Here's what it's like to live in Chichester
PUBLISHED: 15:22 25 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:22 25 February 2019
The picturesque cathedral city boasts a thriving art scene, foodie fun, shopping to die for and streets steeped in history
The cathedral city of Chichester is easily accessible by car and public transport. Only a 90-minute train journey from London Victoria and less than an hour by rail from Brighton and Portsmouth, it is well connected to the rest of the county and beyond. By car, the city is easily reached by the M27 and A27 coast road that links Hampshire, Sussex and Kent with the A29 and A24 connecting to London. For those looking to travel by bus, the Coastliner route travels as far as Brighton or Southsea, with additional local services in and around the city.
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.
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.
One of the biggest events of the year takes place at the nearby Goodwood estate. Every year 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.
Meet the neighbours
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 Evershed-Martin 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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