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CHESTER AMPHITHEATRE

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  CHESTER ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE
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The upstanding and buried masonry of Chester amphitheatre is all that remains of what was Britain's largest Roman amphitheatre. The first evidence of the amphitheatre was uncovered in 1737, however it wasn't until 1929 that the site's original purpose was identified.

Excavations carried out in the 1960s lead to the conclusion that the first amphitheatre on the site was built from timber while a second was built from stone. In 2004-2006, however, a new survey was carried out by English Heritage and Chester City Council which led to a complete reinterpretation of the site's history. They revealed that two successive stone-built amphitheatres had stood on the site.

The first was built circa AD 80-90 and had a stone outer wall, a central arena and a seating bank supporting timber seats. This was built against the stone wall with the spoil heap from the area. Soon after, the arena was deepened and a terrace of timber-framed seating was built, along with a new stairway for access. This work has been dated to AD 96 from a coin found in the foundation slot of one of the timbers.

Possibly in the late 2nd century, though it hasn't been confirmed, the amphitheatre was extended and enlarged. A new outer wall was built and seats in the upper tiers were now accessed by vomitoria (vaulted stairways situated behind the seating).

Evidence suggests that sometime between the 5th century and the 11th-12th centuries, the amphitheatre may have been used as a fortified settlement for occupation or as a refuge. From around 1200, tenements had appeared on the site, while successive medieval buildings are thought to have had a collegiate function. Finds indicate that the site was a wealthy holding during the 16th century, however by the 17th and 18th centuries the site was a garden and partly a cess pit. During the 19th and 20th centuries it remained within the gardens of Dee House and St John's House.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the English Heritage website.