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The Name 'Roodee'
The name 'roodee' came from the fact that there was a cross or in Anglo-Saxon a 'rood' in the middle of the racecourse.
This was taken down in the middle ages. The base of the cross was removed but then reinstated. It can be seen today as a sandstone square base and part of the shaft. The second part of the name refers to the 'eye' or island. Because a long time ago the land was recovered from mud banks on the edge of the river Dee.
The Roodee is located at the end of Watergate Street to the South-West on the City Walls.
'On St Georges Day 1539 In the time of Henry Gee, Mayor of the King's city of Chester, in the XXXI year of King Henry Eighth, a bell of silver, to the value of 111s 1111d, is ordained to be the reward of that horse which shall run before all others" - The Roodee 450 years of racing in Chester by R.M. Bevan.
Organised racing on the Roodee at Chester began in 1540. The races were held on shove Tuesday until 1609, when the date was changed to St George's Day (23 April). The prize was a bell of silver made by the Chester Goldsmiths Company. At first the winner had to return the prize after a year. But in the early 17th Century the winner was allowed to keep it.
In 1623 the silver bell was replaced by a silver cup worth £8. The corporation and the guilds supported the races in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
From 1744 the head of the Grosvenor family annually gave a gold tumbler cup worth £50 as a prize at the May races. These cups became smaller as the price of gold rose. From 1801 - 1830 when the Grosvenor family stopped giving prizes, silver and gold trophies took their place.
The below cup is on display in the Ridgway Silver Gallery in the Grosvenor Museum.
"The Roodee was deemed part of Holy Trinity Parish, but it could not be tithed because it was land recovered from the sea.".
"Roman burials have been discovered so have two silver Roman denarii"
"A Roman tomb was discovered in 1874 thought to date from 90AD. It contained two skeletons one with a gold ring."
"In 1533 football was banned and from 1539 the Shoemakers provided six silver arrowheads as an award for a foot-race".
"In 1441 the rival gaolers from the Castle and the Northgate settled their differences with a fist fight on the Roodee".
"At the foot of the city wall by Nun's Road close to the Roodee, is some substantial masonry thought to have been part of the Roman quay wall. It is now thought to be footings for a Roman landing stage which reached across the river so that ships could dock at low tide.
The Roman Quay
In Roman times the river lapped against the City Walls. This is where the remains of a Roman Quay wall can still be seen.
In 1886 a pig of Roman lead weighing 87 KG or 192 lbs was found deep below the surface of the Roodee. It is on display in the Grosvenor museum.
A reconstruction from the Grosvenor Museum of how the Quay would have looked in Roman times.
After Race Party