Today we got a new county for our list, as we entered West Sussex, for a visit to the historic cathedral city of Chichester…
Status: Chichester District, West Sussex, City, England
Eating & Sleeping: Cathedral Cafe
Attractions: Chichester Cathedral, Chichester Cross, Corn Exchange, Butter Market, Cathedral Bell Tower, West Sussex County Hall, Dolphin Hotel, St Richard Statue, Prebendal School Building, John Edes House etc
Chichester’s most famous landmark is the truly stunning 12th Century Cathedral, which has stood in the centre of Chichester for over 900 years.
The Cathedral was originally completed in 1108 after over 25 years of building work. The original seat of the Diocese had been at nearby Selsey, but was moved into what was then the largest population centre in the area.
Like most ancient buildings a number of important events have occurred over the years, with new portions being built, and tragedies destroying existing sections:
1187: A large fire destroyed a significant portion of the town, as well as parts of the Cathedral. It wasn’t fully repaired and rebuilt until 1199.
1210: Two large towers mark the main entrance to the building at the Northern end, known as the Eastern, and Western Towers. The Western collapsed in 1210, and was rebuilt. In 1635 the Eastern would also collapse, although a new one wasn’t reconstructed until the start of the 20th century.
1262: A shrine to newly canonised Richard de la Wyche (1197 – 1253, Former Bishop of Chichester, now Saint Richard) was installed at the Cathedral. Although it was destroyed in the 16th century, a statue of him still stands outside the main entrance.
1402: By this time both the Central Tower, and its fine Spire have been completed. An extra Bell Tower, built separately from the rest of the building, but directly next to it, was also completed. Subsidence was an ongoing problem for the Cathedral hence why the new Bell Tower wasn’t attached.
1861: The main Spire collapsed, and thanks to donations from various sources, including Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901), it was rebuilt by 1866 with the help of Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878, Architect from Buckinghamshire who designed St Pancras, and the Albert Memorial).
Inside the building is full of incredible detail, with the Nave soaring high above you as you enter. If you get to visit Chichester it is certainly worth a look inside. You can find out more on their official website here.
Here you can see the stand alone 15th Century Bell Tower, at the entrance to the Cathedral Yard just outside the Northern Towers. It is reminiscent of other Cathedral’s across Europe, with a notable example being Florence Cathedral, which also has a stand alone Bell Tower.
If you get chance to visit the Cathedral, aside from exploring the beautiful detail inside, and the Cloisters which surround it, you should also make a beeline for the Cathedral Cafe. Set in it’s own private garden, it offers a unique view of this historic building, whilst providing a calm setting to enjoy a nice day.
Eventually we had to move on, and directly opposite the Cathedral Yard is a line of historic buildings, all of which are Listed. The standout building in the row is the “Dolphin & Anchor Hotel”, shown centre, which includes Waterstones and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
The Dolphin, and The Anchor were once completely separate hotels. The Dolphin was sat where it still says Dolphin Hotel today, whilst the Anchor occupied the building two doors left, with the window baskets on each balcony.
Both were completed in the 18th century, and an extension to the Dolphin Hotel was later built, bridging the gap towards the Anchor. If you look at the main Waterstones sign, you can see the old Coaching Entrance which would have provided access to the backyard. Collectively the two hotels are now a mixture of shops, whilst still retaining their historic fronts. The Anchor building is now a Wetherspoons Pub, appropriately named the “Dolphin & Anchor”.
The Dolphin & Anchor sits on West Street, and if you follow it East towards the main shopping streets of Chichester, you will come across the ornately carved Market Cross, a gift to the city from Bishop Edward Story (Died 1503, former Bishop of Carlisle, and Bishop of Chichester from 1477 until his death).
The main base of the Cross was completed around 1500, whilst the Clocks which line the roof, and the squat Belfry between them, was added in 1724.
It’s position marks the intersection of the cities four most important streets, North Street, West Street, East Street and South Street, which together form a large cross.
There are a number of main shopping streets across Chichester city centre, most of which are now pedestrianised. They contain a variety of architecturally, and historically interesting buildings. Almost every building in the centre is Listed, but a few in particular stood out.
We started on North Street, heading North away from the Market Cross, where we found the old “Market House (Butter Market)”, of 1808. It was purpose built by John Nash (1752 – 1835, London Architect) as a new home for the towns Market Traders, and originally only consisted of the lower storey. Once it was completed, it was the only place in Chichester where you could buy Fresh Fruit, as it was illegal to sell it anywhere else.
