A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2005.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Founded by William I in 1070, the castle shortly afterwards came under the control of the earl of Chester and thereafter descended with the earldom. (fn. 1) It was temporarily in royal hands during the minorities of Earl Hugh II (1153–62) and Earl Ranulph III (1181–7), and passed permanently to the Crown with the earldom in 1237. (fn. 2) In 1254 it was granted to Henry III's son, the Lord Edward. (fn. 3) Acquired by Simon de Montfort after the battle of Lewes in 1264, (fn. 4) it was recovered by Edward in 1265 (fn. 5) and remained with the Crown until 1322, when it was granted to Edward II's favourite, Hugh Despenser the younger. (fn. 6) With Despenser's fall in 1326 it reverted to the king, and thereafter it continued Crown property until the Interregnum. (fn. 7) Although the Crown resumed control at the Restoration, thereafter upkeep of the shire hall and other county buildings increasingly devolved upon quarter sessions, and from 1690 became their responsibility alone. The Crown, however, continued to maintain the military buildings and fortifications. (fn. 8) Those ad hoc arrangements were formalized under Acts of 1788 and 1807 which vested new county buildings occupying roughly the site of the former outer bailey in the custos rotulorum of Cheshire. (fn. 9) The dual ownership thus established remained substantially unchanged in 2000.
Administrative And Military Functions
The castle was both the occasional residence of the Norman earls and their principal administrative centre, the base of such officials as the justice and chamberlain of Chester, their deputies and clerks. (fn. 10) Accounts were rendered at the exchequer there, and it was the location of the earl's chief court and prison. (fn. 11) Attached to it were certain lands. By the later 13th century, probably under an ancient arrangement, the castle demesne included 82 a. of land and 3 a. of meadow within the Earl's Eye, Handbridge, Brewer's Hall, Saltney, and Marlston cum Lache, all lying south of the Dee. (fn. 12)
After 1237 the castle remained the administrative centre of the palatinate, at first in the hands of royal keepers, later directly under the supervision of the Crown. (fn. 13) Daily administration was by a constable, first recorded c. 1216, (fn. 14) assisted by a staff generally including a keeper of the gaol, janitors of the upper and lower wards, serjeants, watchmen, chaplains, and clerks. (fn. 15)
An important base for royal operations against the Welsh, the castle was visited by Henry III in 1241 before he overran north Wales, and again in 1245. (fn. 16) The Lord Edward also used it as a base during the Welsh wars of 1256–67. (fn. 17) Its significance is reflected in his forceful action to recover it from Montfort's officials in 1265, when it was besieged for over 10 weeks by an army led by James of Audley and Urien of St. Pierre, and eventually surrendered to Edward in person. (fn. 18) After Edward's accession in 1272, the castle attained its greatest importance during the conquest of Wales. The king stayed there while fruitlessly awaiting Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's response to his summons to do homage in 1275 and again in 1277, (fn. 19) and in 1276 it was the supply base of William de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. (fn. 20) In the second and third campaigns of 1282–3 and 1294 it was again the king's headquarters and an important military base. (fn. 21)
Though the castle's military importance declined after 1300, in the early 14th century it was relatively well maintained. In Edward I's later years it seems to have been well supplied with arms and provisions, and was the base of a craftsman engaged in making weaponry (attilliator). (fn. 22) Edward II also repaired the castle and provided it with stores and armour, though elsewhere his castles suffered from neglect. (fn. 23) There was still a resident staff of 12 in 1313. (fn. 24) The king ordered the castle to be put into a state of defence in 1317, (fn. 25) and after his fall in 1327 custody was granted to Thomas of Warwick and orders were issued for its provisioning and repair. (fn. 26) In 1329 a new attilliator was appointed. (fn. 27) By then, however, the castle seems to have served primarily as an administrative centre. (fn. 28)
In the last years of Richard II's reign the castle again became a favoured royal base. In 1396 the office of master mason, which had lapsed in 1374, was reintroduced, and in 1397 the office of keeper of the king's artillery in Cheshire and Flintshire first appeared. (fn. 29) Bolingbroke stayed there twice in 1399, (fn. 30) and in 1400 the castle, then occupied by the chamberlain of Chester, the county sheriff, and the constable, was unsuccessfully besieged during the Earls' Rising. (fn. 31) The rebellion temporarily enhanced the castle's military importance: early in 1400 it was garrisoned by 8 men-at-arms and 35 archers, and even in 1404 it was still protected by 8 archers. It also contained considerable stores of weapons and supplies. (fn. 32)
