This summer will see the return of the hugely popular Chester Unlocked project, which saw the creation of over 30 mini museums spread across the city in 2016.

The project was originally created by heritage agency, Big Heritage in partnership with the Grosvenor Museum and Chester BID, and encouraged visitors to the city to visit shops, bars and restaurants across the city to view specially curated museum displays that were linked to the venue in which they were hosted. The project went on to win numerous regional and national awards for innovation.

The new version of the project is being launched as part of the Chester High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative, a Historic England initiative which aims to boost economic growth in 68 historic high streets in England, using the historic environment as a catalyst.

In addition to the museum trail, a ground-breaking digital initiative will see historic “Harry Potter” style portrait frames pop up around the rows, each containing a digital portrait of a person from Chester’s past from West Cheshire Museums collections. As the project progresses, a series of games will be launched around the city using the technology, turning the Rows into a live ‘dungeons and dragons’ style game, all tied into the heritage of the city.

Dean Paton, founder and managing director of Big Heritage said “Chester Unlocked was a hugely popular initiative, supporting our local businesses and encouraging new audiences to learn about the city’s past in non-traditional locations. We are delighted to be bringing it back as part of the Heritage Action Zones initiative. There’s lots of surprises in store which we can’t wait to reveal”

Maria Byrne, Director Environment & Communities, Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “This is the first of many exciting activities drawing attention to the historic Chester Rows. The Chester High Street Heritage Action Zone partners are planning a wide range of activities in the city centre that we will be revealing over the next few months. Many of these activities will be directly involving residents, shops and local businesses.

“Chester Rows have a fascinating story to be told and we have a wealth of experts in the city to tell that story.”

Historic England’s Pippa Brown said: “We can’t wait to see the portraits appearing around Chester. This is an ingenious and fun way of harnessing the city’s rich history, drawing footfall back to local businesses as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The first elements of the project are due to be rolled out across the city throughout the summer and expanded once the final Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Retailers who occupy buildings on the Rows who would like to take part in the project can email: to register their interest.