Chesters was the first fort on Hadrian’s Wall and one of the earliest auxiliary forts in the Roman Empire to be extensively excavated. These pioneering excavations were a lifelong project of antiquarian John Clayton (1792–1890).
Clayton is one of the most important figures in 19th century archaeology. Chesters fort played a fundamental role in the development of archaeology as an intellectual pursuit and is one of the earliest examples of heritage conservation and management.
One of the most spectacular excavated Roman forts, Chesters is significant for the outstanding richness of its remains and state of preservation. The present-day appearance of the site is almost entirely due to Clayton's excavations, dedication and enthusiasm.
In 1954 the fort, and the Wall and baths to its east, were placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works. Its successor body, English Heritage, now cares for the remains and runs the museum together with the Trustees of the Clayton Collection.