Spotlight on Chichester
Chichester – the only city in West Sussex as well as being the county town – is a beautiful place to visit, and to live. It is a superb blend of modern and ancient, with a real mix of history and contemporary living combining to make this a fascinating and important city.
by Lisamarie Lamb
History in Brief
Chichester has been around since about 44AD, when the Romans began to build a fort (it was close to a water supply, and therefore in a good position). Evidence of Roman occupation can still be seen by the roads that were built in a grid pattern, the main streets of which form a cross; North Street, South Street, East Street, and West Street all lead to the city centre.
From then until the late 9th century, Chichester carried on fairly uneventfully, but in 894 the Danes arrived, and tried to take the town from the Saxons who had possession of it. A mighty battle ensued, and the Danes were driven out – the people of Chichester had won. At this point, Chichester begins to be recognised as an important place to live and work, and a mint was set up, as well as, over the coming centuries, palaces and a cathedral. It became a hub of industry for West Sussex, and was a leading force in commerce including the wool trade, carpentry, leatherwork, and wheelwrights.
Things to Do
With so much history in the air around Chichester, it’s no wonder there is much to do and see when visiting.
Beautiful Chichester Cathedral has been open to visitors for over 900 years, and is just as fascinating now as it has always been. Certainly the jewel in Chichester’s already stunning crown, a visit to the county town of West Sussex would not be complete without a trip to the cathedral. Open every day from 7.15am, you can join the congregation for a service, or take a tour around the buildings and nearby gardens. There are even special trails for children, so no one is left out when it comes to learning about this lovely building. With concerts, exhibitions, and special events, Chichester Cathedral has something for everyone.
Fishbourne Roman Palace & Gardens
Fishbourne Roman Palace is the largest Roman palace found in Britain today. With informative guides and plenty of detailed information on offer, you can walk around the palace and feel as the Romans who once walked and lived there might have done – from mosaics to pottery, from architecture to history, it is all here. There is a café and a small shop on site too, so you can make a real day of it, and get the most out of the remains of this fascinating Roman palace.
This impressive stately home on the (glorious) Goodwood estate is everything you hope it will be; full of elegance and class, telling the story of a bygone age. Enjoy the house and gardens, and treat yourself to a gorgeous afternoon tea in opulent surroundings. Once you have finished, why not try something a little more adventurous, with a tour around the estate on an off-road driving experience? Or if you prefer something more sedate, the art collection within the house is superb.
The Novium Museum
If you are keen to learn about local history, then the Novium Museum is the place to go. This is where you can find out exactly how and why Chichester became the place it is today. Every month there is an ‘object of the month’ that has been specially chosen for an up close view, and which will tell you something very specific about Chichester. As well as that, there are performances and workshops, museum sleepovers, talks from local historians, lectures from visiting specialists, and of course the permanent exhibitions which include information about the Bath House, the history of Chichester, and how objects sent to the museum are identified.
After a wonderful day of sightseeing, finding an excellent restaurant to relax in is important. The good news is there are many to choose from in Chichester.
The Old Greenhouse
Warm, cosy, and intimate, the Old Greenhouse is an exceptional place to eat. Whether you enjoy the ‘no frills’ events that are hosted here (set menus for a lower than usual price), or the usual fare, you will be in for a sumptuous treat. The menu includes dishes such as the trio of salmon (home cured, smoked and poached, plus prawn tails, fresh mayonnaise, chive and lemon compote), the pork duo (pork fillet medallions pan fried with caramelised apples, spiced pork meatballs in a tomato and garlic sauce), and crispy chicken (chicken fillets in a five spice tempura batter on an aromatic pineapple glaze with spring onions and mange tout), as well as some stunning signature desserts.
Restored in a relaxed and comfortable style with a few quirky twists, guests at The Blacksmiths can enjoy the blazing fire and homely charm of the anvil bar, or the snug elegance of the dining room. Located close to the Chichester canal towpath, it’s a perfect stop off point for a refreshing pint or some local fare, including dishes such as seared scallops, venison cranberry sausages or roasted garlic and parmesan gnocchi.
Amelie & Friends
With an excellent choice of food and drink, friendly, attentive staff, and a relaxed yet charming atmosphere, Amelie & Friends is certainly a restaurant to enjoy your dining experience in. The pork with crackling is an extra special treat, but there is nothing on the menu that will disappoint, including beetroot marinated salmon, truffled macaroni and cheese with poached egg, and steamed orange syrup pudding.
This great little tapas restaurant is ideal whether you want a romantic meal for two, a night out with friends, or a fun family restaurant. Located in a vaulted cellar, El Castizo has a wonderful atmosphere, and is staffed by friendly, engaging people who are happy to help you in any way they can. Come for the great food, come back for the warm welcome!
There are fantastic events on throughout the year in Chichester; here are just a few to give you an idea of just how brilliant the area is for fun, music, food and entertainment.
Chichester Festival of Music, Dance & Speech // February
Founded in 1955, this festival is to encourage people of all ages to enjoy performing arts. Not only are there competitions and performances all around the city, but there are also workshops and classes too.
Goodwood Festival of Speed // June
One of the most prestigious motor sport events in the world, people come from everywhere to be a part of this fantastically fun and important event. Cars, motorcycles, and even aircraft join in the celebrations during the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Sloe Fair // October
This annual fair has been held since 1107/1108, and is just as much fun today as it ever was. With food, drink, fairground rides, and plenty of entertainment, it is bound to draw the crowds.
Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve is a superb spot located in Chichester. Well known for its yews that are at least 500 years old (and are some of the oldest living trees in Britain), and have a girth of 5 metres, this is the place to go when you want to enjoy some peace and quiet, and reflect in the beauty of nature. There are 14 ancient monuments to discover here, as well as many species of bird (red kites and buzzards amongst them) and 39 species of butterfly.
Did You Know?
Chichester Cathedral is the only medieval cathedral in Britain that has a free-standing bell tower, called a campanile.