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The Department’s researchers explore diverse themes and evidence. All members of the Department are actively involved in research and work to publish regularly via monographs, edited collections and peer-reviewed journals. Our archaeologists investigate British and European prehistoric and historic periods while the historians’ research interests range across the medieval, early modern and modern periods, and span the globe. Our research engages with local, national and international partners and organisations and offers opportunities for our students and graduates to get involved.

In the Research Excellence Framework 2021, the Department submitted in both the History and the Archaeology units of assessment. The majority of the Department’s research was considered to be of international quality, with some publications viewed as ‘world-leading’ or 4*. Members of the Department continue to build on this success. This is reflected in their impressive record of publications, grant capture and outreach work, which has gained recognition at both national and international levels.

Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester

During the academic year 2021-2022 the Department helped to mark the Institute of Historical Research’s ‘Our Century’ – a 12-month exploration, celebration and reappraisal of history’s past, present and future.

Further information about the events which took place can be found here: Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester.

Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester, 2021-2022

During the academic year 2021-2022 the Department helped to mark the Institute of Historical Research’s ‘Our Century’ – a 12-month exploration, celebration and reappraisal of history’s past, present and future.

Below are summaries of the events that took place.

Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester: Walking Tours

Dr Donna Jackson & Jackie Spencer: Walking in the Footsteps of the Beatles: Uncovering the hidden history of Chester in the Swinging Sixties

Date: 10 May, 2022

Liverpool may be synonymous with the Beatles, but Chester too had its part to play in the band’s history. Led by top Blue Badge Guide, Jackie Spencer, this walking tour took visitors around the city from the railway station to the racecourse and reveal the many ways that Chester featured in the development of the global phenomenon that was the Beatles, uncovering a hidden history of Chester during the Swinging Sixties. Featured sites include venues where the Beatles played, the birthplace of John Lennon’s grandmother, and inspirations for Beatle songs.

Dr Tim Grady: Uncovering Chester’s Hidden Dead of the World Wars

Date: 18 May, 2022

This walking tour explored the diverse range of soldiers and civilians buried in Chester during the First and Second World Wars. The tour traced a path from the Chester Royal Infirmary building, in which many soldiers lost their lives, to Overleigh cemetery. Although the most visible graves in the cemetery are British, the burial ground also contains the remains of Australian, Belgian, German, Czechoslovakian and Canadian dead.

Prof. Peter Gaunt: Uncovering the post-Restoration ‘urban renaissance’ in Chester

Date: 18 May, 2022

From the 1970s, Professor Peter Borsay argued for an urban renaissance in the early modern period, beginning in 1660 and ending in the late 1700s. It is claimed that an urban renaissance of this period can be detected in many English provincial towns, including Chester. Evidence can be found in four key areas: its economy; the provision of facilities (parks, bowling greens, race courses, theatres); improvement of public amenities (installing raised pavements, street lighting, regular street cleaning); and refinement of its buildings and architecture. This guided walk re-assessed Borsay’s thesis for Chester, exploring the extent to which its urban environment, surviving buildings, and architectural styles, can reveal a post-Restoration urban renaissance.

Dr Sam Chadwick: Patrolling the Hidden Ramparts - The Hidden History of Chester's Civil War

Date: 25 May, 2022

This tour took in the City Walls and some of the surviving fortifications from the English Civil war, and looked at some of the key events during the siege. Towns and cities actually account for the bulk of the fighting during the civil war period. The size mean that they had to have large garrisons to hold them, that they were vulnerable to assaults at multiple points and that any defensive resources would be spread over a large perimeter. On the other hand, they had a large civilian workforce that could provide extra support in the case of breaches and assaults, large areas of dead ground and established infrastructure to produce supplies and repair equipment. Chester was one of the major cities in England. It was a large trading port, had considerable rights, and was considered the key to Ireland. It had many links to the Crown, initially its allegiance was uncertain until the king visited Chester in autumn 1642. As a major royalist centre, it was repeatedly attacked, blockaded and besieged by the parliamentarians, who eventually captured Chester in early 1646 after a long hard siege.

