The Lost Roman Legionary
by Carole H Sexton

IN a city as ancient as Chester it would be surprising if echoes of its colourful and historic past did not reverberate down the centuries through its street and buildings. One such building built in more modern times, but with a strange legacy of days gone-by is the 'George and Dragon', the public house situated at the junction of Parkgate and Liverpool Roads. This hostelry boasts a ghost said to be that of a lone Roman soldier who paces its precincts eternally.

We may ask why should the solitary soldier revisit this particular spot? Chester was, of course, a fortress town filled once with such men, but the site of the 'George and Dragon', is outside the Decumana, or North Gate. This area was in fact, some 16-18 centuries ago a burial ground. As the Romans always laid their dead to rest outside the city walls, this upper part of Parkgate Road, would therefore, have been lined with elaborate memorials to deceased citizens. There does, however, exist several popular versions of the soldiers unhappy story.

The first, and possibly less romantic story is that this poor man was a sentry who was never relieved from his post. As a true Roman would never question orders, he patrolled on presumably, until death overcome him. This does seem most unlikely though, why was he stationed so far outside the North Gate?, and why, indeed was he never relieved.

Another version, perhaps slightly more believable, certainly more interesting concerns an ill fated love affair. A Roman soldier fell in love with a beautiful Welsh girl. While on sentry duty at the North Gate he was in the habit of slipping off beyond the walls to meet his love. This young lady was not what she seemed however. One night while she occupied the sentry a raiding party led by her outlaw brothers gained entry into the garrison, massacring many of its complement of soldiers who were sleeping in their beds.

The hapless soldier would have certainly been executed after such a dereliction of duty. For this transgression of the strict Roman code of honour and obedience there would be no mercy. The unfortunate man perhaps even took his own life out of remorse, before justice could claim him.

The ghost of the sentry is now, said to pass backwards and forwards through the walls of the 'George and Dragon', never seen, only heard, forever pacing, to this day. Ass a honourable burial would not have been afforded him, perhaps the soldier seeks his rest at the site of the former cemetery. On the other hand, he could be seeking his murdered comrades to ask their forgiveness. Whatever the reason for his wanderings, he remains the lost legionary.