|Churchill Building, University of Chester|
|Vicarage Building, University of Chester|
The British Army’s former ‘Western Command’ in Chester will be open to the public as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days.
The University of Chester is opening four of its historical buildings as part of the scheme, which will take place between September 7 and 10.
Two of those buildings are part of the scheme for the first time - the University’s Churchill Building in Queen’s Park, Handbridge (known in one of its previous lives as ‘Western Command’) and the University’s Vicarage, on Parkgate Road, which houses the English Department.
During the Open Days, the institution’s Riverside Museum will be open on Thursday, September 7 and Saturday, September 9 between 10am and 4pm, for visitors to drop in. The Museum features a letter written by Florence Nightingale from the Crimea, and is the home to a permanent collection of curiosities from the world of medicine, nursing, midwifery and social work. It also features The First World War: Returning Home exhibition which has recently been refurbished with the assistance of Big Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Nowadays, the Churchill Building in Queen’s Park is home to the University’s Business School. Initially referred to as ‘Capital House’, it was completed in 1937-8 as a purpose-built centre for the British Army’s ‘Western Command’ military base (which had previously been based in the centre of Chester, on Watergate Street). Built in the Neo-Georgian style, the building was used in a military context until the 1990s, when it was sold to a banking company. The distinctive portico and pillars were added during this time, and, as a result, today’s building looks very different to the original. During its time as Western Command, a substantial network of subterranean rooms was built under the structure, extending towards the river - they were initially used as secure meeting places during the Second World War and later as bunkers during the Cold War. The tour of the building will include the opportunity to see the De Gaulle Brasserie at the top, which takes in fantastic views of the River Dee and the city.
Buildings such as the Vicarage, which now houses the English Department, illustrate Douglas’s ability to design buildings that reflected existing local architecture. The medieval-style features of the Vicarage are inspired by Chester’s various churches and the Cathedral. In Chester, perhaps the most famous work attributed to John Douglas is the Eastgate Clock, which is said to be the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben.
The Chapel was originally built by students at the then Chester Diocesan Teacher Training College and has played an integral part in the life of the institution from its early days. It forms both a focal point for activities which reflect the Church of England foundation of the University, and also as a symbol for the community spirit which is such an important feature of Chester for generations of students and staff.
Visitors to the Chapel are welcome to turn up between 10am and 4pm during the Heritage Open Days.
The University of Chester Riverside Museum will be open on Thursday, September 7 and Saturday, September 9 between 10am and 4pm for visitors to drop in.
Tours at Churchill House, Queen’s Park, must be booked in advance. They are taking place on Thursday September 7 only, between 2pm and 3pm, and 3.15pm and 4.15pm. The tours of the Vicarage will only be on Friday September 8 at 2pm and 3.15pm and must also be booked in advance.
To book the tours, please contact Chester History and Heritage on email at email@example.com or phone 01244 972210 Monday to Friday 10am until 12 noon and 1 pm until 4 pm.
You can pick up the Heritage Open Days booklet giving details of all buildings open to view locally at Chester History and Heritage and the Tourist Information Centre.
For more information about Heritage Open Days in England, please visit: https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/