“The Big DEEbate”

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The long running amphitheatre saga is back in the news after Cwac released the news that Dee House may be leased to developers on a 150 year lease. After weeks of social media comment and a petition led by local businessman Adam Dandy (signed by over 10,000 people) , Cestrians are invited to attend a public debate on the future of Dee House, atop the beloved amphitheatre. Chaired by Chris Matheson MP the event will take place at the town hall where the public can listen to both sides of the argument on the future of Dee House and the potential  for excavation of the rest of the amphitheatre.

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Dee House

 

Chris Matheson MP said :

“I have watched the debate about Dee House with great interest. People from all sides have made passionate points and this has raised public awareness about heritage in our city – which can only be a good thing. Many residents have written to me to ask for my opinion and I can see there are strong arguments on both sides. That’s why I have used my position as the MP to invite all of the parties involved in this debate to come together and discuss it in a public forum. It is vitally important that residents, experts and campaigners get a chance to express their views and question each other’s opinions ahead of any formal council meeting where an interactive, panel-based, discussion of this nature would not be possible. That’s what this event is all about.”

Representatives from the Civic Trust and Chester Archaeological society have been invited, along with the #DigupDeva campaign. Already confirmed are Marketing Cheshire,  and Chester Growth Partnership .  Heading up the Dig up Deva campaign, Adam Dandy has argued for the run down Dee House to be delisted and demolished :

“It’s been left derelict for over 20 years now, it is described by most as an eyesore and the overwhelming majority of voters here in Chester want it demolished so that the Roman Amphitheatre can one day be uncovered and turned into the jewel in our crown here in Chester, a place for Cestrian’s to be proud of, I hope that it could even be rebuilt in parts to show what it used to look like!”

Opponents such as Dean Paton of BIG Heritage have argued that Dee House, important in its own right should be retained. He told this blog in June that,

“Everyone would love to see a full amphitheatre in all its glory.. it actually doesn’t exist. Most of what remains has long been destroyed though centuries of building and cellar digging. Excavating the tiny amount that remains would cost millions .” 

350 free tickets will be available for the event, details here :

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-big-deebate-tickets-27159560978

. Event and technical support for the event has been kindly provided by Chester Race Company and Storyhouse.

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@ShitChester

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11 comments

  1. “the overwhelming majority of voters here in Chester want it demolished” – this constant claim infuriates me, as it’s inaccurate, misleading, and wholly dishonest.

    The reality is that a small proportion of Chester’s overall population have voted in an online survey, encouraged to do so by an active social media campaign. I get so sick of people with an active social media following, all of whom are self-selected to agree with them, claiming this minority view to be representative of the wider public.

    That’s why it’s so important that this event is publicised off-line, so that the true majority of cestrians can put forward a view.

  2. Interestingly, when presented with the facts everyone I’ve spoken to has fully understood why the amphitheatre should be left as it is and Dee House restored. Many of these people would previously have been in favour of a full excavation. I was one of them!

    • Yes, I think it’s the same problem we saw during the Brexit debate – social media hysteria takes precedence over facts and expertise.

  3. Has anyone even noticed that Dee House only takes up a very small slice of the amphitheatre? Most of it is buried under the car park of the County Court. Bit of a fail to knock down a listed building before realising that.

    Google maps gives a nice overview, literally speaking.

    Save Dee House – we should reposses the County Court instead! I’d say “Send in the bailiffs,” but there’s no need, they’re already there.

  4. Having relatively recently moved from Bath to Chester, I am amazed by the difference in attitude to Roman remains. In Bath, stone conservators handle the Roman stones very carefully with gloves; they are treated as museum objects. Each of their annual 1 million tourists to the baths pays £15 to visit the “must see” attraction of the Roman Baths, all of the above ground parts having been built in the 19th century. Here in Chester, the “Roman Gardens” display original stones which are clearly upside down, people can sit on them, and clamber all over the amphitheatre, and there is no entry fee. Shouldn’t our Chester Councillors make a fact finding visit to Bath to see for themselves how much revenue the Roman remains could generate.

    It does not matter how much of the original material remains, because if there is a full restoration of a section of the amphitheatre, it can easily be made clear which parts are genuine and which parts were restored. In fact even if any interesting pieces were discovered in an excavation, they would probably have to be moved to a museum environment anyway, and not left in situ. The listing of Dee House is clearly designed to have been obstructive, and cannot compete with the far more important remains below.

    The opportunity to rebuild the missing part of the amphitheatre, incorporate a swanky visitor centre including the objects from the Grosvenor Museum (charging entry to tourists), pedestrianise Pepper Street (letting cafes spill out onto the street), and extending the new dining quarter, is just too good to miss. We don’t need more offices on the site.

  5. Of course the problem with relocating Roman stones and other interesting pieces to a ‘museum environment’, is you need a museum environment to relocate them to. The Grosvenor already has more than it can display, and knocking down Dee House would remove that possibility as well.

    So would this mean ‘robbing out’ the Chester amphitheatre to supply the museums of London? Where is this stuff going to be displayed?

    Also, isn’t there a risk of turning Roman remains into some kind of ‘saint’s fingernail’ if we treat them like holy relics? They’re human artifacts, made by humans for human purposes. I think seeing them as ‘ordinary’ increases their value, from a educational point of view. Sitting of old stones isn’t going to hurt them.

  6. Must admit, I am a bit surprised that the biggest amphitheatre in Britain with its rare shrine to Nemesis, described as the saint’s fingernail, and ordinary. Also it’s plain wrong to think that the stones won’t get worn away. A visitor centre on site can easily be designed to incorporate all the old as well as new finds; there is no need to send anything away.

    The point is we have a potential goldmine, which given the right investment, could be put to good use to benefit all the citizens of Chester

  7. A point I wanted to make at tonight’s debate, but we ran out of time…

    Out of my window I can see Clwydian hills, with hillforts on top of them. I can also see tower block windows, lit with electricity. Somewhere inbetween there’s Hawarden, with a string of hi-tech aerospace companies. If I go from Liverpool to Manchester on the train, I travel along the world’s first intercity railway line, for carrying imperial cotton from the ‘state of the art’ Albert Docks, to ‘state of the art’ steam mills. If I walk up the river Dee a little way past the dark age battle sites of Heronbridge (Vikings?), I get to a motte and bailey castle at Aldford (French Vikings!). A little further along you can get run over by cars, travelling REALLY FAST, due to their internal combustion engines!

    So how did we get from one to the other, and isn’t that what history is supposed to tell us? Is it normal for this range of history to coexist in the same area? Where else in the world can you see stone-age burial mounds, alongside high-speed jets taking off, and also have all the various stages of development in between with easy reach? How can all this history be packaged and commodified piece by piece?

    If you go to Las Vegas then you can see anything… Eiffel tower… Great Pyramids… Ceasar’s Palace… Showgirls… Casinos…

    Chester is never going to better that. But then what has Chester got that Las Vegas hasn’t? I think we’re currently looking in the wrong places if we want to tap into Chester’s ‘goldmine’.

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