A not so famous ‘Bridge of Sighs’

To most people the “Bridge of Sighs” means this:

The Bridge of Sighs in Venice

The famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice

If you’re British or fortunate enough to have studied at one of the top universities you might even think of Cambridge or Oxford.
But Chester?

Well, if you were unfortunate enough, you could walk on the Bridge of Sighs in Chester in the late 18th and early 19th century. Back then, the bridge led from the Northgate gaol (jail), across the Shropshire Union Canal, to a chapel in the Bluecoat School. Condemned prisoners would cross the bridge to receive the last rites before their execution – some of them sighing, knowing what was to come. Hence the name Bridge of Sighs.

Bridge of Sighs, Chester, from canal

The bridge viewed from the canal.

The bridge used to have an iron railing to prevent prisoners from escaping.

bridge-of-sighs

It is designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building.

Prior to the crossing the prisoners probably spent their last few days or hours in the ‘Dead Man’s Room’ – the cell for prisoners who were waiting to be executed.

Illustration of what it looked like. Spotted it on a sign. Copyright Cheshire West and Chester Council

Illustration of what it looked like. Spotted it on a sign. Copyright Cheshire West and Chester Council

The Northgate gaol was on the right and the school chapel on the left.

bridge-of-sighs-canal2

The Bridge of Sighs is the first one.

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