Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Phantom Roman Soldier of Chester

The county of Cheshire has long guarded the northern end of the border between England and Wales. Even before the two nations existed, the Romans built a mighty fortress here to block the wild mountain tribes from raiding into the rich lowlands. The English king of Mercia, Offa, built his dyke here for much the same reason and medieval kings of England dotted the county with castles.

In these peaceful days the fortresses have long been abandoned. There are prosperous farms where the rich red soil is ploughed for arable crops, and the flourishing towns of Tatton, Runcorn and Chester give the county a more modern, urban face.

The ghosts are fairly widespread across the area, but do tend to congregate in the older towns and villages. The ancient county town of Chester boasts perhaps the oldest in the form of a Roman soldier. This ghostly legionary paces endlessly between the ruined Roman tower beside Newgate in the city walls and the excavated ruins of the amphitheatre.

Local tradition has it that this was a decurian of the XI Legion Adiutrix, which was stationed here soon after the Roman conquest. This decurian fell in love with a local girl and was in the habit of slipping out of the fortress city, then known as Deva, to meet his lover. Unfortunately a band of tough Celtic warriors got to hear of this and, one evening, followed the girl to her secret assignation. As soon as the decurian appeared, the warriors pounced on him, bundling him into a ditch while they slipped into the city through the open postern gate to steal and plunder as much as they could. The decurian broke free and rushed to raise the alarm, but was then cut down by a Celtic sword. His route is presumed to be that along which he ran while trying to save his comrades.

This is an extract from Ghosthunter Guide to England by Rupert Matthews.

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