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The Roman Amphitheatre



The Roman Amphitheatre which stands at the top of Newgate in Chester dates from around 86A.D. and is the largest yet excavated in the whole of the British Isles.

The Ampitheatre from the West

Roman Ampitheatre, Chester

The amphitheatre stands by the site of the Roman fort of Deva, and was constructed shortly after the establishment of the fort to provide an entertainment centre and training ground for the troops of the 20th Legion stationed there. It is semi circular in form as only half of the structure has been excavated. The southern half of the structure still lies beneath buildings, some of which are themselves listed.

The Ampitheatre from the East

Roman Ampitheatre, Chester

The structure consisted of a 40 feet (12 metre) high stone ellipse, 320 feet (98 metres) along the major axis by 286 feet (87 m) along the minor. The exits are positioned along the four points of the compass. Evidence of eight vaulted stairways, known as vomitoria, has been uncovered, which opened directly on to the street and served as entrances to the auditorium. As was the fashion with most Roman forts of the era, the amphitheatre was placed at the south east corner of the fort. Unlike other smaller, more basic amphitheatres in Britain, the one in Chester had proper seating for about 10,000 spectators on two storeys and about it stood a complex of dungeons, stables and food stands.

The Nemesium by the Northern Entrance of the Ampitheatre

Chester Roman remains

The remains were discovered in June 1929 by W J Walrus Williams (1875-1971), an amateur archaeologist. Williams was examining a pit dug in the grounds of the Ursuline Convent for the installation of a heating system , when he noticed large pieces of masonry, which he assumed to be the remains of the amphitheatre which was known to have existed at Chester. Later excavations confirmed Williams' theory. Excavation of the Roman Amphitheatre began in 1939 but was halted at the outbreak of the Second World War. following the war, excavation did not resume until 1957 but even then could not be finished as the Victorian Dee house was still being used. The house was demolished in June 1958 and excavation of the site commenced in 1960, the Chester Amphitheatre was eventually opened to the public in August 1972.

Part of the Amphitheatre Mural by Gary Drostle

Chester Roman Ampitheatre

Chester Renaissance commissioned a trompe l'oeil mural in August 2010, to enable visitors to experience the illusion of a complete amphitheatre as well as showing how the original structure may have appeared. Archeologists advised internationally renowned artist Gary Drostle on the original construction and found artifacts from the site. The mural covers the 50 metre walkway wall.

Replica of the Shrine to Nemesis

Shrine to Nemesis,  Roman Ampitheatre, Chester

Beside the amphitheatre stands a shrine to Nemesis, Roman godess of vengeance. The present altar is a replica; the original is kept at the Grosvenor Museum. The site is managed by English Heritage.