The Chester blog

Recoloured 1920s images brings Chester archaeologists back to life

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Historic photographs showing some of the earliest archaeological digs in Chester have been carefully
restored and coloured as part of a new exhibition in the new Deva Roman Discovery Centre.

The attraction, formerly known as Deva Roman Experience has changed ownership after 30 years,
with new owners Big Heritage aiming to tell not only the story of Roman Chester, but also the story
of how it was rediscovered and excavated.

Roman barracks excavated with the Cathedral in the background

Amongst the photographs are some of Chester’s first archaeologists working at iconic locations
across the city – including the excavation of Roman barracks on Deanery Field in 1928, and the first
photos of the Amphitheatre being revealed in 1929.

Dee House overlooking the Amphitheatre (1929)


Dean Paton, founder of Big Heritage said: “We are going to reopen Deva to the public with some of
the most impressive and complete sequences of urban archaeology on display anywhere in the UK,
not just Chester. We have therefore dedicated an entire new section to the story of archaeology in
the city, the highs and lows of preservation and destruction, and of course some of the first heroes
and heroines who lead the way. It’s their images that we’ve restored to full colour glory.

Much of the archaeology at this time was led by Professor Robert Newstead, the first curator at the
Grosvenor Museum and widely seen as one of the most important figures in the discovery of Roman
Chester. The Grosvenor Museum own the original photos, and Big Heritage have donated the
copyright for these new colour images back to the museum for their future use.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “What a fascinating start
for the new Deva Roman Discovery Centre. Adding colour to these images helps bring them to life
and is a reminder of the wealth of archaeology discovered in Chester. Our museum service has a
huge photographic archive with many digitised photographs available on the image bank
cheshireimagebank.org.uk, which is viewed by people from all over the world.”
“I am looking forward to visiting the new Discovery Centre, set to be another must-see attraction for
Chester.”
The photos also feature Mrs Page Cox, Miss Paget and Miss Dickinson, three assistants to Prof
Newstead who played a vital part in the excavation and recording process at a time when few
women were involved in archaeology.

Mrs Paige Cox holding a Roman whistle found in Deanery Field (1928)

Deva Roman Discovery Centre (devaromancentre.co.uk) opens on the 27th August

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