Rickitt Partnership

Chester Historical Blog – The Early Dark Ages. (429 – 871ish!)

When the Romans departed they left quite a large Black Hole in Britain. Our history expert runs through a potted history of Chester in the early dark ages.

However! It was not as Dark as you would think!

Before the Romans left, Britannia had been converted to Christianity. Chester was part of the Celtic region which, in turn, was part of Mercia one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy.

The 6th and 7th centuries in Chester

Historical sources tell us that very little is known about Chester in the 6th Century. The kingdom of Powys extended further east and may have included Chester but other than that it appears that much of the activity in that century was centred elsewhere in Wales and in the south.

The 7th Century was a little more exciting!!! Chester became an important ecclesiastical centre and the site of a battle in 616 which is believed to have had religious undertones. At the end of the Century c689, St Johns was founded close to the former Roman Amphitheatre.

Patron Saint of Chester - St Werburgh

Circa 650 Werburgh, daughter of King Wulfhere of Mercia was born at Stone in Staffordshire. The Princess became the patron saint and protector of Chester and her feast day is on 3 February. She was instrumental in convent reform across England and ultimately became the fourth Abbess of Ely. She died on 3 February 700 and was buried at Hanbury where a shrine was raised to her. With the later threat from the Danish Vikings, the shrine was relocated to Chester and this was established at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, where the Cathedral now stands. The shrine of St Werburgh became a place of veneration but after the dissolution of the abbey the shrine was broken up and the relics were lost. Parts of the shrine's stonework were re-assembled and are located in the cathedrals Lady chapel to the rear of the main nave.

The 8th and 9th century

The 8th Century seems to have been a quiet time for Chester. In 789 it is recorded that the Danes arrived in England who then taught the English to drink too much!!

The 9th Century saw a bit more turmoil with were major changes in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. Power shifted to the House of Wessex who overthrew the supremacy of Mercia and Chester was captured in 828. To add to their woes, in the same year the people of Chester In 868 suffered a severe famine and a visitation of the plague!

I hope you have enjoyed our visit to the early Dark Ages. Check back with my historical blog soon when we will visit the later Dark Ages.

John X