'The Bear and Billet' Lower Bridge Street, Chester signed 'Louise Rayner' (lower right) watercolour 32 x 20.5cm (12 5/8 x 8 1/16in).
The Bear and Billet was built in 1664 as the Chester townhouse of the Earls of Shrewsbury, and it remained in the family until 1867. It is thought that the Bear and Billet of 1664 replaced a previous town house which was destroyed during the Civil War, when Handbridge, the Old Dee Bridge and lower Bridge Street were attacked by parliamentary forces.
A section of walls and Bridgegate can be seen on the left. Bridgegate was designed by Chester architect Joseph Turner and built in 1781, replacing an earlier defensive gateway and water tower, which supplied water to the city.
Beyond this are the windows, lifting gear and pitched roofs of the Dee Mills. This tall building of some seven storeys was the corn mill powered by water channelled from the weir by the Old Dee Bridge. The origins of the weir and mill are thought to go back to Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester (d.1101), but the mill depicted here probably dates from the later 18th or early 19th century. It had as many as eleven waterwheels, which, as well as grinding corn, also powered the fulling of cloth and raised water. In common with the fate of many corn mills, it was burned, repaired, altered and enlarged several times through the 19th century. Dee Mills were badly damaged by fire in 1895 and demolished in 1910.