Jul 2 2001 by Rachel Newton, Daily Post
THE Duke of Westminster officially re-opened Chester's Roman Gardens yesterday following a £200,000 refurbishment financed partly by his late aunt, the Duchess of Westminster.
Sally, Duchess of Westminster, who died in 1990, left £100,000 in her will for improvements to the historic community garden, near to the Roman amphitheatre.
The Duchess was the widow of Gerald Grosvenor, the fourth Duke of Westminster who held the position between 1963 and 1967.
She bequeathed 505,000 to a number of charities and organisations in Cheshire, including Chester Zoo, Abbeygate College, Barrowmore Village Settlement and the Cheshire Landscape Trust.
Performing the opening ceremony at the gardens yesterday, His Grace said: 'Sally, Duchess of Westminster, was a very special person.
'Although she moved back to Gloucestershire after the death of my uncle, Gerald, she wanted the people of Cheshire to benefit from her will and I am delighted so many good local causes have been able to realise long wished for projects as a result of these bequests.
'This garden sums up her love of horticulture and I hope it will be used, valued and enjoyed by the people of Chester for many years to come.'
It is the first major refurbishment of the gardens, which date from the 1930s when a public park was created to display a collection of finely carved building fragments from the Roman legionary fortress of Deva.
The six-month project involved a full re-designing of the gardens to produce a layout which represents a serpent coiled around a staff, a symbol of Aesculapius, the Roman God of Health.
The area can now be accessed by the disabled after steps were removed to make way for sloping footpaths.
There is also new planting and a series of interpretation plaques explaining the garden's history.
The remaining £100,000 cost of the refurbishment was supplied by the Bank of Scotland and the city council.
David Atkinson, a spokesman for the council, said: 'The gardens is a very pleasant area to sit and relax and still features Roman fragments and a medieval brick kiln.'
Yesterday the gardens were at the centre of a festival of outdoor entertainment as part of the Roman Invasion 2001 celebrations.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch Roman groups including soldiers, gladiators, guards, traders, musicians and Celts, perform re-enactment displays.