The city's location and importance as a road and railway junction aided this process.2 The lines to Birkenhead and Crewe opened in 1840, ensuring a railwayled industrialisation and population growth that lasted until 1870.3 By the early twentieth century though, according to one commentator, Chester had become 'an old-fashioned and declining county town, with a stagnant population, moribund traditional craft industries, and some mid-Victorian heavy engineering,.4 This negative representation perhaps overstates the picture. A recent study gives a more positive view of Chester as a city 'able ... to reposition itself as a county town, historic cathedral city, and tourist centre which provided a wide range of shops and other services for a still sizeable hinterland,.5 The city's economy was a mixed one and this provided some advantages in facing the troubles of the interwar Depression. Chester was an administrative, commercial and retailing centre with several important department stores. A 1910 survey added 'Paint, patent shot, lead piping, whips, tobacco, iron, and hydraulic machinery' as Chester's 'principal manufactures,.6 Chester had a significant if weakening industrial base, where semi-heavy and electrical engineering concerns together with a metal
1 Herson, J., 'Victorian Chester: A City of Change and Ambiguity', in Swift, R., (ed.), Victorian Chester, (Liverpool, 1996), p. 39. 2 Freeman, T.W., The Conurbations of Great Britain, (Manchester, 1959), p. 210. 3 Herson, 'Victorian Chester', p. 19 and p. 3l. 4 Bonsall, J.M., 'Twentieth-Century Chester', in Lewis, C.P. and Thacker, A.T., (eds), The Victoria History of the Counties of England. A History of the County of Chester, vol. 5, part /: The City of Chester: General History and Topography, (London, 2003), p. 239. 5 Lewis, C.P. and Herson, J.D., 'Late Georgian and Victorian Chester, 1762-1914', in The Victoria History, p. 146. 6 Kelly's Directories, The County Councils, Municipal Corporations, and Local Authorities Companion, Magisterial Directory and Local Government Year Book for /9/0, (London, 1910), p. 921.