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City of Chichester
Bell Tower, Chichester Cathedral - - 664946.jpg
Bell Tower, Chichester Cathedral
Grid reference: SU860048
Location: 50°50’11"N, 0°46’45"W
Population: 23,731  (2001)
Post town: Chichester
Postcode: PO19
Dialling code: 01243
Local Government
Council: Chichester
Website: City Council

Chichester is a cathedral city in Sussex, of which it is the county town. The city stands in the very west of Sussex, on Chichester Harbour, a fine, natural, sheltered harbour.

Chichester has a long history as a settlement; its Roman past and its subsequent importance in Anglo-Saxon times are only its beginnings. It is the seat of a bishopric with a 12th-century cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Chichester and is home to some of the oldest churches and buildings in Great Britain.

The city is a transport hub, and the centre for culture in the region, with a Festival theatre and two art galleries. Chichester Harbour and the South Downs and the city walls, provide opportunities for outdoor pursuits.



Roman Period

The area around Chichester is believed to have played significant part during the Roman Invasion of A.D 43, this is confirmed by evidence of military storage structures in the area of the nearby Fishbourne Roman Palace.[1] The city centre stands on the foundations of the Romano-British city of Noviomagus Reginorum, capital of the Civitas Reginorum. The Roman road of Stane Street, connecting the city with London, started at the east gate, while the Chichester to Silchester road started from the north gate. The city streets have a cross-shaped layout, inherited from the Romans: radiating outwards from the mediæval market cross lead the North, South, East and West shopping streets.

The original Roman city wall was over six feet thick with a steep ditch (which was later used to divert the River Lavant). It survived for over one and a half thousand years but was then replaced by a narrower Georgian wall.

An amphitheatre was built close to what would have been the city walls, outside the East Gate in around 80 AD. The remains are now buried under land currently used as a park, but the bank of the amphitheatre is clearly discernible and a notice board in the park gives more information.

Anglo-Saxon Period

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it was captured towards the close of the fifth century, by Ælle, King of the South Saxons, and renamed after his son, Cissa. It was the chief city of the Kingdom of Sussex.

The cathedral for the South Saxons was founded in 681 at Selsey but the seat of the bishopric was moved to Chichester in 1075.

Chichester was one of the burhs (fortified towns) established by Alfred the Great, probably in 878-9, making use of the remaining Roman walls. According to the Burghal Hidage, a list written in the early 10th century, it was one of the biggest of Alfred's burhs, supported by 1500 hides, units of land required to supply one soldier each for the garrison in time of emergency. The system was supported by a communication network based on hilltop beacons to provide early warning. It has been suggested that one such link ran from Chichester to London.[2]

Norman Period

When the Domesday Book was compiled, Chichester consisted of 300 dwellings which held a population of 1,500 people. There was also a mill named Kings Mill that would have been rented to local slaves and villeins. After the Battle of Hastings the township of Chichester was handed to Roger de Mongomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, for courageous efforts in the battle, but it was forfeited in 1104 by the 3rd Earl. Shortly after 1066 Chichester Castle was built by Roger de Mongomerie to consolidate Norman power.[3] In around 1143 the title Earl of Arundel (also known as the Earl of Sussex until that title fell out of use) was created and became the dominant local landowner. Between 1250 and 1262, the Rape of Chichester was created from the western half of Arundel rape, with the castle as its administrative centre.[4]


View Across Chichester Harbour

The City of Chichester stands on the River Lavant south of its gap through the South Downs. This winterbourne often dries up during the summer months, and for part of its course runs through the city in underground culverts.

The City's site made it an ideal place for settlement, with many ancient routeways converging here. The oldest section lies within the Mediæval walls of the city, which are built on Roman foundations.[5]

The Chichester Conservation Area, designated for its architectural and historic interest,[6] encompasses the whole of the Roman town, and includes many Grade I and II listed buildings. Further to the north lies the separate conservation area around Graylingwell Hospital, and to the south, the Chichester Conservation Area has been extended recently to include the newly restored canal basin and part of Chichester Canal itself. The Conservation Area has been split into eight 'character' areas, based on historic development, building type, uses and activities.


The city today has made use of its past and has built a large tourist industry.[7]

Several marinas are situated in the area together with related industries. The Northshore shipyard is known for building the Southerly and Fisher (motor) sailing yachts. Bagged salad and prepared fruit producers, Natures Way Foods is also a major employer in the area, with over 400 employees.


Chichester Cathedral

Chichester Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Chichester, known as Chichester Cathedral, was founded in the 11th century. It contains a shrine to Saint Richard of Chichester, whose festival day has been adopted as the county day of Sussex. The cathedral's spire, built of the weak local stone, collapsed suddenly and was rebuilt during the 19th century.

In the south aisle of the cathedral a window in the floor affords a view of the remains of a Roman mosaic pavement.