The Lancastrians replaced senior officials, including the constable, but left undisturbed such lesser men as the keeper of the artillery and the master carpenter. (fn. 33) The castle became primarily an administrative centre and a place of storage for the palatinate records, (fn. 34) and its military and strategic role again declined. Even so, the charter granted to the mayor and citizens of Chester in 1506 maintained its independence of the city. (fn. 35)
The castle became a base of the county justices introduced in 1536, (fn. 36) and in the later 16th century remained the seat of the principal palatine officials, including the vice-chamberlain; it also provided supplies and lodging for soldiers before they embarked for Ireland, especially during the revolt of 1579–81. (fn. 37) During the Civil War siege of Chester it was the royalist headquarters, with a garrison commanded from 1642 by a military governor. It escaped physical damage and in 1646 was surrendered with all its arms, ordnance, and ammunition intact, to become the headquarters of a parliamentary garrison under a new military governor. (fn. 38) During the Interregnum it remained a supply base for parliamentary troops in Ireland, (fn. 39) and the location of monthly courts held by the county sheriff in the shire hall. (fn. 40) In 1659 it was put into a state of defence during the rising of Sir George Booth, and shots were exchanged with the royalists who had entered the city. (fn. 41)
The Cromwellian governor, Robert Venables, was removed in 1660. (fn. 42) Thereafter there seems to have been no garrison until 1662, when Sir Theophilus Gilbey was granted a warrant to enlist, arm, and keep under array c. 60 foot soldiers. The castle, whose strategic importance on the route to north Wales and Ireland continued to be recognized, was then felt to be in need of defence against sedition aroused by dispossessed nonconformist ministers. Late in 1662 Sir Evan Lloyd was appointed governor and shortly afterwards Gilbey asked for provisions, weaponry, and soldiers; (fn. 43) a garrison was then thought necessary to safeguard against the great numbers of Presbyterians in and around Cheshire. (fn. 44) After the 1660s, however, royal interest seems to have waned, though Chester remained one of the army's principal strongholds, under the command of a governor and much visited by dignitaries travelling to and from Ireland. (fn. 45)
In 1680 the governor, Sir Geoffrey Shakerley, was ordered to disband the foot company garrisoning the castle, and by 1681 there remained only three gunners. (fn. 46) At the time of the duke of Monmouth's visit in 1682 its undefended state caused the government alarm. New commissions to act as governor were issued to Shakerley and then to his son Peter, and a new garrison was installed. (fn. 47)
The castle retained its large garrison in James II's reign with men quartered in public houses and private dwellings; (fn. 48) a Roman Catholic chaplain was appointed, and in 1687 the king worshipped there. (fn. 49) Just before the fall of James, it housed eight companies of soldiers from Ireland, (fn. 50) together with arms and ammunition, maintained by a newly appointed 'furbisher' and supplied to troops travelling through Chester. (fn. 51)
Peter Shakerley was replaced as governor in 1689 by Sir John Morgan, Bt. Alarmed about the security of the numerous Irish prisoners because of Roman Catholic infiltration of the soldiery, he requested two new companies of 100 men, and by 1690 was involved in transporting troops to Ireland to repress Jacobites there. (fn. 52) Under his successor, however, the castle seems to have been less heavily manned, and in 1694 a company of c. 90 invalids was drawn from Chelsea hospital to form the garrison. (fn. 53) In 1696 the castle became one of five provincial centres to receive a mint for the recoinage. Staffed by a deputy comptroller (the astronomer Edmund Halley), a warden, master, assayer, and five other officials, it followed the processes used in London, issuing half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences, but functioned only until 1698. (fn. 54)
In the 18th century the castle's military significance declined. In the reign of George I military stores and ordnance, dating perhaps from the Civil War, were removed to the Tower of London. By 1728, though still commanded by a governor with two companies of invalid soldiers, the castle was described as 'destitute of arms almost for common defence'. (fn. 55) In 1745 an attack by the Jacobites was feared and attempts were made to remedy the situation, but in the event the castle saw no action. (fn. 56) The two companies of invalids remained until 1801, when they were disbanded, (fn. 57) but the castle was still notionally a garrison until 1843, commanded by a high-ranking governor and lieutenant-governor. (fn. 58) The rebuildings of the early 19th century had included barracks for 120 men and an armoury capable of storing 30,000 stand of arms. (fn. 59)
