What to see
The higher reaches of the park, towards the city centre, are flat and feature sweeping lawns, ornamental flower beds and formal avenues lined with trees. In contrast, the slopes near the river offer meandering shady paths and the occasional remnant of a medieval building.
The bedding displays are planted twice yearly to provide a spectacular and colourful display throughout the spring and summer months.
There are also a number of fully restored, newly introduced and Grade II* listed features to explore all year round:
The Second Marquess of Westminster Statue
This magnificent statue, which enjoys a prominent position at the centre of the park, was designed by Thomas Thornicroft and shows Richard Grosvenor the Marquess of Westminster in his garter robes.
The 2m high white Sicilian marble was erected in 1868 at the intersection of the two main avenues and cost upwards of £5,000, paid by subscription originated in November 1865. It sits on a pedestal of Derbyshire Granite and is set within a planted bed with decorative sandstone edges. It was originally surrounded by two pairs of gun, one captured by British soldiers during the Boer War and another taken in the Crimean War. The guns were removed during WWII and the metal used for munitions.
Main entrance gates
The granite gate piers for the main entrance were designed by John Douglas in his characteristic style of chamfered square profiles leading to a pyramidal top. The decorative gates, which no longer exist, were supplied by John Hardman and Co. The original gates have been replaced by less ornate versions during the 20th Century.
The raised octagonal viewing platform was originally meant to be the location of a Belvedere as designed by Edward Kemp, and referred to in the original accounts for building the park as the ‘shelter shed’. Plans were drawn by John Douglas for the structure but it was never fully realised.
The viewing area is supported by 3m high sandstone block walls and has level access from the north – south avenue, and stepped access from the lower level of the park via two sets of stone steps located either side of the viewing area.
The Quarry Garden was a specific feature of the park and became the venue for the relocated medieval arches, including St Mary’s Nunnery Arch and St Michael’s Arch, both relocated from St John’s churchyard where they had been erected from their original sites, and the old Shipgate Arch and Jacob’s Well, both relocated from a position on the Groves.
St Michael’s Church Arch
The Arch is from the former west door of St Michael’s Church, which is otherwise still standing on the junction of Bridge Street and Pepper Street. The church itself is now the home of Chester History and Heritage. The church was rebuilt several times over the years including after the Civil War because it had been greatly damaged during the siege of Chester. In 1840 the whole church was declared unsafe and almost totally rebuilt by James Harrison – the Victorian architect associated with the redesign of a number of Chester churches. It is probably at this time that the former west gate was removed, eventually to be located in Grosvenor Park, possibly via St John’s Churchyard.
Boundary walls and railings
The park’s boundary and entrances, excluding the length to the rear of Knightsbridge Court are Grade II listed. The boundary wall and railing were designed by John Douglas. The iron work made by James Mowle & Co, a local Chester company as requested by the Marquess and the stone work was carried out by Henry Wigginer. Only small samples of the original iron railings survive.
Circular Formal Garden
Originally a circular lawn area, as designed by Kemp, the Circular Formal Garden was planted out with several, small irregular shrubs. The radial paths surfaced with crazy paving with concrete pin kerbs and bedding plants in isolated geometric shaped beds were introduce in the 1950s as part of an overhaul of the shrubberies.
Billy Hobby’s Well Community Garden
This historic feature, reputed to have magical properties, is tucked away in the south-eastern corner of the park. Designed by John Douglas and originally used as a pump house to circulate water to the pond and throughout the park, today the well is the focus of a long-term project to create a community garden with volunteers offering time and energy to help reinvigorate this area.
The Lodge was designed by John Douglas in the half-timbered style and was built between 1865 and 1867. It comprises two storeys and was the original park keepers lodge. It is constructed from red sandstone to the ground flower with timber frame and plaster panels above. The roof is tiled with red and blue Bangor slates and tiles from the Potteries. Later additions include a single storey wing to the rear and much of the original features remain.
Main avenue and associated features
The main avenue is one of the ‘backbones’ of Edward Kemp’s design for the park and hosts a number of features along its length: stone-edged planting beds, a stone seat end feature by John Douglas and a symmetrical avenue of alternate limes and holly trees. The view from the seat is orientated along the axis of the avenue rather than of the River Dee and Meadow are behind, which can be viewed from the Belvedere. Large mature trees form a screen and shelter to the rear of the seating area.
St Mary’s Nunnery Arch
St. Mary’s Nunnery Arch is a red sandstone arch with winged walls, built in at one end to the rockery wall of the garden. The wing walls contain arched recesses.
The arch dates from around the 13th century. This structure was originally part of St Mary’s Benedictine Nunnery and is likely to date from the 13th century. In medieval times Chester had a monastery, three friaries and this nunnery. The nunnery was in the west of the city on the site of the former Cheshire Police HQ (recently demolished), to the north of the castle.
The Old Shipgate Arch
The Old Shipgate is a slender sandstone arch with minimal wing walls. This arch once spanned the medieval Shipgate in the City Walls – just to the west of the present Bridgegate and next to what is now the University of Chester (formerly County Hall). Outside the walls here were once quays for seagoing vessels and at one time a ferry. It was removed from the City Wall around 1897 and in 1923 relocated to its present position in the park.
Jacob's Well Drinking Fountain
Jacob’s Well is a sandstone arched feature set into rock face mounted on a base stone. There is no evidence of having been connected to a water supply and it is completely dry. This little stone arch, set into the foot of a sandstone outcrop, had a fountain for people and a dish for their pets although it is now dried up.
Today it looks as it was designed to be here but this is not its original location. The arch originally stood in the Groves where it was a former ‘landmark’ next to the path leading up to St John’s Church. The well front was relocated into Grosvenor Park in 1923 when the new toilet block was constructed in its original place. On the keystone there is an inscription from the New Testament – ‘whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again’. This is a quote from John 4.13 concerning the story of Jesus asking for a Samaritan woman to give him a drink from water she had drawn from Jacob’s Well in Samaria.