Discovering Albion- Day 3: Climbing the tower

scotland trip jan 15 320We decided to climb the tower of Chester Cathedral. The 216 steps to the top allow you through narrow passageways that have been closed to the public for a thousand years. We climbed the spiral staircase where hanks of black horsehair still sprout from the walls; a material used to strengthen the medieval plaster.

scotland trip jan 15 317Emerging from the first part of the winding stair there is a magnificent view into the body of the church. I could have wished for longer to photograph the bosses on the ceiling, but our guide moved on, ready to show us the Roman pillars supporting the Norman arches… a bit of early architectural recycling.

scotland trip jan 15 318Higher still and we entered the bell tower. In the lower room there is a collection of machinery used to ring, toll and chime the bells… a small museum in itself. In the centre of the room a small aperture opens like a well through which you look down to the Crossing far below. For me, however, the graffiti was the most fascinating discovery… centuries of names, dates, doodles and designs carved into the stone of the walls. Arcane symbols and practical ones… even the points of the compass onto which someone had carved a bird.

scotland trip jan 15 339Most of the bells have been removed from the church tower and rehoused in a purpose built modern structure close by. The weight and movement of the great bells was causing structural damage to the fabric of the tower. Now only two remain, dating from 1606 and 1626. One is the Curfew Bell.

scotland trip jan 15 326The name comes from the French ‘couvre feu’… cover fire… It marks the daily curfew, when folks would head to bed and has been rung between 8.45pm and 9pm each night since the 14th century. Originally it signalled the closing of the city gates… and, according to local tradition warned any Welshmen to leave the city, the story going on to say it was acceptable to shoot any stray Welshmen after 9pm with a bow and arrow.

scotland trip jan 15 349From the top of the tower Wales can be seen, along with five counties on a clear day… and the day was perfect. It is the highest point in the city and from here the landscape itself tells a story. The defensive position of the Roman Garrison is easy to see as the plain spreads out below, bounded by hills. Even today the cathedral dominates Chester… how impressive must it have been amid the low buildings of yesteryear?

scotland trip jan 15 371It is said that King Charles I followed these narrow ways to the top of the tower and watched the defeat of his forces at Rowton Moor from this spot, bringing him another step closer to the headsman’s blade. I imagine he would have been accompanied by his entourage. We, however, were lucky enough to be alone as the cold of January is not a time for crowds of tourists.

scotland trip jan 15 333I have often looked up at the hidden passageways that run through the walls of such buildings and wished I could walk them. There was a real sense of privilege in being able to do so… to look down on the green square bordered by the cloisters with the Waters of Life statue at its heart… to see the Roman wall encircling the heart of the city and then within once more, to see the glory of the stained glass so close.

scotland trip jan 15 355

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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12 Responses to Discovering Albion- Day 3: Climbing the tower

  1. stevetanham says:

    Lovely set of posts. The distant hills come out well, too. The clarity is amazing.


  2. awesome journal…fabulous photography 🙂 well down, m’Lady, Sue 🙂


  3. A building i know well, Sue, from earlier days when i lived in Chester with my family. Good memories – Thank You for bringing them back..
    Big Hugs



  4. olganm says:

    Beautiful post. I visited Chester quite a few years back but it might be time for another visit soon. And it’s much entertaining than the step climber at the gym!


  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Am really enjoying the tour. I found the bit about curfew history amusing, tough to be Welsh in that town! Imagine a bell ringing every night for the last seven hundred years – wow! Countless generations of bell ringers, talk about job security. 😉 I suppose it is automated now – did they do it recently?


    • Sue Vincent says:

      There is a long history of feuding along the Welsh Marches that goes way back. 🙂
      The external Bell Tower that houses most of the bells now was opened in 1975. I have a feeling the curfew bell is still rung by hand though.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I also found the order to shoot Welshmen amusing, although, I doubt it was at the time. Wonderful view from the tower.


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