Dr Tom Pickles: Uncovering Chester’s Viking Past

Date: 27 June, 2022

Tantalising fragments of historical evidence, some hidden in plain sight around Chester, suggest that the city was a significant place in the Viking diaspore – the places in which Scandinavians raided, traded, conquered, and settled in the ninth and tenth centuries. This tour took in a series of places through which the story of Viking Age Chester can be uncovered. It linked them to Chester’s patron saint, Werburgh, and some famous Anglo-Saxon rulers – Aethelfflaed, lady of the Mercians, Aethelstan, emperor of Britain, and Edgar, king of the English.

Dr Katherine Wilson: Uncovering an International City: Chester in the Middle Ages

Date: 27 June, 2022

This walking tour explored Chester as an interconnected and international city in the Middle Ages. The tour started at the Medieval Water Tower on the city walls, once home to the most important port in the North West and then moved into the centre of Chester itself to explore the homes of Chester’s wealthy merchants. It finished ‘behind the scenes’ at the Grosvenor Museum to explore some medieval objects with global links found in Chester.

Uncovering Hidden Histories at Chester: Online Talks

Dr David Harry: The forgotten histories of Cheshire’s witches

Date: 31st May, 2022

The European witch hunts saw tens of thousands of people, the majority women, charged and executed for supernatural offences. A common pattern among the hunts was the expression of violence against women, often of low status, by powerful state apparatus which believed women would seek to redress their social and economic oppression through diabolic means.

In England, as many as five hundred people were executed as witches and while Cheshire is perhaps less-well known for its role in the hunts than neighbouring Lancashire, the hidden histories of the women brought to answer for charges of witchcraft are revealed in the county’s rich legal records. This talk introduced some of these sources and explored what they reveal about the interconnectedness of the British and European witch hunts, as well as life in the villages of early modern Cheshire – a world in which conflict and fantasy could quickly escalate into violence.

Dr Morn Capper: The Hidden History of Women in Power: Conversations with Aethelflaed, Leader of the Mercians, queen, carer, coniunx

Date: 7 June, 2022

Aethelflaed, daughter of King Alfred of Wessex, died in 918 as sole ruler of the Mercian kingdom. One of the first recorded female rulers in England’s history, she led her people in war against Viking armies, was acclaimed as founder of Chester and a network of other fortified towns in the West. She was a builder and strategist, negotiator of Viking migration from Ireland, a general and a diplomat. Yet, for Aethelflaed, expectations of marriage, family and religion were never far away.

Throughout history, women’s leadership has been hidden behind ideas of exceptionalism and even sainthood, rather than ability. This ‘in conversation’ event explored the myth of Aethelflaed’s exceptionalism, uncovering the hidden history of how a woman in leadership negotiated her burdens and position, to become a queen in power. It encouraged the audience to share and reflect on examples of women in leadership, asking why Aethelflaed’s example faded to that of a mythic hero, de-aged in 21st century public imaginings, rather than becoming a genuine role model.

Dr Rebecca Andrew: Uncovering Change in Port Sunlight’s Historic Landscape

Date: 14th June, 2022

The historic garden village of Port Sunlight was founded in 1888 on the banks of the River Mersey, by entrepreneur William Hesketh Lever (the first Lord Leverhulme), to house his ‘Sunlight Soap’ factory workers. Lever imagined a better way of life was possible for industrial workers, and employed architects to transform his vision into a reality, which included green spaces, recreational facilities, and affordable, sanitary homes in a considered architectural form. The village preceded the Garden City movement by several years, therefore holding a unique, yet under-researched, place in the history of town and country planning.

Now a thriving tourist destination, containing 900 Grade II listed buildings, it is popular with film crews as a backdrop to period dramas. While Port Sunlight’s place identity focuses heavily on its supposedly unchanging and timeless nature, the village has undergone considerable development, change and renewal throughout its relatively short history. This talk challenged popular representations of Port Sunlight, uncovering the place identity Lever originally envisioned, and offering an alternative view of the village.