Twentieth century Chester 1914-2000: Society and culture, 1974-2000

Page 272

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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Health and Poverty. After 1974 the health of Cestrians was not an issue for particular concern, as average death rates were close to those for the county and nationally, mostly between 11 and 12 per thousand. The most common causes were heart disease, lung cancer, and strokes. Averages, however, concealed great differences between areas of the city, and a report of 1994 demonstrated the connexion between sickness and poverty: the incidence of all the main life-threatening diseases was higher in those parts of the city where deprivation could be identified. (fn. 1) In the 1990s both statutory and voluntary agencies in Chester understood that poverty was increasing and that the widening gap between rich and poor nationally was mirrored locally. The causes identified included unemployment, old age, sickness, and large families, all familiar since the 1930s or earlier, besides the new factor of far more extensive single parenthood. Government constraints on local authority spending prevented due attention being paid to poverty, but Chester's image as a wealthy area was also an inhibiting factor. An investigation by Cheshire county council into family stress identified three of the city's wards as being among the 33 areas in the county where the problem was worst: Lache ranked second worst, Blacon Hall seventh, and Dee Point (also in Blacon) thirtieth. In 1993 unemployment reached 40 per cent in parts of Lache, when the Chester district average was 7.8 per cent. (fn. 2)

Culture and Leisure. (fn. 3) Cultural provision changed little after 1974 and was left largely to the private sector. Cinema-going revived considerably, and a multi-screen cinema was built away from the city centre on the Sealand retail estate, where car parking was plentiful. The Odeon survived in Northgate Street. The civic theatre, the Gateway, was moderately successful, but suffered from a poor location and cramped premises in the Forum Centre. Lobbying continued for a concert hall and arts complex. In the mean time orchestral concerts were still held in the cathedral, where a summer music festival was staged every year. (fn. 4) 'Cultural tourism', one of few growth areas in the 1990s, was seen as essential in helping the city to compete successfully with its rivals for the tourist trade. (fn. 5) Libraries were a county service, but the district council obtained powers in 1974 to continue operating an archives service at the Chester City Record Office in the town hall. It closed the office in 2000, however, and transferred the city's records to a joint service run by the county at Duke Street. (fn. 6)


  • 1. Ches. Current Facts & Figures, sheet Pop 52/Aug 93, Jul 99; sheet Pop 53/Jan 94, Aug 95, Jul 99 (Ches. Co. Cl. Research and Intelligence); Chester City Cl., Annual Rep. of Director of Public Health, 1994.
  • 2. Chester College, Research for Chester's Anti-Poverty Strategy, Rep. 2: Anti-Poverty Action and Policy in Chester (1995); Chester City Cl., Inf. on Poverty Issues in Chester (1995); Chester City Cl., Preliminary Poverty Profile of Chester (1993); Chester District Ward Atlas, pp. 30, 54, 56.
  • 3. See also V.C.H. Ches. v (2), Leisure and Culture.
  • 4. Chester District Local Plan: 1st Draft, 1996, p. 218; Chester Chron. 24 Sept. 1993; V.C.H. Ches. v (2), Places of Entertainment.
  • 5. Chester District Local Plan: 1st Draft, 1996, p. 217; Chester Chron. 8 Jan. 1993.
  • 6. Archives and Records, ed. Kennett, 8-9; personal knowledge.