The cathedral is unusual in Britain in having a separate bell tower a few yards away from the main building, rather than integrated into it. Within the cathedral there is a mediæval tomb of a knight and his wife, the inspiration of the poem "An Arundel Tomb", by Philip Larkin. A fine memorial statue also exists of William Huskisson, once member of Parliament for the city, but best remembered as one of the first men to be run over by a railway engine. Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms were commissioned for the cathedral.

Other churches

St Pancras

Churches in Chichester include:[8]

Redundant churches include the Grade I-listed St John the Evangelist's Church, an octagonal white-brick proprietary chapel with an impressive three-decker pulpit.[9][10]

Sights of the town

Chichester Cross

The remains of the Roman amphitheatre are now buried under land south of The Hornet, currently used as a park, but the bank of the amphitheatre is clearly discernible and a notice board in the park gives more information.

The Chichester Cross is a Buttercross of the sort familiar to old market towns. It was built in 1501 as a covered market-place,[11] stands at the intersection of the four main roads in the centre of the city.

The Butter Market in North Street was designed by John Nash, and was opened in 1808 as a food and produce market. In 1900, a second storey was added to the building, originally housing an arts institute. It is currently still in use by various small business, however Chichester City Council are soon to carry out a full-scale renovation of the building, leaving the future of some of the current retailers in some doubt.

The Corn Exchange in East Street was built in 1833, one of the first in the country.[12] It is an imposing building, designed to show off its importance to trade. In 1883 it was also used for drama and entertainment. From then it became a cinema (1923–1984), a restaurant, and then a fast food restaurant. It is currently occupied by a clothes shop.

The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, which opened in 2001 and features a programme of public star shows in its 100-seat theatre.


Chichester Festival Theatre

The city holds an annual three-week arts and music festival ("Chichester Festivities")[13] held in July.

Its most prestigious cultural location is the Chichester Festival Theatre,[14] one of the United Kingdom's flagship theatres, whose annual summer season attracts actors, writers and directors from the West End theatre.

Pallant House Gallery,[15] winner of the 2007 gallery of the year Gulbenkian Prize has a major collection of chiefly modern British art and in 2006 opened its new extension that houses the collection of Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson. It also has a changing programme of exhibitions.

Since 2007, the week long annual I AM JOY Arts and Music Festival in August has exhibited artworks, showcased bands, contemporary dance, theatre and run workshops across different venues in the city. The festival has since 2008, grown into a high street gallery, magazine, monthly comedy night, film nights and live music nights; from Cabaret to Post-Rock.

Chichester Cinema at New Park[16] is the city's first and only arthouse cinema. It shows a selection of mainstream, small-budget and older films, with showings 7 days a week. Vice presidents are Dame Maggie Smith and Kenneth Branagh. There is also a larger, multiplex cinema located at Chichester Gate.

In the 1990s Chichester started to develop an alternative subculture. There is still a shop in Crane Street which retails clothing aimed at the alternative music culture.

Chichester Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1881, the Chichester Symphony Orchestra plays an important part in maintaining the classical music tradition of the area. A friendly group, the orchestra consists of both amateur and professional players who rehearse on a weekly basis, first and foremost, for the enjoyment of playing together. Three concerts are given each year with the summer concert being part of the Chichester Festivities while the autumn concert is included in the Chichester Cathedral Lunchtime Series.


  • Cricket and hockey have a joint club (Chichester Priory Park, CPPC&HC)

Rugby: Chichester RFC

Other sports include cycling.[17]


  1. Manley, John (2007). AD43: The Roman Invasion of Britain. Tempus Publishing. pp. 111–128. ISBN 978-0-7524-1959-6. 
  2. Gower, Graham, London Archaeologist Winter 2002, pp 59-63
  3. Chichester Castle,,, retrieved 10/05/2011 
  4. "Victoria County History - The rape of Chichester". British History Online. Retrieved 31 July 2010. 
  5. "City Walls Walk: includes map". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  6. "Chichester Council Conservation Areas". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  7. "The Chichester Guide". Chichester Web. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  8. "''Chichester Web': churches of Chichester". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  9. "Former Church of St John the Evangelist, St John's Street (East Side), Chichester, Chichester, West Sussex". The National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  10. Beevers, David; Marks, Richard; Roles, John (1989). Sussex Churches and Chapels. Brighton: The Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery and Museums. ISBN 0-948723-11-4. 
  11. "Chichester City Cross". West 
  12. "The Corn Exchange". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  13. "Chichester Festivities". 2010-07-11. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  14. "The Website Of Chichester Festival Theatre". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  15. "Pallant House Gallery". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  16. "Chichester Cinema At New Park". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  17. "Southdown Velo cycling club". 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 


  • Down, Alec (1988). Roman Chichester. Chichester: Phillimore. ISBN 0-85033-435-7. 
  • Sharp, Thomas (1949). Georgian City: A plan for the preservation and improvement of Chichester. London: The Architectural Press. 
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