Chester Unlocked

Home » Chester Unlocked

Chester Unlocked was a ground breaking collaboration between Chester's city centre's Business Improvement District, CH1ChesterBID, and Big Heritage. The event programme celebrated Chester's rich and hidden history and ran from June 2015 until January 2016. CH1ChesterBID exist to encourage and invest in local improvements to the city centre and are funded by local businesses (to learn more about them please visit


The project was designed to encourage footfall, movement and dwell time in Chester by using the city’s unique heritage and its active business community to engage locals and visitors alike through a series of events and activities. Big Heritage also wished to engage new audiences with the city's history and heritage.


Chester Unlocked was the umbrella brand for a three strand project: Hoot’s Route, the Deva Codex and Heritage Fringe Events.

Hoot's Route was the first phase of Chester Unlocked and comprised the first ever 'city-wide' museum trail revealing unseen artefacts from the vaults of Chester's Grosvenor Museum for the very first time. Artefacts ranged from the Bronze Age to the 1960's and were all found in Chester or associated with the city. A trail guide was created, 'Hoot', to help visitors locate the displays around the city centre.


The trail was comprised of twenty-nine venues with twenty-nine different exhibits housed in local businesses across Chester. The artefacts on display had either been found on the premises or linked to the current products on sale. For example, we displayed Roman gaming counters and board in a computer game shop, Victorian perfume bottles in a perfumery and medieval shoes in a shoe shop.


The exhibits were supported by a trail map, online website content and upon completion, visitors could download a personalised certificate.


The final mystery display for Hoot’s Route was in fact three Cheshire hoards. The Dutton Hoard dates from the Roman period and was buried in the last few decades of the Roman Empire, making it of national significance.  The Castle Esplanade Hoard was found in Chester in the 1950's and is comprised largely of Viking hack silver and coins. The hoard went on display in Santander, one of only a handful of locations in Chester secure enough to house the hoard. The final hoard was found in Winsford and was likely buried around the time of the English Civil War. Each hoard provided a snap shot into specific periods in Cheshire's history.


Hoot’s Route was commended at the New Year’s Chester Civic Trust Honours List and Highly Commended at the National Museums + Heritage Award in the 'Exhibition on a Limited Budget' category.


The Deva Codex was a trilogy of exciting ‘da Vinci style code breaking challenges’ that took place around the city of Chester, using the history of the city as inspiration for solving a 2000 year-old mystery. Each quest ran for three to four weeks at key periods in the calendar and were historically themed.

deva codex

Clues were based on standing buildings and associated stories in the city centre, bringing visitors to locations across the heart of Chester. The quests were supported by on-street characters and a strong film narrative. Visitors could pick up free quests packs with a map, field notebook and much more.

Elements of the different quest packs

Components of the different quest packs

The Heritage Fringe Events were developed in partnership with city centre retailers and venues and delivered throughout the project. These included opening Chester Pride, a historical catwalk showcasing fashion from the last 300 years alongside popular high street fashion brands, a Civil War pub tour and temporary exhibition with the pen that signed the peace treaty in Japan that ended WW2.

Chester Unlocked used PR and Marketing to great affect with an estimated  PR Value of £1,002,000. We used social media, a bespoke website and video content to support and promote the project. Below was our first promo video for the project.

You can find out all about the impact the project had for the city, visitors, retailers and associated heritage bodies. Download Chester Unlocked Project Evaluation