By the 1860s the castle was garrisoned by a company from a regiment stationed in Manchester and there was no barrack master. It was thus relatively unguarded, and in 1867 the Liverpool Fenians planned an attack. The plot was discovered and the garrison of 65 soldiers and 27 militiamen was reinforced by three additional companies from Manchester, local Volunteers, and, eventually, several hundred men from London and Aldershot (Hants). Although over 1,300 suspects were believed to have gathered in the city, and arms and ammunition were discovered in the suburbs, no attack took place. (fn. 60)
In 1873 the castle became the depot for the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment. (fn. 61) The former exchequer court, housed in a block designed as barracks until its abolition in 1836, was transferred to the War Department in 1892. (fn. 62) Part of the block was made into the regimental museum in 1972. (fn. 63) In 2000 the castle remained the home of the regiment and of the Crown courts, for which a new building was provided in 1993. A new magistrates' court, designed by the county architect, was opened in Grosvenor Street in 1992. (fn. 64)
The complex no longer looks like a castle: the medieval remains are fragmentary and the site is dominated by buildings erected in the late 18th and the early 19th century. From the late 11th century there survives only the castle mound, part of a motte and bailey whose outer ward was probably co-extensive with the later inner ward. The earliest buildings, presumably of wood, were from the 12th century replaced in stone. There was building while the castle was in royal hands, and particularly heavy expenditure in 1159–60, when £102 was spent on works and fortifications and £20 on the castle bridge. There is, however, no reason to suppose that such activity was confined to periods of royal guardianship; it is especially likely that there was building under Earl Ranulph III, who also established a new castle at Beeston in the 1220s. (fn. 65) The new defences, which incorporated an earlier keep and enclosed what became the inner ward, almost certainly consisted of a stone wall with square towers characterized by flat corner buttresses. (fn. 66) Two of the towers survived in 2000: the Flag Tower on the site of the early keep, and the Agricola Tower, built c. 1210 as the gatehouse and chapel. (fn. 67) Either may have been the 'keep' approached by a bridge mentioned in 1238. (fn. 68) The chapel in the Agricola Tower, the capitals and vaulting of which are closely related to those in the east chapel in the north transept of Chester abbey, was adorned with paintings soon after its completion. Not long afterwards, perhaps in the early years of Henry III's reign, they were replaced by a second decorative scheme, of very high quality and focused upon the Virgin. (fn. 69)
Before the mid 13th century the castle was greatly enlarged by the addition north-west of the inner ward of a spacious outer bailey fortified by wooden palisading; (fn. 70) both enclosures seem to have contained halls from an early date. (fn. 71) From the early 12th century there was also a garden in the castle ditch, later reputed to contain Earl Ranulph III's 'resting-tree'. (fn. 72)
Royal ownership conferred a new importance on the castle, reflected in improvements to the fabric. In 1241 Henry III's first visit occasioned the construction of an 'oriel' before the doorway of the king's chapel, (fn. 73) and in 1245 the king's apartments were repaired, the paintings in the queen's chamber were renewed, and a bridge was made from the castle into the orchard to enable the king and queen to take exercise. (fn. 74) More significant was a series of major works in the later 1240s and early 1250s, which marked the beginning of the removal of the principal apartments to the outer bailey. Between 1246 and 1248 a chamber over a cellar was erected at the considerable cost of nearly £220 and the wooden palisade of the outer bailey was replaced by a stone wall; in 1249 the hall in the outer bailey was demolished and a new one, which was to cost over £350, was begun. (fn. 75) Though the work was still unfinished in 1253, (fn. 76) probably by then much had been achieved; early to mid 13th-century features long survived in the south-west gable of the hall and inside the adjacent building, later known as the parliament chamber and originally perhaps a chapel. (fn. 77) Thereafter, the structure in the outer ward was designated the great hall and that in the inner ward the lesser hall. (fn. 78)
