights formally certified by quarter sessions to the relevant parish. (fn. 93) By the 1740s the city also paid centrally for the removal of vagrants, sometimes through the master of the house of correction. (fn. 94)
Public poor relief was augmented after 1660 by new privately endowed charities, several of which used John Vernon's of 1617 as a model. They were mainly under corporation control and provided bread, clothing, shelter, or assistance, but in the main only for freemen and their families. The endowments virtually dried up after 1700 and even bequests for parochial charities diminished after 1720. Members of the wealthiest nonconformist congregation, the Presbyterians, had their own charities. (fn. 95) Pensions and places in the corporation's almshouses were granted according to lists drawn up for the Assembly, (fn. 96) and by the 1750s potential almsmen were paying for their names to be included. (fn. 97) Newer types of charitable giving were exemplified by the foundation of the Blue Coat schools for boys (1700) and girls (1720), (fn. 98) and by Peter Cotton's bequest in 1716 of £100 for medical relief for the poor and £50 for the distribution of devotional books in rotation among the poor of each parish. (fn. 99)
Chester as a County Resort
The cultural life of Chester in the century after the Restoration reflected its growing importance as a social centre for the gentry of the surrounding area and as a place where many leisured families resided. One sign was the very early establishment of freemasonry: the 'Society' of which Randle Holme III (1627-1700) was a member c. 1673 was evidently one of the first permanent lodges in England. At that date he was the only gentleman involved, his 25 companions being mostly well-off employers, notably in the building trades. By 1725 the city had three separate lodges, more than in any other provincial town, who met at the Sun, Spread Eagle, and Castle and Falcon inns. Membership had shifted decisively towards country gentlemen, members of the urban élite, and army officers from the garrison. The master of the Sun lodge, Colonel Francis Columbine, was the first Provincial Grand Master in the country. (fn. 100)
Initially there was little increase in cultural interests or literary habits, though enough business for stationers and perhaps bookbinding and basic printing. (fn. 101) In 1668 Peter Bodvile claimed to have the only bookshop in the city, but there were certainly others by 1685, when John Minshull and his son had a stock valued at £1,000. (fn. 102) Randle Holme III maintained the family tradition as a deputy herald and heraldic painter and was probably involved in printing and publishing, notably his own large-scale but uncompleted Academy of Armory. His son, Randle Holme IV (1659-1707), continued the heraldic work and was responsible for supplementing, arranging, and partly indexing the antiquarian and genealogical collections made by his forebears. The collections were dispersed after his death, but some 270 volumes were bought by Edward Harley, earl of Oxford, and thus passed with the Harleian manuscripts into national ownership in 1753. (fn. 103) The main scholarly writers in Chester were clergymen: Dean James Arderne as a controversialist; Bishop John Pearson in theology and patristics; and the Presbyterian minister Matthew Henry on hymns, catechism, prayer, and biblical studies. Henry's brother-in-law John Tylston (1663-99), a nonconformist physician who spent some time in Chester, published on medical experiments, while the eminent mathematician John Wilkins was bishop of Chester 1668-72 and the astronomer Edmund Halley was deputy comptroller of the Chester mint during its brief existence 1696-8. (fn. 104)
In the earlier 18th century there were usually at least two booksellers, handling the scholarly libraries of deceased local clergy and gentlemen. (fn. 105) From the early 1710s one or two worked their own presses, producing mostly sermons and other religious and educational works. One also began to print books in Welsh. (fn. 106) William Cooke started a local newspaper in 1721, rivalled from 1732 and then driven out of business by another, later the Chester Courant, founded by Roger Adams (d. 1741) and continued by his widow Elizabeth and her successors into the late 18th century. (fn. 107)
After 1660 Chester silversmiths found a good local demand for their work, (fn. 108) but painters were few. In 1671-2 the royal arms and pictures of Justice and Prudence were drawn for the portmote court by Elnathan Rowlandson, apparently a local man, (fn. 109) and about 1715 a miniature painter planned to move from Liverpool to Chester, where there were no competitors. (fn. 110) Campanology flourished among a select group of gentry, following the foundation in 1686 of the Gentlemen Bellringers of St. John's by Mayor Edward Oulton and others. (fn. 111) In the field of orthodox music, there was a musical instrument maker in Chester by 1670, the tradition of religious music was revived at the cathedral from 1660 under Dean Henry Bridgeman, and the four city waits, a paid ensemble with their own livery, performed at public celebrations and civic ceremonies. (fn. 112)
In reaction to the rigours of the Interregnum the traditional civic ceremonies enjoyed a brief revival after 1660 before succumbing to a fear of disorder and the growth of a new puritanical spirit. The Christmas watch and the Midsummer show were both in effect abandoned in 1678. (fn. 113) Less elaborate forms of ceremonial continued, such as civic processions to church services and occasional beatings of the bounds. (fn. 114) Public rejoicing, with bellringing, pageantry, and drinking, accompanied the arrival of a new charter, news of military victories, and the foundation of the Chester mint. (fn. 115) The Assembly also marked the reception of William III and the arrival of notables such as Bishop Cartwright, a Secretary of State, and the lords lieutenant and lords justice of Ireland. (fn. 116)
