Thursday 16 May 2024

Staying in Chester

We had decided to stay in Chester today, wandering around the city centre and visiting the cathedral. The weather was fine at first but the forecast for later in the day included a high probability of rain.

We had been trying to discover the original purpose of the site opposite our mooring. When we came this way two years ago it was clear that it housed a Mecca Bingo hall. All pre-war OS maps show a three-sides-of-a-rectangle building but with no reference to its purpose. The present building occupies the same footprint but with the fourth side added and a roof over the central area. In recent times large scale road works have impacted the area and vehicle and pedestrian access seems limited. All reference to Mecca has been removed.

When we started to walk into the centre we came across an information panel alongside The Lockkeeper pub. This indicates that the building was formed as a Gaumont Palace Cinema  in 1931, seating 1997 people. An interesting short history can be found here. At the time the information panel was erected, it remained a bingo hall. Since the closure of Mecca, it seems that the property has remained unused.

The mooring is close to the shopping streets and we walked around, Christine looked in a number of clothes shops - without finding anything to tempt her - whilst Mike 'people watched'. There is a good supply of benches for sitting. He did, however, find a USB cable suitable to connect his phone to a charging point in our car, a problem that came to light a few days ago.

When we turned around we went up the steps to the upper level of The Rows - much of the traditional shopping area has pedestrian access to separate shops on two levels - an early form of shopping mall! Some of the Rows date back to the 13C. 

A more recent development inserted into The Rows - St Michael's Row - was undertaken by the Duke of Westminster in 1910. Clearly, push back from traditionalists against changes in style are not just a recent problem! However, the specific tiles used for the flooring have been preserved.

We looked in the parish church - its selections of snacks was rather uninteresting - but we were intrigued to see a copy of the famous, even controversial at the time, Breeches Bible. The troublesome verse is hightled by a magnifying glass so that visitors can see it for themselves.

We now headed to the cathedral with time to visit the Refectory for a snack lunch. They have an excellent and varied menu and very pleasant and helpful staff. The prices were market-related but not excessive. We enjoyed our separate choices, finishing just in time to head into the main part of the cathedral for the lunch time organ recital.

The recital was given by Ben Chewter. He is now a leading organist in London but previous was assistant music director here. The organ loft is high above the choir and the organist is only just visible! He played three pieces by Bach, Dupre and Glazunov. The recital was well attended and enthusiastically received.

By the time we left the protection of the cathedral, the forecast persistent rain had definitely arrived but was not too heavy. The walk back to the boat only took us about ten minutes but we did drivert via Tesco for one item. Part of the walk was along the old city wall alongside the immaculately maintained gardens

By the time we had a mug of tea, the rain increased in intensity and remained like that, apart from one short respite, right through into the evening. We had planned to go back to the cathedral for ChoRal Evensong and put off a decision until 5 o'clock. At that time the rain was pouring down and we wimpishly opted to stay put! Where has everyone gone?

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