Rock Lane, the short cut between Parkgate road and Liverpool road has reopened today after over 4 years following a collapse of the walls back in November 2012. The previously unstable walls of the 100 metre lane are thought to have been built in the 19th century to retain gardens of houses built at that time. Also known as Prince Rupert’s Trench, the area was used by Royalist forces during the siege of Chester to move artillery around the city’s perimeter. Prince Rupert, the King’s nephew visited the city soon after the outbreak of the Civil War in March 1644; he voiced concerns about artillery mobility and ordered his ‘great trench’ to be built to facilitate movement.
The 4 year reopening process was due to long and complex investigations into the ownership of walls . Ownership of the collapsed section of wall could not be determined, so the Council stepped in to repair that section of wall, in the absence of an owner. A further section of privately-owned wall was then repaired to allow access for contractors to work on a long section of wall belonging to the University of Chester. When all the repairs to the walls alongside Rock Lane were completed, the Council re-surfaced the lane. “As with a lot of areas in Chester the historical nature of some of the great things we look at every day make it very complicated. ” explained Cllr Richard Beacham “It’s all had to be unpicked over a 4 year period and when ownership was agreed people had to find money to get their parts done . The Council did their part quite quickly, but in the end we have the right result. ”
Rebecca Rideal, historian, author and former television producer cut the ribbon as the walkway was reopened. “Its fantastic to see Chester’s Civil war history being spoken about, we have a wonderful history here, or Medieval and Roman history but its important to remember the Civil War history as well . Chester was under siege for many years and its great that the work of the Parliamentarians and the Royalists is being commemorated. ”
Ed Abrams formerly of Chester Civil War tours has long campaigned to reopen the trench and raise awareness of its significance. “This first came to light about 4 years ago, credit to Neil Bellis of the Standard for doing a piece on it to try and engage the public. Now we have it open with the amazing signage its all part of the small victories that we have to take to bring the Civil War history to life. There’s still loads more to do but thank you to everyone that’s got this trench open. The trench is as significant as the city walls, it protected this part of the city from Parliamentarian forces who were coming over from Liverpool. ”
The Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Wellbeing, Councillor Louise Gittins said: “Rock Lane is one of Chester historic assets – the Civil War is a key part of the city’s history and can sometimes be overshadowed by its Roman heritage. It’s been a slow journey to get here today but now it’s open once again anyone passing through can find out a bit more about Rock Lane’s history and importance to Chester.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their support and patience while the complex legal investigations and extensive repairs were carried out.”