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St John’s Ruins re-opened

Cheshire West and Chester 20/12/2021

After a programme of maintenance work and structural repairs

St John’s Ruins in Chester has re-opened after a programme of maintenance work and structural repairs. The Scheduled Ancient Monument is in the care of Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The condition of the structure was assessed following a photogrammetry and topographical survey by Chester based Russell Geomatics Ltd resulting in a virtual 3D model of the site being produced. This allowed the design team to determine the work that was needed to ensure the site remains in a safe condition and available to be enjoyed by members of the public. 

The Council commissioned Chester based consultants Ramboll and Thornton Firkin to obtain the necessary Scheduled Monument Consent and Faculty to work on the Ruins, produce the tender documents and design the repairs to the fragile monument.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “Chester has 723 Listed Buildings and 14 Scheduled Monuments all playing an important part in making the city so distinctive for residents and the 14 million visitors we are used to welcoming to the city. This has been important work to ensure the Ruins can continue to welcome visitors for years to come. The work has been able to continue despite the pandemic.

“Some of the stones held in storage in the Chapter House can now be seen in the church. There is still some work to be completed on the Chapter House in the New Year including replacing waterproofing on the Chapter House roof, replacing a corroded barrier to the West Tower and refreshing gravel areas within the Ruins.”

Works completed onsite:

  • Descaling high level masonry
  • Repointing and minor masonry repairs
  • Repaired dry stone walls, cobble paths and edgings
  • Installation of erosion control matting
  • Unfixed stones have been moved from the West Tower to store in the Chapter House
  • Improved anti pigeon netting and removed guano to the stonework
  • Installed new barriers to unprotected edges
  • Replaced an existing damaged electrical cabinet
  • Repaired the gate to the stairwell and the timber door to the Chapter House
  • Removed vegetation growth to the walls and wall tops
  • Re-enamelling of interpretation plaques

Also Included within the programme of work was general tree maintenance works. This included crown reducing trees to provide clearance from the walls, and crown lifting work to trees surrounding the church.

During the work several pieces of archaeologically significant stonework were discovered which have been moved into safe storage to preserve them for future generations.

The first church on this site was founded by the Anglo-Saxon King, Ethelred of Mercia, in 689. The ruins seen today are the remains of the Norman choir and medieval chapels which once formed the east end of St John’s Church.

St John’s Church was actually the first Cathedral in Chester. The church website explains that the Church of St John the Baptist was the Cathedral and Collegiate Church for Chester from 1075 until 1541 when the Bishops Seat (Cathedral) was transferred to the Abbey of St Werburgh, which was in better condition.

In the Middle Ages St John’s was known as the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St John the Baptist; it was supposed to own a relic of the true Cross brought back from the Crusades.

The Great West Tower collapsed in 1881 and together with the ruins at the East end is now part of the Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade I Listed building that is the Church of St John the Baptist, Chester. Visit: