How to use this Tour
Our trail is broken down into six sections representing each Row. On the map below you will see these Rows as map pins. Each of these pins is one of the Rows on our trail: tap / click on them to reveal more details and to go to that Row’s individual route.
We recommend you start your journey at Eastgate Street Row South. But you can also follow our trail, in part or in full, from any of the six starting points – at the Eastgate Corner, the White Friars end of Bridge Street Row West, Watergate Street at the Cross or Trinity Street, and at the start of the covered walkway on Northgate Street.
What's more, you can also download our gorgeous Rows map by Helen Cann in the Downloads section below.
Join our circular journey through an urban landscape that is unique in the world. Chester’s historic four main streets, built on the foundations of the Roman fort Deva Victrix, are lined with a precious network of buildings that will lead you down the centuries from medieval times to the present day.
These multi-storey terraces are lined with medieval fabric, which peeps through here and there, and outer clothing that is a veritable fashion show of the architectural styles of the past 800 years. Yet, there is something very rare about their design; they have open galleries at the first-floor level, known as a Row.
The history of the Rows – why they exist, how they were organised, who lived and traded in them, how they developed – is much debated and we have taken great care to draw on respected research. Some say they were built on top of Roman rubble, others that the medieval Cestrians, as the locals are called, wanted to maximise retail opportunities within the confines of the city walls and decided to build skywards. There’s even a theory that the Rows were built to guard against Welsh raiders.
Even the term Row is much discussed. Does it define just the open gallery, or the whole building, including the chambers above and the cellar, or undercroft, below? For our purpose, we’ll focus on the open walkway.
The fire of 1278 may have contributed to the emergence of the Rows and their fame soon spread. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, remarked how they kept him clean and dry in any weather. That’s still an advantage appreciated by today’s visitors, who continue to enjoy these Rows as places to shop as well as sightsee.
If our trail inspires you to find out more, there are books to browse and knowledgeable staff to speak to at the Visitor Information Centre and in the public reference library in Storyhouse, both on Northgate Street. Plus you can take a guided tour with the Guild of Chester Tour Guides or Roman Tours. Onwards!