Over Easter, the boy and I had a couple of days in Chester. Keen to fill our boots with some history, we visited the Deva Roman Discovery Centre. The Deva Roman Discovery Centre is an interactive museum showcasing life in Roman Chester. It’s aimed at families and is filled with stories from across the empire.
Deva is tucked away down a side street, just off the main shopping area in Chester. It took us a couple of minutes to find it, but google maps is your friend here. We arrived mid-morning and had just missed the start of a tour, so we bought our tickets and nipped off for a quick coffee with instructions to return at 11am for the next tour. The tours are really regular, so if you can either take a chance, or book your slot in advance.
You are taken around the discovery centre by a Roman soldier, and in small groups you’re led around this experience. You begin by setting sail on a Roman ship, heading to the shores of Britain, and you’re soon embarking on your new life as a Roman soldier.
Learning about Roman life at the Deva Roman Discovery Centre
Once you’re off the boat, you get to walk through the recreated Roman streets of Chester. As well as finding out about Roman life, you also learn about the food they ate and how they prepared it. Roasted dormouse, anyone?
The Romans were famous for their bath houses and cleaning rituals, and at Deva Roman Discovery Centre, you learn about Roman baths and their communal toilets, and their toilet sponges! All of the information it pitched to a family audience and riddled with facts and information they can delight (or horrify) their teacher with when they are back at school. I am a bit of a domestic history geek, so I loved learning about everyday Roman life.
Trying on a Gladiator style helmet!
Once you’ve visited the baths, your Roman soldier tour guide takes you to the armoury where you can learn more about armour and Roman weapons. You end up in a colosseum, where if you’re lucky, you can dress as a gladiator and learn about how the Romans enjoyed these brutal entertainments.
Moving on, you’re invited to watch a short film about Roman Chester. Learning how archaeologists dug and discovered the history beneath your feet. You can then take your time to explore the hands on exhibits, trying Roman clothes on and learning more about archaeology. It’s a small, but interesting museum. We really liked the tour with the Roman soldier guide, who was brimming with knowledge. It was a great way for both my son and me to absorb the information. Once the official tour was over, we were able to try on costumes and have a go at archaeology, as well as looking at and reading about Roman finds in our own time was great.
Dusting down his archaeology skills.
I did wonder if my 12 year old might have found it a bit young, but he loved every second. They got him grinding wheat to make flour, wielding swords and finally dressing up as a fearsome gladiator. He really enjoyed it and in the days since our visit has spent time reading more about the Romans in Chester.
I believe that during school holidays on certain days you can also book a place at the Soldier School. This is where the Roman soldiers teach you how to wield a weapon and drill you in the art of marching like a true Roman soldier. Something we will be booking to do over the summer!
Tickets to Deva Roman Discovery Centre are currently £8 per adult and £4 per child. They are bookable in advance on the website. We spent just under two hours there, and we learned a lot!
DEVA Roman Discovery Centre is on Pierpoint Lane Chester CH1 1NL