Under Edward I the royal accommodation was further improved and enlarged. Repairs were undertaken in 1275, and in 1276 the 'king's houses' in the outer bailey were renovated for the earl of Warwick and given a new chapel. (fn. 79) In 1283 Edward I's visit necessitated further repairs to the hall and royal apartments, and to towers and domestic buildings in both wards. (fn. 80) New domestic buildings were begun in 1284, and between then and 1291 over £1,400 was spent. The major works, under the supervision of a Master William, included repairs to the king's houses, new chambers for the king and queen, and a stable, all probably in the outer bailey north and east of the great hall. (fn. 81) Further work in 1292–3 included a new gatehouse to the outer ward which cost over £318 and eventually comprised twin drum towers, a vaulted passageway with two portcullises, and extensive accommodation, including a prison. The master of works was William of Marlow, presumably the mason engaged at the castle in 1284–91. (fn. 82) Either then or a little earlier, a new inner gatehouse was built west of the Agricola Tower, which was blocked and given a new staircase, presumably in preparation for the conversion of its chapel into a treasury in 1301. (fn. 83) The decorative scheme in the tower chapel was then covered with limewash, removed only in the 1990s. (fn. 84)
By 1294 the castle comprised an inner bailey with hall, chapel, and apartments, and an outer bailey with great hall, exchequer, and further apartments for the king and queen, including separate chapels. (fn. 85) The decoration of the chapels and living quarters continued into the 14th century. Ten ceiling corbels in the king's great chamber were coloured c. 1299, and shortly afterwards William of Northampton adorned the 'lesser chapel near the great hall' with a depiction of the murder of Thomas Becket. By then, too, glass windows had been installed in the 'greater' and 'lesser' chapels. (fn. 86)
All such work was under the control of Richard the engineer, perhaps as early as the 1270s and certainly by 1300. A royal architect much involved in the construction of the Welsh castles and a local man of substance, he retained the post of engineer until his death in 1315. After 1325 the office was discontinued and work was in the hands of master carpenters and masons, assisted by a small permanent staff. (fn. 87)
The castle's principal officials resided in the inner ward, where in 1328 the justice of Chester's deputy had his hall, chamber, and a new kitchen, and where Damory's Tower contained the former chamber of the justice himself. The constable also then had his lodgings in the inner ward. (fn. 88) The main administrative buildings, the shire hall and exchequer, were for long in the outer bailey, but in 1310 the shire hall was removed to a new position just outside the main gate. (fn. 89) A new exchequer was built within the castle in 1355, but in 1401 it too was moved outside to a building adjoining the shire hall. (fn. 90)
Although large sums were spent on repairs in the early years of Edward II's reign, especially to the outer gatehouse, (fn. 91) after 1329 the fabric suffered long periods of neglect, punctuated by occasional, often inadequate, refurbishments. In 1337, when over 100 yd. of wall had to be rebuilt, repairs were needed to the constable's hall and other buildings in the inner ward, and to the bridges leading to the two gatehouses. (fn. 92) By 1347 the Gonkes Tower, Chapel Tower, and Damory's Tower, the great chapel, the great chamber at the east end of the hall, the earl's smaller chamber and its chapel, and the great hall itself were all in disrepair. (fn. 93) Large sums were spent on the inner ward in the mid 1350s, (fn. 94) and further repairs were ordered by Richard II in the 1390s. (fn. 95) In Henry VI's reign expenditure on maintenance was generous, averaging £25 a year. (fn. 96) Work continued under the control of a master mason and master carpenter, of whom the latter at least had a house within the castle. Under the Yorkists, however, the office of master mason lapsed. (fn. 97)
