History graduates' Civil War Tours business success
Two entrepreneurial history graduates have spotted a gap in Chester’s £1 billion tourism industry.
Vivienne Derricutt and Ed Abrahams have guided more than 200 visitors through tales of life in the city during the English Civil War less than six months since starting public tours from the town hall.
They wanted to share one of the often untold – but equally rich – parts of the city’s history after discovering a passion for the 17th Century time period while studying at Glyndŵr University, Wrexham.
Twice daily, four times a week since the start of October 2013, they’ve been taking visitors on guided trips around Chester’s landmarks, exploring their association with the Civil War - rather than often-told Roman Britain.
Their company, Chester Civil War Tours, has already expanded beyond its flagship Great Siege of Chester tour into another exploring the Battle of Rowton Moor.
Evening tours telling the tale of life at some of the city’s pubs during the 17th century also run on a request basis and Viv and Ed are now venturing into working with schools.
Viv, of Malpas, said: “We did some tourism work for the council at the Water Tower last summer and then branched off on our own after that and it’s really taken off.
“We looked at what was out there in Chester in terms of tours and what we could offer and realised there was an opportunity.
"There are heritage tours and Roman tours, obviously, but nothing which focused on the Civil War and the 17th century, a hugely important period for Chester.
“Chester is always promoted as a Roman city and quite rightly so but there is so much more to its history.”
The Great Siege of Chester tour takes visitors from Charles Tower, following the walls down to the river, passing the cathedral and Eastgate and finishing at the Roman Gardens.
Pubs visited on their evening tour include the Kings Head and Pied Bull.
Chester Civil War Tours marks completion of a remarkable journey for Viv, who left school with no qualifications and worked most of her adult life in the banking sector.
She made the plunge to study for a degree after falling pregnant with her third child, studying for an Access to Higher Education course at West Cheshire College before joining Glyndŵr University.
“When I found out I was pregnant I took advantage of being at home with a little one to study for a degree,” said Viv.
“I completed the Access course and the degree all as a single parent. The support offered by the university to help me through was fantastic, especially after they diagnosed and helped me to cope with having Irlen’s Syndrome and being dyslexic.
“I thought I was going to do the degree, do a PGCE and then become a history teacher and life would be simple. Then I discovered this – and at the moment it’s amazing.
“Running my own business is hard work,” said Viv. “But I get to talk to people every day at work and it’s nice that people leave the tours with something memorable from the knowledge I’ve shared with them.
“We’re amazed that in the last eight months we’ve grown from absolutely nothing to taking 200 plus people on tours, 700 Twitter followers and 500 Facebook friends.”
The Great Siege of Chester tour by Chester Civil War Tours runs from the Tourist Information Centre next to the town hall at 11am and 1pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Tours cost £6.50 for adults and £6 for children under 12 and concessions. Family tickets (two adults and two children) are priced at £20.
For more information visit chestercivilwartours.com, call 07877 247 335 or follow the company on twitter @civilwartours or Facebook by searching for Chester Civil War Tours.