Amphitheatre or Dee House? Chester could have it all (almost)!

Chester's Roman Amphitheatre has been a subject of speculation and debate ever since it was rediscovered by accident in the early Twentieth Century. Over the next sixty years the northern half of the arena has been excavated and displayed in stages. The southern half lies under Dee House and its surrounding grounds. Should the city and English Heritage allow the demolition of Listed Grade II Dee House so that excavation of the whole arena could be completed?

Opinion has swung backwards and forwards for decades and the debate is very much alive again.

There are many practical, economic and philosophical aspects to the debate. Over two decades ago(!), at another high point in the debate, John Tweed suggested that rather than 'either/or', one solution might be to keep both but to explore and exploit the relationship in a more dynamic and interpretive way - not competition but evolution through time.






If Dee House is to be kept and restored to good use, it clearly should retain the grounds that still surround it and provide its natural setting. But this need not prevent a phased excavation of the hidden part of the arena. Each section could move the story forwards, being followed by a roof structure that simply replaces the existing ground level around Dee House. In essence just like tunnel excavation. There would be a need to support and possibly extend the foundations of Dee House, but this is easy technology with well-tried engineering solutions.



Whatever method is chosen, the process could be set up to cause minimum disturbance to activity on the surface surrounding Dee House. The newly exposed floor of the arena would provide a live archaeological dig that could advance as quickly or slowly as circumstances allowed and the space created become a living interpretive exhibition of heritage exploration at work. Room for lots of interpretive possibilities around this approach..... Discuss!

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