The museum occupies this 19th century building which was originally the accommodation for both soldiers and officers. The officers moved into the building opposite sometime in the late 1830s.
Behind the museum building is a yard surrounded by a wall. In 1790/1800 when this block was being designed and completed, barracks for soldiers were a fairly recent innovation. Previously they had all been billeted out in pubs and with local townsfolk. At this time the army acted as the police force for major disturbances. This is why the garrison was put between the town and the Crown Courts.
Thomas Harrison’s symmetrical design for the castle included the tower of St Mary’s Church as it balanced with the Agricola Tower.
The church is now a centre run by the County Council. It is noted for its extremely beautiful ceilings and the Gamul family tomb one of whom was a mayor during the civil war.
In the centre is the Crown Court. These buildings replaced the smaller Palatine Courts. The expense for most of the new castle – the main building and the right-hand wing of the castle – was borne by the Crown and the County.
The Agricola Tower was built in the late 12th century. The ground floor was rebuilt after a fire in the Royal Apartments in 1302.
There are the remains of some very fine 13th century frescoes on the walls of the Regimental chapel (on the 1st floor of the tower). It is likely that these were painted by artists who were brought back from Europe by Edward II.
The Officers Mess is on the opposite side of the square to the museum. This building, named Colvin House after a VC holder of the Cheshire Regiment remained a Mess until 1st July 1997 when the army vacated it. This building was originally built as an armoury.
One of the most famous guests at the Mess was Major Bernard Montgomery who stayed there in the 1920s; Montgomery later to become Field Marshal.
A more detailed history of the castle can be found at the following website:
Visiting Chester Castle, Agricola Tower…
Access to the Castle is by organised tours only. Chester Castle and the Agricola Tower are included in the Secret Chester Tour and as a private tour.
Please visit the English Heritage website for further information.