Henry VII, who appointed a master mason in 1495, continued to spend c. £25 a year on maintenance, higher than average for such buildings but still inadequate. (fn. 98) In 1511 repairs costing over £272 were made to the great hall, the gatehouses, and the shire hall outside the gate. (fn. 99) The Half Moon Tower in the inner ward may also have been built then. (fn. 100) By the 1530s, however, the great hall was in ruins, and between 1577 and 1582 it was almost completely rebuilt at a cost of £650 to house the shire court. (fn. 101) At the same time the 'parliament chamber', immediately south of the great hall, was reconditioned to accommodate the exchequer court. (fn. 102) No other repairs were made, and by the early 17th century the whole castle, including the prison, was in very poor condition. (fn. 103) Despite the expenditure of 500 marks in 1613, a survey undertaken in 1624 for the county justices, on whom the cost of maintenance increasingly devolved, found much of the castle in a bad state. The shire hall was very ruinous, the bridge into the castle so dangerous as to be unusable, and the castle chapel 'much more ruinous than heretofore'; other dilapidated buildings included the judges' and constable's lodgings, the protonotary's office, and the gatehouse prison. Although the royal earl's representatives felt that costs should be borne by the county authorities, they themselves reluctantly paid for repairs in 1627–8, including a new bridge. (fn. 104) The results were probably not entirely satisfactory: though earlier described as 'habitable', in 1636 the castle was condemned as 'old and ruinous'. (fn. 105)
Although the castle suffered no damage during the Civil War siege, (fn. 106) after the Restoration the fabric was far out of repair. Early in 1661 much of the outer gatehouse fell down, and the county surveyor, John Shaw, estimated the cost of restoring it and other buildings as at least £860. (fn. 107) Shaw began repairs, but work was delayed by his failure to obtain adequate authorization. In 1662, after a further survey, the cost of repairs was put at £5,000. In the event, between 1660 and 1664 only just over £546 was spent on repairs to the grand jury's chamber, the constable's lodgings, and the protonotary's office. Shaw himself was paid only with reluctance in 1663. (fn. 108)
In 1666 fears of a rising of disaffected parliamentarians stimulated further action. The king ordered that the proceeds of the local mize, a county-wide tax, be paid to the governor, but seems to have overestimated the money available and work on the fabric proceeded very slowly. (fn. 109) In 1687 the castle received a new armoury in the west range of the inner ward, and an armourer's workshop, the Frobisher's Shop, behind the Half Moon Tower. (fn. 110) New fortifications, including a gun platform, were built in 1689, and further work was carried out on the armoury and barracks in 1691. (fn. 111) The county buildings, however, remained ruinous, the roof of the exchequer court and much of the protonotary's office having collapsed. They were repaired in 1685 and 1690, when £420 paid to the master masons Thomas and Peter Whitley proved to be the Crown's final expenditure upon them. (fn. 112)
The mint of 1696 was housed in the new extension to the Half Moon Tower. (fn. 113) Its installation involved the construction of mint ovens and chimneys and other alterations to the Frobisher's Shop, and after its closure in 1698 an estimate was ordered for the cost of restoring the shop to its former condition. (fn. 114) In 1699 the London mint paid £2,000 to the governor for the use of buildings within the castle. (fn. 115)
In 1745, with the rebellion of the Young Pretender, the lord lieutenant, George, earl of Cholmondeley, was zealous in putting Chester in a state of defence. He repaired the castle's decayed fortifications and added raised batteries in the inner and outer wards and a platform with a parapet south-east of the great hall. The military architect Alexander de Lavaux was engaged to draw up a plan to strengthen the fortifications, but his scheme, which consisted of four bastions joined by outworks flanking the ancient defences, was never carried out. (fn. 116)
Thereafter the castle was so neglected that in the 1760s a large portion of the curtain wall of the inner ward behind the armoury fell down. The breach was probably repaired in the 1770s, and further work was done in 1786, when Lord Cholmondeley's battery was reconstructed or refaced. Then or later the front of the curtain wall was cut back and the Flag Tower stripped of its external buttresses. (fn. 117)
When in 1785 quarter sessions ordered the rebuilding of the county gaol, a competition was held and won by Thomas Harrison, whose plans also involved the demolition and replacement of many buildings in the outer bailey, including the exchequer, grand jury room, protonotary's office, and eventually the shire hall. (fn. 118) In 1788 an Act of Parliament was obtained authorizing the scheme and setting up commissioners drawn from local gentry, clergy, and J.P.s to supervise its execution. (fn. 119) Harrison's early designs comprised a single block with a recessed portico and wings housing the shire hall, a room to serve both as grand jury room and exchequer, and other offices; (fn. 120) behind was the prison. (fn. 121) The main buildings, in the neo-classical style of which the architect was a master, were faced with Manley stone, while Runcorn stone and local red sandstone were used inside and in the foundations. (fn. 122) Harrison began