Chichester – Cathedral City

South Street, Chichester

To Chichester last week to see I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, the stage performance of the popular Radio 4 satirical quiz starring Jack Dee, Rory Bremner, Miles Jupp, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Tony Hawks.  A superb – and  hilarious – evening in a packed Chichester Festival Theatre where the audience laughed their way through two and a half hours of clever, satirical humour.  

But this post isn’t about the performance, brilliant though it was, it’s about Chichester, a hidden gem of a City, located less than two hours from London and within easy distance of Brighton, Southampton, Portsmouth and the S.E. coast.

Chichester Cathedral (Photo Steve Moore)

We stayed overnight, Chichester being well supplied with hotels and guest houses, the only drawback being the weather which wasn’t kind to us.  Rain and wind are not conducive to walking slowly through cobbled streets steeped in history, along canal banks, through green parks and along the City Walls, not to mention walking to and from the Theatre.

For that reason the outdoor photographs here were all taken last year.  I go there at least once a month to the The Festival Theatre and its sister theatre, The Minerva both of which offer first-class productions of drama, musicals, and newly written plays, most of which transfer to the West End after their run in Chichester.  There are also two good restaurants on the site (booking essential).

The city’s Roman influence is reflected in the main street pattern, and it is not difficult to spot historic buildings that line the streets and the little alleys that lead off them. One of the city’s most iconic features is The Market Cross, believed to have been built in 1501 by Bishop Edward Story, who paid £10 to the Mayor of Chichester for the ground on which it is built. The Bishop allowed peasants to trade under the Market Cross without paying a toll, and it’s still a gathering point for the community today and for sellers of fruits in summer and umbrellas and plastic ponchos last week!

You will see the Roman name Noviomagus Reginorum in various places in the city and to find out what that means, the best thing is to take a walk along the City Walls,  the most intact circuit of Roman town defences in Southern England.   You can start the 1.5 mile walk anywhere along the wall and stop to admire the impressive views over the rooftops at any point.

If the weather is not conducive to walking the walls, then head to the free Novium Museum, built over the remains of a vast Roman bath house which can be seen from the ground floor, for an in-depth insight into the history of the City and wider district.

Another indoor attraction is the Pallant House Gallery (rated second only to the Tate for modern British art by the Guardian) which explores new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now.  It is housed in what is considered to be one of the most important 18th century townhouses in England and one of very few Queen Anne houses open to the public. 

The Cathedral is one of the most impressive in S.E. England and has a wealth of art inside that makes a visit there worth more than a visit to many other grander buildings. See linked post.

Interior of Chichester Cathedral

5 Comments

  1. I don’t know many southern cities well, Mari, and have never crossed paths with Chichester, but it looks worth a few hours of anyone’s time. We have such riches of architecture, don’t we? Thanks for the intro 🙂 🙂

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  2. Chichester is really lovely, Jo. I haven’t done it justice here. It’s considered a rather ‘posh’ place, upmarket in every respect but that means some lovely cafes and restaurants, charity shops where the clothes are Jaeger or Rodier, and house prices in the stratosphere. But it keeps a theatre open winter and summer with professional companies. I could have photographed my afternoon tea for you but sadly, I’m greedy and I’d tucked into my cake before I remembered to get my camera out!

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