History of Cheshire: The Medieval Period

The history of Cheshire during the medieval period is one of waste and destruction. However, despite the vengeance of the conquering Normans, some of Cheshire’s most famous historical buildings were constructed at the time.

1066 to 1070 – The Harrying of the North

The victory of William The Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 initiated the Norman period. For Cheshire, the Norman conquest was a particularly harrowing and devastating experience. In what was called “the Harrying of the North,” Cheshire experienced considerable devastation at the hands of its Norman conquerors. After his conquest, William confiscated most of the land from the Saxon landowners, handing it to his followers for their support at the Battle of Hastings. Facing stiff resistance from the north of England, William set out to extinguish all discontent. Land and villages were destroyed, as much of Cheshire laid in waste. In 1069, property belonging to the Saxon Earl of Mercia, the former King Harald’s brother-in-law, was confiscated by William.

1070 – The Construction of Chester Castle

In 1070, the city of Chester was besieged and, after being overran by the invading force, was ransacked, leaving much of it in ruin. By that time, half of the Saxon houses there were destroyed, to make way for the construction of Chester Castle.

1086 – The Domesday Book

Compiled in 1086, the Domesday Book eternalised the fate met out upon Cheshire by the Norman conquerors. The document described much of Cheshire’s land as “wasta,” meaning wasteland, aptly portraying the ruin this great historical county faced.

1093 – The Construction of Chester Cathedral

Today one of Chester’s main tourist attractions, Chester Cathedral’s construction began in 1093. Initially, it was constructed as a Benedictine monastery by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, also known as “the Wolf.” Later, with the help of Anselm, who became the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lupus’ wife Ermtrude converted it into a grand Benedictine monastery.