Peppergate Row: Peppergate Street –
The Pepper Gate Elopement
The story goes that in 1578, during the reign of Elizabeth I, Ellen, the beautiful daughter of the Mayor of Chester, Ralph Aldersey had fallen in love with Luke, a penniless suitor. Her proud father wanted to ‘marry her well’ to an older, wealthier man and forbad the match, He also made sure Ellen was watched carefully to make sure she did not elope. But the resourceful Ellen was made of sterner stuff and managed to elude her Father and the two young lovers rode off together on horseback through the City’s Peppergate to the ‘wild lands’ of Wales, where they could be together. The Mayor was so angry, he ordered the gate be closed at night, causing all sorts of issues for horse-drawn traffic into the city.
It gives rise to what used to be a popular local saying of the period, ‘ When the daughter is stolen/Shut the Pepper Gate’.This is similar in meaning to the more well-known saying: ‘shutting the door after the horse has bolted.’
The story has a happy ending however. After their marriage the couple went abroad and Luke prospered, distinguishing himself in foreign wars, leading to him being knighted by Queen Elizabeth. The couple returned, eventually, to Chester as Lord and Lady Lacey.
Pepper Gate is now open for all couples to kiss passionately underneath before heading off to Wales, or back in the city for a latte, should the mood take you.
Wishing Steps, Chester Walls (near River Dee)
Chester’s Walls were originally built in Roman times. However, this flight of steps, arranged in sets of three, was built about 1785. It links the different levels of the south and east walls and romantically overlooks the River Dee, not far from the bandstand and the mooring sites for boat trips along the River Dee.
These steps are associated with a romantic legend stretching back a couple of hundred years, stating that if an unmarried girl successfully ran up and down the steps while holding her breath, the man of her choice would propose to her. But in more modern times (see HV Morton quote below) this now seems to apply more generally to making your wishes come true, whether you are a man or woman. Certainly it seems like the ideal place to wish for true love.
In his 1924 work, In Search of England, author HV Morton recalled, “Why? I asked a man who was standing on them, looking as though none of his wishes had ever come true. ‘Well’, he said, in the curiously blunt way they have here, ‘You have to run up and down and up again without taking breath, and then they say you’ll get your wish’.
Billy Hobby’s Well: Grosvenor Park, Chester
Located in Chester’s beautiful Grosvenor Park – one of the finest examples of a Victorian park in the country – this well, is now covered by an attractive Grade II-listed building (built in 1867) but was thought to be originally named after the spring in ‘Billy Obbies’ Field’, before the creation of the park.
But it has also been suggested that the name ‘Hobb’ is synonymous with Puck, and Puck possibly has a Roman origin, meaning that the site could in this case be a much earlier Pagan site. Whatever the origins of its name, the spring with its clear water became associated with a local rhyme (see below) that suggests the spring has magical powers. In this case, if a maiden stood with her right leg in the water and wished for husbands, her wishes might be granted.
I lov’d the tales that idle maids do tell,
Of wonders wrought at Billy Hobby’s Well,
Where love-sick girls with leg immured would stand,
The right leg ’twas – the other on dry land,
With face so simple – stocking in the hand –
Wishing for husbands half a winter’s day.
With ninety times the zeal they used to pray
The Suspension Bridge
This bridge across the River Dee was officially opened in 1923 and offers stunning views of the river and the city. It is the perfect place to watch the swans and hold hands before going on a river cruise or diving into one of the nearby eateries, such as the cosy ‘Moorings’ café, the Boathouse Pub or Hickory’s Smokehouse.
Chester Bandstand – North side of River Dee
For over a century, Chester’s iconic bandstand has been the perfect space for live music to entertain couples who strolled along the groves hand-in-hand, at this most romantic of locations. The bandstand still hosts live music throughout summer, but in the winter, it provides a backdrop for lovers to warm each other with a tender kiss.