All those entertainments attracted people from elsewhere. Visitors were also drawn by cathedral services, diocesan administration, county parliamentary elections, the palatinate law courts, the fairs, markets, shops, inns, and alehouses, (fn. 117) and increasingly by the specialized services offered by teachers of writing and dancing, physicians and surgeons, vintners, watchmakers, cabinetmakers, tobacconists, and many others. (fn. 118) From the 1690s, for example, several surgeons and usually two or three physicians practised in the city. (fn. 119) Chester was more and more a magnet for country gentry. Mayors gave venison feasts where country gentlemen sat down with prominent citizens, and many private occasions of wining, dining, and merrymaking allowed the mingling of lawyers, cathedral dignitaries, civic families, county figures, and urban gentry. (fn. 120) After the abolition of the Midsummer show the greatest annual attraction was the horse races held on St. George's Day, which were closely supervised by the Assembly. (fn. 121) Other outdoor amenities included archery and bowls, promenading on the city walls (as enjoyed by Ralph Thoresby and Celia Fiennes), and gardens in the open spaces on the west side of the city. (fn. 122)
All those attractions were enhanced in the earlier 18th century. The walls were increasingly used for recreation by visitors and residents alike after the city had them repaired and flagged from 1707. They became a favoured promenade, for example, of the deputy diocesan registrar Henry Prescott in his declining years. (fn. 123) By the 1720s the city had over 20 inns and public houses, where Prescott and his friends met for convivial purposes either as members of clubs or informally. (fn. 124) Leading establishments included the White Talbot in Eastgate Street, extensively rebuilt from the 1710s by its owners, the Talbot dukes and earls of Shrewsbury, (fn. 125) the ancient Blossoms in Foregate Street, rebuilt c. 1718, (fn. 126) and the White Bear in Bridge Street, rebuilt c. 1747. (fn. 127) In the 1740s there were almost 60 public houses and at least as many licensed beersellers. (fn. 128)
From c. 1700 the newly built Exchange had on its ground floor a coffee house, where newsletters and gazettes from London were available, (fn. 129) and there was another on Castle Lane by 1708, perhaps that later called the Countess. (fn. 130) In the 1750s there was another coffee house at the Red Dog, on Eastgate Street. (fn. 131) From the 1710s the city's two or three dancing masters staged public balls once a year, usually at Christmas, in the common hall at the Exchange, either with or without official permission. (fn. 132) By the mid 1740s Booth Mansion north of Watergate Street also accommodated assembly rooms, which as 'Mr. Eaton's Great Room' gave space in the 1750s for such diversions as rope dancing, fire eating, and a learned dog. It closed in 1758. (fn. 133) By 1710 a public cold bath was open at Boughton. (fn. 134) Chester's principal attractions for outsiders were the races and the fairs, especially the Midsummer fair, where entertainments were put on by the 1710s. (fn. 135) Some county gentry also came in for the assize sessions held in spring and autumn and from 1760 the theatrical season extended into the period of the assizes. (fn. 136)
Chester in 1660 had few public services, (fn. 137) but from the 1680s the corporation took more interest in the city's sanitary condition and appearance, perhaps aware of their importance to residents and visitors alike. Detailed arrangements were made for disposing of rubbish and cleaning the Rows and main streets, (fn. 138) the city pavior was instructed to keep pavements in good repair, and citizens were required to hang lights at their doors. (fn. 139)
The pace of civic improvement picked up in the 1690s with improvements to the water supply (fn. 140) and the start of work on the Exchange, an intentionally handsome building, coherently designed. (fn. 141) For some time the Assembly had been controlling encroachments on the main streets, in an attempt to secure even, uniform frontages, especially in the Rows. (fn. 142) Street repair and cleaning had long been the responsibility of householders. In 1712 the macebearer was made liable for streets alongside the city's own property, (fn. 143) and by the late 1720s the grand juries responsible for enforcing all such duties increasingly expected the city's treasurers to do the repairs. (fn. 144) About 1760 a foot passage was made at the Northgate, partly to save children from being run over. (fn. 145) As well as the city streets and the carriageways of the roads approaching Chester, (fn. 146) the corporation maintained the Cop, planned in 1706 and completed in 1710, an embankment which protected the Roodee from flooding. (fn. 147) Better measures for fire protection were taken in 1709, (fn. 148) and street lamps were provided at the Exchange and the Pentice in 1708. (fn. 149) Such official measures to improve the environment and the face of the city were, like the earlier traditional ceremonies and observances, a means of promoting a sense of civic dignity and pride, and giving Chester an aspect in keeping with its standing as a cathedral city and county capital.