King Charles Tower, Chester
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Phoenix Tower stands at the northeast corner of the city walls in Chester, England. The tower is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. It has also been known as Newton Tower and King Charles’ Tower.The structure probably originated in the 13th century. During the later part of the 16th century the tower was leased to two city guilds, the Painters and Stationers, and the Barbers and Chandlers, who sublet it to other guilds. By 1612 the fabric of the tower was in a poor condition, and the lead had been lost from its roof. It was restored by the two guilds, and above the door they placed a plaque containing the date 1613 and a carving of a phoenix, the emblem of the Painters. In the Civil War, during the Siege of Chester in 1645, the tower had a gun in each storey, and it was damaged in the conflict. A plaque on the tower states that King Charles I stood on the tower on 24 September 1645 as he watched his soldiers being defeated at the Battle of Rowton Heath. The historian Simon Ward has expressed doubts about this and has suggested that the king may have stood instead on a tower of Chester Cathedral, which he considers is confirmed by evidence that a captain standing beside him was killed by a stray shot.
The guilds resumed possession of the tower in 1658, and repaired it. They ceased possession by about 1773, after which the city carried out repairs. However, by 1838, the tower was described as being in a dilapidated condition. By this time, the city was promoting it as a tourist attraction because of its reputed connection with King Charles. In the late 1850s, the lower chamber was being used by a print-seller, and later in the century the tower was made a private museum.
The King Charles Tower, otherwise known as the Phoenix Tower, or the Newton Tower, it is one of the impressive towers on the circuit of Chester’s city walls. The tower is of medieval origin and occupies the site of, or is very close close to, the original Roman North East Tower. The tower is a grade I listed building. The present structure probably originated in the thirteenth century. The red sandstone tower stands to a height of around 70 feet (21 metres) and is in four stages, the lower two of which are below the walkway on the wall. Each of the upper stages contains a chamber. At the level of the walkway, in the third stage, is a round-headed doorway.
The Guide to Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire and the Wirral
As late as 1571, Braun’s map of Chester shows that the walls boasted no fewer than seventeen towers. Sadly, a mere handful survive today and of these, the Phoenix Tower is probably the best known. By the mid-17th century, the tower was in a ruinous condition, but was nontheless taken on as the meeting place of two of the city guilds- the Company of Barber Surgeons, Tallow Chandlers and Wanchandlers, the other was that of the Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers & Stationers- on the understanding that they would put it in good order and subsequently maintain it. Because of the battering it had received during the Civil War siege, the upper parts of the tower had to be largely rebuilt.
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The Phoenix Tower was, in earlier times, generally known as the Newton Tower, that being the name of the suburb overlooked from the wall at this point, and, more notably, later as the King Charles Tower to commemorate the events of September 1645, during the English Civil War, when King Charles I, together with the mayor, Sir Francis Gamul, stood on the roof and witnessed the rout of his army by Parliamentary forces after the Battle of Rowton Moor (or Rowton Heath). The inscription upon the tower states: ‘KING CHARLES STOOD ON THIS TOWER SEPT 24th 1645 AND SAW HIS ARMY DEFEATED ON ROWTON MOOR’. Actually, it would have been impossible to see the field of battle from here- what they probably witnessed was later action on Hoole Heath and fugitives from the fray being pursued and harried through the eastern suburbs.
Chester: A Virtual Stroll Around The Walls