[[[TChich­ester

LET’S MOVE TO The pic­turesque cathe­dral city boasts a thriv­ing art scene, foodie fun, shop­ping to die for and streets steeped in his­tory

Sussex Life - - Front Page - Ly­dia Tewkes­bury

[[[T HIS­TORY

As most towns with the suf­fix “ch­ester” – de­rived from the Saxon word “ceas­tre”, used to de­note a low­land fort or de­fended town – Chich­ester was once the site of a Ro­man en­camp­ment or for­ti­fied set­tle­ment. Im­merse your­self in the city’s an­cient his­tory with a visit to Fish­bourne Ro­man Palace and Gar­dens, the largest Ro­man home in Bri­tain. The im­pres­sive model of Ro­man life fea­tures a for­mal gar­den, planted ex­actly as it would have been 2,000 years ago and a veg­etable gar­den that pro­vides a glimpse into the Ro­man diet. In­side is the largest col­lec­tion of mo­saics in situ in the UK, thought to have been laid AD75-80, mak­ing them some of the most an­cient ex­am­ples of their kind.

The spec­tac­u­lar Chich­ester Cathe­dral also holds clues about the city’s past. Built af­ter the Nor­man con­quest of 1066 but sub­ject to much re­build­ing as a con­se­quence of mul­ti­ple fires, the beau­ti­ful church has many historical fea­tures of note. One of the most ex­cit­ing can be found in the South Transept; two huge oak pan­els painted by Lam­bert Barnard de­pict­ing then King Henry VIII con­firm­ing Bishop Robert Sher­burne (who com­mis­sioned the paint­ing, in­ci­den­tally) as bishop. It is an im­por­tant ex­am­ple of Tu­dor pro­pa­ganda pro­duced in 1530.

Dur­ing any visit to the cathe­dral one must also stop by the Arun­del Tomb, made fa­mous by the Larkin poem of the same name. The tomb fea­tures a pair of recumbent ef­fi­gies with hands joined by whom Larkin was moved to write a med­i­ta­tion on the no­tion of ev­er­last­ing love – in true scep­ti­cal style, of course.

[[[T AMENI­TIES

A thriv­ing univer­sity city, Chich­ester is blessed with a var­ied high street of lead­ing premium and bud­get brands. The compact na­ture of the city cen­tre makes for an eas­ily walk­a­ble shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence with most ev­ery­thing you might need only mo­ments away. The city has a range of chains and in­de­pen­dent shops, with ar­eas such as Drap­ers Yard Mar­ket havens for unique, lo­cally made prod­ucts and food you won’t find on the high street.

Though al­most ev­ery­thing is within reach of the town cen­tre, those look­ing for more con­ve­nience still can drive to Port­field Re­tail Park, an out of town shop­ping com­plex where most stal­wart brands are rep­re­sented.

The city isn’t short of cul­ture, with the Chich­ester Fes­ti­val The­atre at­tract­ing high qual­ity tour­ing acts as well as ex­cit­ing new works. In ad­di­tion to per­for­mances they of­fer the­atre tours, Chich­ester Fes­ti­val Youth The­atre, work­shops for schools and com­mu­nity projects for adults to get in­volved in. Fur­ther­more, Chich­ester boasts three mu­se­ums; The Novium, which in­cludes in its col­lec­tion the re­mains of Chich­ester’s Ro­man bath house; Pallant House Gallery, a mu­seum of modern art with per­ma­nent and tour­ing ex­hi­bi­tions that tells the story of modern Bri­tish art from 1900 to present; and Fish­bourne Ro­man Palace and Gar­dens. Though not a hotspot for nightlife (most of the stu­dents make the short trip to Portsmouth for a night out), Chich­ester is great for food­ies, with a vi­brant mix of restau­rants and cafés around the city mak­ing the most of the best lo­cal pro­duce on of­fer.

the es­tate and mo­tor rac­ing track opens its doors to hun­dreds of guests for a fab­u­lous week­end cel­e­bra­tion of mo­tor rac­ing and all things vin­tage. Dressed to the nines in their best vin­tage out­fits, crowds flock to the Good­wood Re­vival for vin­tage car shows and rac­ing as well as fes­tiv­i­ties Over The Road in­clud­ing a fair­ground, But­lin’s Roller Rink and the Re­vival Cinema pre­sented by Sky Cinema. Chich­ester was the birth­place of sev­eral artists of note through­out the years. Hey­wood Hardy, a painter of an­i­mal and sport­ing sub­jects was born in Chich­ester to a large fam­ily of artists. Af­ter mak­ing a ca­reer in Lon­don for many years, where he was very pop­u­lar among landown­ers and of­ten com­mis­sioned to paint an­i­mal stud­ies on their es­tates, he moved back to West Sus­sex in his old age where he caused quite a stir, when, at the age of 83, he painted a se­ries of pan­els for the chan­cel of Clymp­ing Church de­pict­ing Christ ex­plor­ing the Sus­sex Downs.

An­other artist of note was Ge­orge Smith, one of three tal­ented artis­tic brothers known as The Smiths of Chich­ester. Known him­self as Ge­orge Smith of Chich­ester, he spent his ca­reer paint­ing the Sus­sex land­scape. Some of his work can still be found in the col­lec­tion at Good­wood House to­day. Chich­ester City Coun­cil has 20 elected coun­cil­lors serv­ing the north, south, east and west wards of the city. The Mayor of Chich­ester is Mar­tyn Bell.

In Par­lia­ment, the city has been rep­re­sented by Con­ser­va­tive MP Gil­lian Kee­gan since 2017. For Laura Jack­son, head of in­di­vid­ual giv­ing at Chich­ester Fes­ti­val The­atre, her city has ev­ery­thing. “It’s sand­wiched be­tween the South Downs and the sea, and so very of­ten I will walk up Kin­g­ley Vale, which is part of the South Downs, be­fore or af­ter work and when you go up there you find your­self in this huge an­cient yew tree for­est,” she says. On days she doesn’t feel like wan­der­ing the for­est, she pays a visit to the pic­turesque West Wit­ter­ing beach, a glo­ri­ous stretch of golden sand as per­fect on long sum­mer days as in the wilder win­ter months.

But ul­ti­mately it’s the city and its thriv­ing arts scene that re­ally cap­tures her imag­i­na­tion. Chich­ester Fes­ti­val The­atre, which was built in 1962 is, of course, at the cen­tre of it. “The whole the­atre was funded orig­i­nally by the lo­cal com­mu­nity so that’s why there is a real sense of own­er­ship over this the­atre.”

Founded by Les­lie Ever­shedMartin af­ter he first saw a thrust stage on a fate­ful trip to Canada, it has been a cen­tral part of the com­mu­nity ever since, with a large bulk of its au­di­ence loyal pa­trons since it opened. Pa­trons pass their love of the place down the gen­er­a­tions of their fam­i­lies.

“It’s a hive of ac­tiv­ity with some­thing for every­one.”

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