North Street looking south to Market Cross 1895

Chichester; the good, the bad and the ugly

– two contrasting views on the city c.1900

These two line drawings by Arthur Evershed show scenes from Chichester now outside of living memory – but only just. What was Chichester like at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?

Cathedral from South Street 1895

Two highly respected writers of their day, W.H.Hudson and E.V.Lucas visited Chichester a few years after Evershed made his sketches and they have left two very different impressions of the city, which only goes to show that beauty, both of man and building, rests in the eye of the beholder!

Chichester is a perfect example of an English rural capital, thronged on market days with tilt carts bringing a farmer or farmer’s wife, and rich in those well-thronged ironmongers’ shops that one never sees elsewhere. But it is more than this: it is also a cathedral town, with the ever present sense of dominion by the cloth even when the cloth [the clergy] is not visible. …..Whatever noise may be in the air you know in your heart that quietude is its true characteristic. One might say that above the loudest street cries you are continually conscious of the silence of the [Cathedral] close.
E.V.Lucas, Highways and Byways of Sussex, 1903

There are 12,000 souls in the town; that is to say, an adult population of 3000. This number includes a rather large body of clergymen and ministers, and perhaps a couple of hundred highly respectable persons who do not go to bars. To provide this village population with drink there are seventy public-houses, besides several wine and spirit merchants, and grocers with licences. To keep all these houses open, all these taps perpetually running, there must be an immense quantity of liquor consumed. At eight o’clock in the morning you will find men at all the bars, often in groups of three or four or half a dozen, standing, pipe in mouth and tankard in hand; and at eleven at night, when closing-time comes, out of every door a goodly crowd of citizens are seen stumbling forth, surprised and sorry, no doubt, that the day has ended so soon. In the streets, near the railway station, at the Market Cross, and at various corners, you will see groups of the most utterly drink-degraded wretches it is possible to find anywhere in the kingdom…..
W.H.Hudson, Nature in Downland, 1900