Home of the 2004 Symposium Chichester has been a member of the Walled Towns Friendship Circle since 1992. Built by the Romans and named Noviomagus, it received its present name from an Anglo Saxon prince, Cissa. Thus, Cissa’s Ceastor (Cissa’s camp) became Chichester.
Surrounding the main part of the city are the city walls, originally built by the Romans, and now with a mediaeval facing of knapped flint, which is the local stone. Fine mosaic floors have been found by archaeologists in all parts of the city.Its four main streets meet at right angles, and in the centre is the Market Cross, built by Bishop Storey in 1501 as a venue for market traders to sell butter and eggs. These streets – now pedestrianised – originally ran straight to London, Winchester and Silchester, the sea, and Fishbourne, which was the Roman supply base on Chichester Harbour and has one of the most important Roman palaces in Europe. Chichester Harbour is now used for pleasure craft.
Chichester’s Norman Cathedral faces onto West Street, one of the few cathedrals in the country which is not tucked away in a close and the only mediaeval cathedral in England which can be seen from the sea. Unusually, the belltower is separate from the main building. Among its many treasures are a number of examples of modern art including a tapestry by John Piper and a Chagall window. The monuments in the cathedral include the Arundel tomb which inspired Philip Larkin’s famous poem, and the tomb of composer Gustav Holst.
The city has many fine Georgian buildings, including the Council House with the Council Chamber built in 1731, now restored to its original finery and still used for all City Council meetings.
Pallant House is a fine Queen Anne building, now with a large new wing, which houses one of the finest galleries of twentieth century art in the country. This gallery won the prestigious Gulbenkian prize in 2007.
The thirteenth century St. Mary’s Hospital, built as an alms house, is believed to be unique in Europe in that elderly ladies still live within the chapel building.
Goodwood racecourse is just outside the city and Goodwood House is the venue for the annual Festival of Speed, thus catering to enthusiasts of horse racing and vintage motor racing.
Set between the South Downs and the sea, Cicestrians enjoy a good climate, with easy access to Portsmouth, Brighton and London. A traders’ market on Wednesdays and Saturdays continues the tradition of markets – an animal market was originally held in the main streets. The Butter Market, built by architect John Nash, is now a venue for small shops.
Chichester Festival Theatre, set in the beautiful Oaklands Park, is nationally famous, and draws many well known actors to work in the city, which also has three golf courses, marina, leisure centre, museum, beaches – all within a few miles. The Martlets Sword and Morris Men perform in the streets during the summer.