Can you stomach it?! Gruesome new visitor attraction 'Sick to Death' opens its doors to the public

3 August 2016

Grand unveiling of new family attraction takes place on Saturday, 6 August

The doors to Chester’s first new visitor attraction for decades – based on the city’s world famous walls – will open for the first time on Saturday morning.

Created by Chester-based social enterprise Big Heritage, and supported by Cheshire West and Chester Council and Wellcome, two iconic 14th Century Chester landmarks have been converted into family attraction, Sick to Death, charting the gory and gruesome of Chester’s medical past. 

The stunning new ‘Sick to Death’ attraction, opening on Saturday, features previously unseen local bone discoveries, original civil war artefacts and is the home to the now infamous Chester Plague Doctor.

Visitors of all ages will also have the chance to re-live the plague-ridden, disease infected eras of days gone by as they explore a series of gory interactive exhibits designed to shock, thrill and educate. 

And the icing on the cake is one of the country’s only working camera obscuras, which dates back to the 1830s. The historic device paved the way for the cameras that we use today.

Housed in two 14th century towers – the Water Tower and Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower on Chester’s world famous Roman Walls – the ambitious project will open on Saturday, August 6 at 11am.

And with an adult ticket costing 4.75 pounds and children priced at just 2.75 pounds, it offers a great value family day out.

Among the range of exhibits on display are:
  • A meeting with the Chester Plague Doctor. The doctor himself makes an appearance on the ground floor of Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower. Find out why the terrifying beak and spooky cloak were designed to fight off the plague.
  • An original skeleton of a 14th century Chester man. The man was suffering from a number of different conditions including spina bifida when he died.
  • A series of replica skulls - each suffering from a different gory ailment - and a gruesome ‘guess the medieval skin condition’ interactive game.
  • A replica ‘plague hut’ telling the story of how the people of Chester coped with the outbreak of the plague.
  • A genuine, restored camera obscura from the 1830s. This historical device is one of only a handful of working camera obscuras in the country. It uses a system of lights and mirrors to project an image of the outside onto a screen in the top floor of the Water Tower.
  • A walkway between the two towers featuring a medieval herb garden AND the only picnic area on the walls.
  • An array of genuine civil war armour on loan from Chester’s Grosvenor Museum helps explain how medicine was forced to keep up with the ever changing nature of injuries. And there’s even some replica civil war helmets for you to try on too!
The Horrible Histories-inspired ‘attraction is the creation of Chester-based award winning social enterprise Big Heritage, which signed a lease for the towers with Cheshire West and Chester Council earlier this year.

The attraction has been made possible thanks to funding from global charitable foundation, Wellcome.

If it proves a success in 2016, it could be made into a permanent attraction for the city – and breathe life into more historic landmarks that have laid empty and unused for decades.

Archaeologist Dean Paton, who is the managing director of Big Heritage, said: “These incredible, historic towers have been closed to the public for too long but we’ve worked so hard to get them ready. Now we can’t wait to open the doors and let the public in to see what we’ve been up to – and show off what Chester has to offer.

“Some young children might find some of the attractions shocking and a little bit gruesome and gory - but there’s real science and educational value behind everything in Sick to Death. Most of all, it’s going to be great fun for families living in and visiting the city this summer.”

Greer Roberts, Sustaining Excellence Manager at Wellcome, added: “When Dean came to us with his proposal, we felt it was a very exciting proposition to establish a new attraction in Chester and bring the history of medicine to a whole new audience.  

“We are very pleased to be involved in this important project and we are sure the attraction will be a big hit with families and kids of all ages.”

For more information about Sick to Death please visit www.sicktodeath.org.  

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