Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Chichester / Cisseceastre: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series ****

Chichester (pronounced /ˈtʃɪtʃɨstər/) is a cathedral city in West Sussex, South-East England. It has a long history as a settlement; its Roman past and its subsequent importance in Anglo-Saxon times are only its beginnings. It is the seat of a bishopric, with a 12th century cathedral, and is home to some of the oldest churches and buildings in Great Britain.
Chichester today is a local government stronghold, with three levels of government being administered there. It is also a transport hub, and the centre for culture in the region, with a Festival theatre and two art galleries.

Chichester Harbour

Nearby Chichester Harbour, together with the South Downs and the city walls, provide opportunities for outdoor pursuits.

It has been argued that the area was a bridgehead for the Roman invasion of Britain. The city centre stands on the foundations of the Romano-British city of Noviomagus Reginorum, capital of the Civitas Reginorum, and near to the Roman Palace of Fishbourne.

Fishbourne Palace Northwing

reconstruction of the palace

Fishbourne floor Mosaics

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it was captured towards the close of the fifth century, by Ælle, and renamed after his son, Cissa. It was the chief city of the Kingdom of Sussex. The Roman road of Stane Street, connecting the city with London, started at the east gate, while the Chichester to Silchester road started from the north gate.

Miland Street, road from Chichester to Silchester

The city streets have a cross-shaped layout, inherited from the Romans: radiating outwards from the medieval market cross lead the North, South, East and West shopping streets. Quite a lot of the city walls are in place, and may be walked along over what still remains .

Reconstruction of the Roman Ampitheatre

An amphitheatre was built close to what would have been the city walls, outside the East Gate in around 80 AD. The remains are now buried under land currently used as a park, but the bank of the amphitheatre is clearly discernible and a notice board in the park gives more information.

Only a hollow shows the earth works of the ampitheatre


The 8 areas of Chichester Conservation

The City of Chichester is located on the River Lavant south of its gap through the South Downs.

River Lavant

This winterbourne often dries up during the summer months, and for part of its course runs through the city in underground culverts. The City's site made it an ideal place for settlement, with many ancient routeways converging here. The oldest section lies within the Medieval walls of the city, which are built on Roman foundations.
The Chichester Conservation Area, designated for its architectural and historic interest, encompasses the whole of the Roman town, and includes many Grade I and II listed buildings. Further to the north lies the separate conservation area around Graylingwell Hospital, and to the south, the Chichester Conservation Area has been extended recently to include the newly restored canal basin and part of the canal itself. The Conservation Area has been split into eight 'character' areas, based on historic development, building type, uses and activities.

Main sights

Chichester Cross. One time site for the market, stands at the intersection of the four main roads

Chichester Cathedral, founded in the 11th century, is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and contains a shrine to Saint Richard of Chichester.

St. Richard Shrine

Its spire, built of the weak local stone, collapsed suddenly and was rebuilt during the 19th century. In the south aisle of the cathedral a window in the floor affords a view of the remains of a Roman mosaic pavement.

Pavement Tile

The cathedral is unusual in Britain in having a separate bell tower a few metres away from the main building, rather than integrated into it.

Arundle Tomb

Within the cathedral there is a medieval tomb of a knight and his wife, the inspiration of the poem "An Arundel Tomb", by Philip Larkin. A fine memorial statue also exists of William Huskisson, once member of parliament for the city, but best remembered as the first man to be run over by a railway engine. Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms were commissioned for the cathedral.
In addition to the cathedral there are five Church of England churches, St Richard’s Roman Catholic church and nine religious buildings of other denominations.

The Hornet Almeshouse

The remains of the Roman amphitheatre are now buried under land south of The Hornet, currently used as a park, but the bank of the amphitheatre is clearly discernible and a notice board in the park gives more information.

Butter Market in North Street

The Butter Market in North Street was designed by John Nash, and was opened in 1808 as a food and produce market. In 1900, a second storey was added to the building, originally housing an arts institute. It is currently still in use by various small business, however Chichester City Council are soon to carry out a full scale renovation of the building, leaving the future of some of the current retailers in some doubt.

Corn Exchange in East Street

The Corn Exchange in East Street was built in 1833, one of the first in the country. It is an imposing building, designed to show off its importance to trade. In 1883 it was also used for drama and entertainment. From then it became a cinema (1923-1984), a restaurant, and then a McDonalds fast food restaurant. It is currently occupied by Next clothing retailers.


Chichester Festival Theatre

The city holds an annual three-week arts and music festival (“Chichester Festivities“) held in July.
Its most prestigious cultural location is the Chichester Festival Theatre, one of the United Kingdom’s flagship theatres, whose annual summer season attracts actors, writers and directors from the West End theatre.

Pallant House Gallery, winner of the 2007 gallery of the year Gulbenkian Prize has a major collection of chiefly modern British art and in 2006 opened its new extension that houses the collection of Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson. It also has a changing programme of exhibitions.
Chichester Cinema at New Park is the city's first and only arthouse cinema. It shows a selection of mainstream, small-budget and older films, with showings 7 days a week. Vice presidents are Dame Maggie Smith and Kenneth Branagh. There is also a larger, multiplex cinema located at Chichester Gate.
For a short period in the 90s Chichester started to develop an alternative subculture similar to other cities like Brighton or Manchester, goths, punks, artists and musicians were common in this time of the city’s history. There is still a shop in North Street which retails clothing aimed at the alternative music culture.
The following paragraph considers the city’s music scene: in recent years it has experienced growth in various genres. Larkin uses this scene to muse on time, mortality and the limits of earthly love.
It begins thus:-
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone, and concludes
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

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