Chichester has 518 listed buildings, 18 of which are Grade 1. Find out more about them on the heritage trails and discover a lot of hidden architectural gems and stories about Chichester’s amazing history that will surprise you.
Chichester’s four principal streets still mainly follow the pattern of the Roman settlement, founded nearly two thousand years ago. The city walls – remarkably intact for an English town – also follow the Roman plan and contain masonry from the original construction. The first four city centre walks explore each of Chichester’s historic quadrants that are divided by the four principal thoroughfares of North, South, East and West streets. Each quadrant has its own special atmosphere and distinctive history. A great rebuilding from the late seventeenth century, replaced timber-framed thatched houses with the characteristic Georgian street scene of brick and stucco buildings that exist today. Other trails explore the city’s history across a variety of interesting themes.
Trail 1 – North-West Quadrant
The North-West Quadrant was, prior to the eighteenth century, dominated by market gardens and livestock farming, including slaughterhouses. Today, among the older buildings, are the modern administrative centres of a county town, including County Hall, Chichester Library and the Novium Museum.
Trail 2 – North-East Quadrant
This part of Chichester once had five churches and a Franciscan Priory; today three of the churches have been lost and the remaining two, along with the priory chapel have been converted to secular uses. The open greenery of Priory Park, framed by the city walls give a sense of space and peace to the north-east quadrant.
Trail 3 – South-East Quadrant
This is very much a walk or two contrasting halves: there are the former inns and chapels of East Street, South Street and the New Town area and the pristine Georgian solemnity of the Pallants area. The former has changed markedly in recent decades, while the Pallants has changed very little, remaining a bastion of high quality housing and offices for professional workers.
Trail 4 – South-West Quadrant
Chichester’s south-west quadrant is dominated by the cathedral and the Cathedral Close. Here Edmund Blunden beheld “its own simple character of communicative quietness,” while E.V. Lucas observed that, “whatever noise may be in the air you know in your heart that quietude is its true character.” Even in 2016 these statements still hold true. As well as the Close and the cloisters of the cathedral, there are also the Bishop’s gardens to enjoy. As well as the Close and the cathedral cloisters, you can enjoy the Bishop’s gardens too.
Trail 5 – Inns, pubs and hotels
Chichester’s earliest inns can be traced back to mediaeval times when they catered for pilgrims visiting the shrine of St Richard in the cathedral. Over time they came to serve all types of travellers, who needed rest and food after travelling along the notoriously bad Sussex roads.
By the middle of the seventeenth century there were seven inns in Chichester, as well as 50 alehouses, taverns, and other premises that sold drink.
Given the population was only 2,000 people at the time, of whom over half were women and children, it can be seen that Chichester was a boozy city and remained so until the beginning of the twentieth century. Today there are only a dozen public houses in the city centre and no inns. Many of the city’s old inns have been converted into restaurants or private accommodation. This trail includes both former as well as current pubs and inns.
Trail 6 – Chichester during the Civil War 1642-1646
Many wealthy royalists lived in Chichester, or at least had homes in the city, including Sir John Morley, Sir Thomas Boyer and Christopher Lewknor. Opposing them were Henry Chitty, the captain of the local militia, known as the trained band, and the MP for Midhurst, William Cawley. In June 1642, the mayor, Robert Exon, read out the king’s proclamation calling on all loyal men to take up arms for the king. On 19th August, George Goring, the governor of Portsmouth, declared for the king. This was a massive blow to the parliamentary cause and a great boost to the morale of the Chichester royalists. However, Goring proved to be a fair-weather ally to the king
and quickly surrendered when subject to a naval blockade by forces loyal to parliament. With Portsmouth back in parliamentary hands, Chitty and Cawley successfully requested cannon and gunpowder be sent from there to Chichester for the further defence of the city.
In an attempt to win around opinion in Sussex to his cause, the king issued a further proclamation on 7th November granting full pardon to any inhabitant of Sussex who had rebelled against the Crown. However, the pardon specifically exempted Henry Chitty and Herbert Morley (no relation to Sir John Morley) who was Colonel of the trained bands of Lewes and de facto head of military operations in eastern Sussex.
Trail 7 – Churches and Chapels and places of worship
Chichester once had nine parish churches, catering for a population, that in the seventeenth century, did not exceed 2,000 inhabitants. Today only two churches, St Paul’s, and St Pancras, are still open for worship. As well as the Anglican churches, there were a number of non-conformist chapels that are also included in this trail. Churches and their clergy played a pivotal role in the life of the city. A person’s social standing, as well as their piety, could be judged by the church they attended.
Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists often lived separate social as well as religious lives. The city’s Roman Catholics were the most marginalised of all religious denominations – a situation that persisted within living memory.
Leaflets are available from…
The Chichester Heritage Trails leaflets are available from Chichester Library, The Tourist Information Centre at the Novium, West Sussex Record Office and The Council House (City Council offices) in North Street.
Do you have memories of old Chichester? If so, we would like to hear from you. We are recording memories of the city for future generations. A memory recorded, is history saved.