Stanley PalaceText: Chester City Council
Stanley Palace in Watergate Street is Chester's finest Elizabethan house. It was built in 1591 for Sir Peter Warburton of Grafton, Vice Chancellor of the Cheshire Exchequer and the city's MP. When Warburton died in 1621, the property was inherited by his daughter, who was married to Sir Thomas Stanley, a kinsman of the earls of Derby. The Stanleys were one of Chester's most influential families. Through their connection with the earls of Derby, they held custody of the nearby Watergate.
Stanley Palace dates from the 'great rebuilding' of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when Chester like the rest of the country enjoyed a period of increased prosperity. For the first time in centuries, wealthy city families were able to build new town houses, some set in spacious grounds. Stanley Palace, with its original three gables and highly decorated timber facade, was built on an open space which had formerly been occupied by the medieval friary of the Dominicans or Black Friars.
By the early 19th century Stanley Palace was no longer a mansion house, but had been sub-divided into tenements. It was shut off from Watergate Street by other buildings, and could only be reached through a narrow entry. Threatened with demolition, there was a proposal in 1866 to dismantle the structure and transport it to the United States. It was saved by the newly formed Chester Archaeological Society and in 1899, sold back to the Derby family on the condition that it should be preserved.
Chester Corporation bought Stanley Palace in 1928 and carried out a major restoration in 1935. The buildings around it were demolished, and the Palace was extended to the north. This later wing, adjacent to Watergate Street, is clearly different to the rest of the Tudor building. The building is still owned by Chester City Council and managed by Friends of Stanley Palace.