The Romans have gone. The Anglo-Norse community that displaced the remaining Roman-British (in some sort of quiet genetic conquest) have been defeated by the Normans.
The ruinous Chester fort has been upgraded: firstly by King Alfred's daughter, Aethelflaed, and then by the Normans themselves who have added a castle and extended the walls to the south and west so that they reach down to the river.
There are churches now, but the Roman pattern of roads have been retained - etched more deeply in the Anglo-Saxon buhr and now this Norman town. Since I knew very little about the Normans, I started with a study of the people: Cheshire under the Norman Earls
by B.M. C. Husain
and a biography on one of the more important later earls, Ranulf III
by James Alexander.
Today I have been trying to make sense of the medieval town. With the help of the excellent mapping medieval Chester website
, I have printed out a large map to stick on the wall
and then spent the day going through the chapter on topography in Life in a Late Medieval City
noting down what went there.
The Romans seemed to have been obsessed with baths; the Anglo-Saxons with producing coins (and hiding them away in caches). The Normans seemed to have been over-endowed with religious orders: one abbey full of Benedictine monks, a Benedictine nunnery and then no fewer than three friaries: the Black (Dominicans), the Grey ( Franciscans) and the White (the Carmelites). There were also at least 13 churches and three hermitages. There were also three different streets associated with brothels (close to the monks (who don't seem to have been particularly celibate)). All of this in one small town of a maximun of 4,600 people (in 1377).