Tour Locations | Haunted Chester: A Spooky Stroll around the Roman-Walled City
Bridgegate leading to The Groves
The Bridgegate in front of you marks the southern limit of the city centre during Roman times, the Old Dee Bridge beyond leading over the River Dee to the suburb of Handbridge, where I live.
But you're going to turn left after the gate, heading left along The Groves, the riverside walkway that is today Chester's most popular strolling spot.
In the 17th century, however, this route had a more sinister story behind it.
It was the route followed by the cart of condemned men from the Northgate Jail as they trundled towards the gallows, located along the banks of the River Dee in what is today the Boughton area of Chester.
One such man was John Clare, who has gone down in Chester history — but all for all the wrong reasons. He was on the cart one day in 1801, following the route you are walking right now with the river to your right.
Clare had always protested his innocence and said that, when the day of his execution came, he would try to make his escape.
Look across to the other side of the river on your right now. In Clare's day, it was densely wooded, not home to the rather grand houses we see today.
A crowd would have gathered to watch the progress of the cart, the pantomime of its progress making for a big night out in those days.
Indeed, whole families would have ventured out to pelt the cart gleefully with rotten tomatoes and gone-off eggs. It was part of the theatre of the procession. But what happened next would change the history of Chester forever. It was something so shocking, so repulsive, that the events marked a line in the sand that would never again be crossed.
Can you imagine what it was?
Walk on a bit further along the path alongside the river, to spot where the cart made an emergency stop and all will be revealed ...