Take the kids to … Chester: A Life Story, Cheshire

A new heritage attraction in Chester aims to tell the story of the city through its people

In a nutshell

This new museum is in a Grade II-listed former church on the city’s Medieval Rows and traces 2,000 years of Cheshire history with an emphasis on objects and human stories. It spans 10 chapters (or sections) including crime, food and health, presenting lots of snappy, easy-to-digest (though somewhat lightweight) facts, and does a good job of drawing parallels between history and the modern day – such as contrasting medieval architecture with the city’s modernist bus station. The final section, about death – featuring a video of talking heads – is more for parents. The museum is run by Big Heritage, the company behind Liverpool’s secret wartime bunker, Western Approaches.

Fun fact

Visitors can enter a “time-travelling toilet” and watch a film about loos through the ages from Roman times to what they might look like in the future.

Best thing about it

It’s very hands on. You are encouraged to take objects out of cupboards and drawers, play with the digital cases and handle the exhibits – the antithesis of a traditional local history museum. My eight-year-old loved Prance Prance Revolution, an arcade game-style simulator to practise various dance routines from a medieval circle dance to 90s rave.

A museum assistant shows a young visitor one of the interactive exhibits at Chester: A Life Story museum.

What about lunch?

There’s no cafe but a noticeboard by the exit features regular promotions with local independent cafes. The first deal is with the bakery Crustum in nearby Chester Market.

Exit through the gift shop?

Yes, where there’s a range of local history books and nifty, if rather pricey, Chester heritage mugs (£7.50), plus a selection of Horrible Histories Top Trumps. More interesting is a selection of artworks by Cheshire artists, such as collage works by Liz Taylor and watercolours by Brigitte Watkinson.

Getting there

The museum is on the corner of Bridge Street Row in central Chester, with the city’s other attractions within waking distance. There is a bicycle park opposite the museum and park-and-ride buses drop off on nearby Pepper Street and Grosvenor Street. The museum is 20 minutes from Chester station, which has direct rail links from Liverpool, Manchester, and London Euston (in around two hours, on the west coast mainline). Chester has motorway connections via the M6, M56 and M53.

The former St Michael’s Church in Chester, which is now home to the heritage attraction, Chester: A Life Story.
The museum venue is a former church, St Michael’s Photograph: Mark Carline

Value for money?

It’s not the cheapest visit, especially as you’ll have covered the three rooms in an hour; and younger children, while drawn to the technology, may struggle to engage with some of the content. Adult £8.50, children and young adults (5-21) £7, under 5s free, family ticket (2+3) £25.

Opening hours

Daily 10am-5pm (last entry 4pm).


The museum is finding its feet, having opened in time for the Easter holidays, but it does offer a more interactive alternative to aspic-preserved museums. “Chester pleases my fancy,” wrote James Boswell in 1779 – it just might yours, too.



David Atkinson

The GuardianTramp

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