Cathedral exhibition to explore legacy of Empire

Chester Cathedral is preparing for its first exhibition looking at relationships between the 900-year-old Cathedral and the British Empire in its history. 

Imperial Legacies, Sacred Space is an exhibition hosted by Chester Cathedral in partnership with the University of Chester. It seeks to explore points of connection between colonialism, slavery, and empire at Chester Cathedral. The content of the exhibition has been informed by research from the University of Chester, and objects and narratives held in the collections of Chester Cathedral, Cheshire Archives, and Chester Military Museum. Two case studies explored in the exhibition use monuments and objects from the Cathedral collection as a starting point for considering why items and monuments connected with British colonialism are in Chester Cathedral and what they tell us about understandings of colonialism in our past.   

The exhibition will occupy the South Transept of the Cathedral and will be open to the public between Thursday 18 and Tuesday 30 May during normal Cathedral opening times. The information and objects included in the exhibition are creatively interpreted in a series of performances that have been curated by second-year Music, Media, and Performance students from the University of Chester. Performances can be experienced without booking on Thursday 18 May at 3pm and Friday 19 May at 12pm, 3pm, and 6.30pm in and around the Cathedral. 

Attendees of the exhibition will also be able to sign up for lectures and a reflection session at Chester Cathedral. These events are designed to explore the topics and issues raised by the exhibition material and discuss ways forward for the Cathedral in its work to decolonise its collections. The Imperial Legacies, Sacred Space project seeks to use its findings to build positive relationships with communities that have been harmed by insensitive portrayals of histories.   

Dean of Chester, The Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford says: "The memorials, sculptures and objects that you will find in Chester Cathedral all have their stories to tell. These stories will leave their impressions on everybody who gives time to engage with them. Someone may feel affirmed whilst the same object’s story might leave another ashamed and someone else shocked. The memorial objects gathered in this exhibition have powerful stories to tell and engagement with them will reveal many worlds of truth."

Dr Hannah Ewence and Dr Ben Fulford from the University of Chester say: "Britain has been doing much soul-searching in recent years, re-evaluating the nation’s relationship to its imperial past. We are really excited to be working with the Cathedral and its visitors to explore their relationship with this complex history and its meanings today."  

Creative performances within this project have been made possible thanks to funding from the Culture and Society Research and Knowledge Exchange Institute at the University of Chester. 

For more information and to book certain events in relation to the exhibition, go to 

Page last updated: Monday 15th May 2023 1:49 PM
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