in 1788 by demolishing the exchequer and the constable's house, and then moved on to build the prison and the southern parts of the main block. (fn. 123) As work proceeded he and the commissioners grew more ambitious. In 1789 a passage with a new gateway was opened into the upper ward, and the consent of the Board of Ordnance was obtained for the removal of the outer gatehouse, to be replaced by a new arch and guard rooms. (fn. 124) By 1791 the exchequer and grand jury room, the protonotary's office, and the prisoners' wards had all been finished, and the commissioners were anxious to proceed with the new shire hall. Harrison, however, submitted his plans only in 1792. (fn. 125) He continued to revise the scheme as late as 1793, some time after the demolition of the old shire hall; the portico seems to have caused him especial trouble, and went through several phases before achieving the imposing final design, with its double row of giant Doric columns. (fn. 126) Further difficulties arose from the discovery in 1794 that William Bell, the superintendent of works since 1788, had wasted stone and embezzled funds and materials. Bell was dismissed, and Harrison, who seems to have been responsible for his exposure, replaced him as surveyor. (fn. 127) Examination of the work supervised by Bell revealed that the pillars in the prison chapel would not support the planned superstructure and there were additional delays while the foundations were relaid. (fn. 128) A new contractor, William Cole the elder, was appointed in 1797. By then the shire hall was substantially complete, except for the roof, finished in 1799: a 'magnificent hall of justice', it comprised a large semi-circular, semi-domed court room ringed with an Ionic colonnade. The main block seems to have been completed shortly after, for in 1800 the finishing touches were put to the portico and prison chapel. (fn. 129) In the form finally executed it had a facade of 19 bays, with a projecting portico of ashlar and rusticated wings on either side.
From 1795 the commissioners had been anxious to buy adjoining land to permit the enlargement of the castle yard and provide a suitable setting for the new buildings, and in 1803 they purchased all the buildings in Gloverstone. (fn. 130) Plans to enlarge the castle yard and build a new armoury, uniform with the main block, received the consent of the Board of Ordnance in 1804; the new building, which necessitated the demolition of the inner gatehouse, the Square Tower, and part of the curtain wall of the inner ward, was paid for partly by the Crown and partly by the county, which was responsible for the end walls and the front of nine bays with its attached Ionic half-columns. (fn. 131) A corresponding block, housing the barracks, military cells, and exchequer court, was begun in 1806 north of the outer ward, on the site of the old cells and barracks, after similar arrangements to share the cost had been agreed between the county and the Barrack Master General. (fn. 132) Such major departures from the original plan required a new Act of Parliament, obtained in 1807. (fn. 133)
In 1810, though the barrack block was probably still incomplete, the final phase of the rebuilding began. A ditch faced with a stone wall was constructed round the castle yard and a new entrance was planned. Harrison's original scheme for a Doric gateway was altered in 1811 and made more elaborate in 1813, when four columns were added to the west side of the entrance. The completed 'propylaeum' comprised two pedimented lodges with east-facing porticoes and a central entrance block with columns projecting to the west, (fn. 134) the first use of the primitive Doric order in England. (fn. 135)
Harrison was perhaps also responsible for alterations to the inner bailey, including rebuilding the front wall of the armoury and refacing and refenestrating the old mint building and the Half Moon Tower. (fn. 136) His pupil, William Cole the younger, continued to work at the castle, and designed the military hospital, a plain brick building erected in 1826 in Castle Street. (fn. 137)
Further changes, begun in 1831, involved the demolition of the officers' barracks and judges' lodgings in the south-east range of the inner ward, to make way for a new armoury, and the conversion of the old armoury, Harrison's southern wing, into accommodation for officers and judges. The new works cost a little under £7,000, of which £1,000 was provided by the county. Among those who were then paid substantial sums was the Chester architect James Harrison, and it is possible therefore that he was responsible for the design of the new armoury, a plain rectangular freestanding building faced in local stone. (fn. 138) With the completion of the work in 1836 all that remained of the ancient castle was the Agricola Tower and the much altered Half Moon and Flag Towers.
