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Chester’s built environment seems to tell the straightforward story of a Roman fortress transformed into a provincial English county town. However, Dr Thomas Pickles from the University of Chester is highlighting how the city probably owes its origins to the dynamic transnational activities of the Vikings - Scandinavian raiders, traders, conquerors, and settlers, in the period AD 800-1200.

He explores the fascinating subject in the video, and an accompanying blog, shared as part of the ‘Global History in One City' series, demonstrating how the city’s history is part of a dynamic worldwide story.

Dr Pickles, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and an expert on the history of Britain and Ireland AD 400-1200, said: “Visiting Chester, you may be struck by the monuments to its multi-layered 2,000 year history - the Roman walls and the medieval churches and shop-fronts, scarred by the conflicts of the Civil War, and reshaped by Georgian and Victorian architects as well as modern town planners.

“Yet hidden in plain sight are traces of a moment in the city’s past that challenges the simple narrative of an English county town emerging in this way from Roman times.

“Disparate fragments of evidence come together to reveal that Chester was a significant node in Scandinavian networks encompassing the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the North Atlantic Sea, and taking in Russia, Iceland, Greenland, and North America. These include churches dedicated to SS Bridget and Olave, material culture in the Grosvenor Museum, and stone sculpture in St John’s Church.”

Dr Pickles was inspired to highlight this evidence by exploring the history of early medieval Britain and Ireland, and the Vikings, with Chester students.

He continued: “Working with the students, it became clear that, thanks to the fantastic work of Chester’s heritage organisations and projects like Discover Medieval History, the Roman and medieval history of the city are becoming well known. Yet people are often unaware of the Viking moment, a reminder that Chester originated as a town because of far flung networks and before there was a single English people or an England.”

The ‘Viking Age Chester - A Node in Transnational Networks’ film and blog launched the Global History series this week.

The launch includes the opportunity to revisit the first three films of the series: ‘The Forgotten Germans of the First World War’, ‘Chester’s Legacies of Empire’ and ‘An International City: Chester in the Middle Ages’.

Dr Hannah Ewence, Senior Lecturer in Modern History, who has led the launch said: “We’re excited to officially launch the series after sharing three previous videos and blogs earlier in the year and late last year.

“Exploring diverse topics on the city’s past, underlining Chester’s global significance, the series draws upon the broad chronological and geographical range of History and Archaeology specialisms offered by our academics.

“Further films and blogs being released across the summer and autumn will look at Roman Chester, Chester and the English Civil War, and witch hunting in Cheshire.”

She added that, as with Dr Pickles’ film, many of the subjects discussed formed part of the taught programme which students encountered in the classroom and beyond, while reflecting collaborations between lecturers and students, for example, as co-researchers, participants in an archaeological dig, through involvement in object-handling, and as partners in the dissemination of research findings.

To watch the ‘Viking Age Chester’ film, please visit: or for all the videos in the series, and more information, take a look at:

To read the blog, please go to:

For further updates please visit: and using the hashtag #globalcity.

2) 1) Dr Thomas Pickles from the University of Chester explains how the city’s Viking past is hidden in plain sight - St John's.jpg

Dr Thomas Pickles, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Chester, explains how the city’s Viking past is hidden in plain sight.
Dr Thomas Pickles, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Chester, explains how the city’s Viking past is hidden in plain sight.

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