In 1900 the upper storey was added, and used as a new Technical Institute/Art School. Today the building is effectively an arcade, a collection of shops and restaurants in place of the old traders stalls.
Just two doors down from the Market House is the “Former Church of St Olave”, a quaint little Church sandwiched between a more modern building to the right, and a 17th century shop with a 19th century front, to the left.
The Church itself was originally built in Norman times, around the 11th Century. The Nave survives from this time period, whilst the Chancel is a 13th century build. It’s a good example of how towns and cities grow, and a Church that was probably a stand alone building is now hemmed in, as history took its course.
We kept going up North Street, and arrived outside the Chichester Council House, a large complex of buildings gradually completed over a period of 150 years.
The original portion is the Council Chamber, designed by Roger Morris (1695 – 1749, Architect from London) in 1731. It overhangs the pavement in the ornate red brick frontage to the building.
50 years later the building was extended, when the Assembly & Ante Rooms were added to the rear in the early 1780’s, by Thomas Andrews. The complex was finally complete a century later when the Mayor’s Parlour was also built, still used by the Mayor of Chichester to receive guests.
Our final stop on North Street was the “The Old Cross Inn”, named after the Cross in the Market Square.
Although it was only built in 1936, it was designed in the “Old English Style”, so it looks like it was built a few hundred years ago like the majority of the buildings which surround it.
We moved away from North Street, and took a stroll up West Street, which is a slight contrast compared with North Street. It features a mixture of newer, 20th century buildings alongside much older 18th, and 19th century structures.
On the left, the third building along is a single bay, 19th century yellow brick building which currently houses a Specsavers (65 East Street). To its immediate left is a modern era Poundland store (62-64 East Street), whilst the building to the far left (61 & 61A East Street) was built in the 18th century. Interestingly both Poundland and Number 61 look visually similar, and together blend in quite well.
At the far end of East Street is the old Corn Exchange, one of the first to be built in England. Completed in 1832, it was designed by George Draper (Born in Essex, 1796) as a centre for the exchange of Grains such as Wheat by local Merchants/Farmers.
By the end of the 19th century, part of the Exchange was converted for use as a small theatre, where various pantomimes were performed. By 1927 the Exchange itself had become a Cinema, which was renamed as the “Granada” in 1948, the name it is currently Listed under. Like the old Market Hall, it is now a shopping unit, whilst preserving the original building.
Returning to West Street, and heading past the Dolphin & Anchor towards West Sussex County Hall, you will pass a large, imposing building which is much older than it looks.
The “John Edes House” was completed in 1696, and is thought to be the work of Sir Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723, Wiltshire Architect who built St Paul’s Cathedral), although this is often disputed.
Wren’s client for the build was John Edes, who lived here with his wife called Hannah. It changed hands numerous times, until it was eventually bought by West Sussex County Council upon its creation in 1888 when Sussex was split into East and West. The house now sits in front of the new County Hall, and is one of Chichester’s oldest buildings.
Moving behind the John Edes House we entered the forecourt of the magnificent West Sussex County Hall of 1936.
Chichester has historically been the County Town of the ancient county of Sussex, with the Bishop of Chichester covering the whole of West, and East Sussex counties.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Chichester, it is a beautiful historic city with so much to see. English Cathedrals are amongst our most incredible buildings, and it was great to add another to our list. Chichester is one of those places that just looks historic from every angle, as so much of the city centre has kept buildings from the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries etc.
I took this photo on West Street, looking past a row of historic buildings back towards the Cathedral, which include the “Prebendal School ” shown to the extreme right, a fine 13th century design, more recently renovated in 1830. The School itself was founded in 1497, by Bishop Edward Story whom I wrote earlier gave the city the stunning Market Cross.
Chichester is a must for anyone to visit should they find themselves in West Sussex. The Cathedral is certainly worth a visit, and the surrounding streets have many varied and interesting buildings, as well as a variety of shops.
Transport wise, the city is well linked to the rest of Britain. The A27 bypasses the city, and runs from the M27 at Portsmouth, all the way towards Hastings/Eastbourne to the East. Local trains run to Brighton and Southampton, as well as up towards London Victoria via Gatwick Airport, for flights round the rest of the UK, and the World.
It was time to move on, and our next stop was Arundel, famous for its skyline, dominated by the Gothic Cathedral, and historic Castle…