There were important alterations to the south-west corner of Harrison's main block in the lower ward in the late 19th century. In 1875–7 a new nisi prius (civil) court was built, to designs by T. M. Lockwood, and in 1891 the protonotary's office was converted into a council chamber for the new county council. (fn. 139) The interior of the shire hall was rearranged c. 1881 and in 1895–6. (fn. 140) Harrison's barrack block was restored in 1922. (fn. 141)
After 1892 the site of the prison became a drill ground for the local Volunteer artillery. It was eventually occupied by a new county hall built between 1939 and 1957. (fn. 142) A new militia barracks for the permanent staff of the 1st Regiment of the Royal Cheshire Militia was built by the county authorities outside the castle precinct in Nuns' Gardens to designs by T. M. Penson in 1858–9. In an extravagant 13thcentury castellated style with many towers and turrets and a gateway with a portcullis, it was sold to the War Department in 1874 and after 1882 housed married non-commissioned officers of the regimental depot. The building was repurchased by the county council in 1963 and demolished in 1964. (fn. 143)
The castle was used as a gaol by 1241, when Welsh hostages were confined there. (fn. 144) Under Edward I prisoners included local notables, (fn. 145) hostages taken from Prince Llywelyn in 1277, (fn. 146) and Llywelyn's brother Dafydd with five of his squires in 1283. (fn. 147) In 1294–5, when the gaol probably occupied the rebuilt outer gatehouse, it again received many Welsh hostages, (fn. 148) a few of whom were detained until c. 1300 and the last until the 1330s. (fn. 149) Besides the Welsh there were also six Scots, taken at Dunbar in 1296, and in 1301–2 still at the castle, which by then contained four prisons. (fn. 150) The castle was again briefly filled with hostages taken from the citizens at the time of Edward II's murder (fn. 151) and from the Welsh during Glyn Dwr's revolt. (fn. 152)
By the 16th century the county gaol was situated in the outer gatehouse and the adjoining former exchequer. (fn. 153) It became a detention centre for recusants in the 1580s and 1590s, its importance enhanced by its position on the Irish route. (fn. 154) In 1648 it was refurbished and restored to use after the discovery of a royalist plot to recover castle and city. (fn. 155) The castle was again full of prisoners after the royalist defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1651, and was later the scene of the trial of notables. (fn. 156) It still contained prisoners, including a number of Scotsmen, in 1653. (fn. 157) The numbers detained rose again after the repression of Booth's rebellion in 1659. (fn. 158)
By 1681 the prison was in great decay. Although the Crown met the heavy costs of renovation, thereafter its maintenance was left to the county authorities, who by the 1690s were raising levies for further repairs. (fn. 159) In 1715, after the government's victory at Preston, c. 500 Jacobite prisoners were brought to the castle. Because of a quarrel between the governor and Chester corporation they were held there until 1717 in crowded conditions, and disease spread from them to the soldiers. (fn. 160)
By the 1770s the prison in the north-east corner of the castle was clearly unsatisfactory; cramped and airless, it was compared by the reformer John Howard to the Black Hole of Calcutta, (fn. 161) and in 1784 it was presented at the assizes as out of repair and insufficient. (fn. 162) In 1785 the Cheshire quarter sessions ordered its rebuilding. (fn. 163) Thomas Harrison's new prison, opened in 1793, was designed according to the enlightened principles advocated by Howard. Although planned before the publication of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, it was 'panoptic' in the sense that, as in Bentham's scheme, the gaoler's house overlooked the felons' yards. (fn. 164)
The prison, which had been found inadequate by the visiting justices in 1865, was transferred from county control to the Crown in 1877 and closed to civil prisoners in 1884, though there continued to be a small military prison in the castle until 1893. The gaol buildings were purchased by the county council in 1894 and demolished in 1900–2, (fn. 165) the site being used later for a new county hall.