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Imperial Legacies, Sacred Space.

The first exhibition to explore the subject, Imperial Legacies, Sacred Space will be hosted by Chester Cathedral this month (May), and features research and events organised by University students and staff.

The free exhibition seeks to explore points of connection between colonialism, slavery, and empire at Chester Cathedral. In addition to research from the University, the content of the exhibition has been informed by objects and narratives held in the collections of Chester Cathedral, Cheshire Archives, and Chester Military Museum.

Two case studies explored in the exhibition use monuments and objects from the Cathedral collection as a starting point for considering why items and monuments connected with British colonialism are in Chester Cathedral and what they tell us about understandings of colonialism in our past.  

The exhibition will occupy the South Transept of the Cathedral and will be open to the public between Thursday (May 18) and Tuesday May 30, during normal Cathedral opening times.

The information and objects included in the exhibition are creatively interpreted in a series of performances which have been curated by second year Music, Media, and Performance students from the University of Chester. Performances can be experienced without booking on Thursday (May 18) at 3pm and Friday (May 19) at 12pm, 3pm, and 6.30pm, in and around the Cathedral.

Attendees to the exhibition will also be able to sign up to lectures and a reflection session at Chester Cathedral. These events are designed to explore the topics and issues raised by the exhibition material and discuss ways forward for the Cathedral in its work to decolonise its collections. The Imperial Legacies, Sacred Space project seeks to use its findings to build positive relationships with communities who have been harmed by insensitive portrayal of histories. 

Dean of Chester, The Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford said: “The memorials, sculptures and objects that you will find in Chester Cathedral all have their stories to tell.  These stories will leave their impressions on everybody who gives time to engage with them. Someone may feel affirmed whilst the same object’s story might leave another ashamed and someone else shocked. The memorial objects gathered in this exhibition have powerful stories to tell and engagement with them will reveal many worlds of truth.”

Dr Hannah Ewence, Head of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester said: “Britain has been doing much soul-searching in recent years, re-evaluating the nation’s relationship to its imperial past.

“We are really excited to be working with the Cathedral and its visitors to explore their relationship with this complex history and its meanings today.”

Dr Ben Fulford, Joint Acting Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University, added: “There are lots of ways for people to get involved - visitors can take a look at the displays in the Cathedral, see the creative performances, join us for a lecture, panel discussion and reflection session, and feedback on this previously untold history.

“We look forward to the exhibition’s opening, all the events, and welcoming people to discover more about the connection between colonialism, slavery, and empire at Chester Cathedral.”

Creative performances within this project have been made possible thanks to funding from the Culture and Society Research and Knowledge Exchange Institute at the University of Chester.

For more information and to book for the lectures and reflection session, please visit:

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exhibition events Cathedral History Theology music Music Media and Performance