On our first Saturday back in Chester we decided to follow the advice of @sylviamdunn37 who responded to my call for ideas with a suggestion that we should:
Go over the Handbridge and find Minerva in Edgar’s Field.— sylvia dunn💚 (@sylviamdunn37) August 1, 2020
Despite being from near Chester and pretty heavily into history and archaeology growing up, I had no idea this was here, so had to drag Saini and Elvi along for a look. We walked from The Cross in the centre of town and, in terms of the Roman city, went south from the principia, leaving the historic fortress to cross the rather more recent Grosvenor Street into Lower Bridge Street. A bit less than 2000 years ago this part of Chester was an extra-mural area, though possible with its own wall, containing a large ‘coaching inn’ and other buildings. Basically, it was where you would stay when you arrived in Chester if you didn’t fancy the probably more mixed, informality of what is now Foregate Street. The area is now inside the later medieval wall line, so at the bottom of Lower Bridge Street we left the post-Roman walled City through the Georgian Bridgegate to cross the Old Dee Bridge into Handbridge.
On your right as you come from Chester is Edgar’s Field, a small park whose entrance is dominated by a busy playground and the open balcony of The Ship Inn, both full of enthusiastic participants.
Beyond is Minerva, a shrine to the Roman goddess of, among other things, wisdom. The site is a former sandstone quarry and I find myself wondering whether building a shrine to the goddess of ‘defensive war’ in a quarry extracting stone for a legionary fortress was an attempt to build divine protection into the city walls. The popular interpretation is that it was carved by workers, but I can easily imagine the shrine holding more significance for those who commissioned the work.
Either way, it felt like we should leave an offering for Minerva to help ease our move into the life of the city. We left a 50p coin that we found on the floor on our way there and, one of Minerva’s symbols being an olive tree, poured a libation of olive oil.