Monday, September 04, 2006

Saturday, part 1: Chichester Walls and Chichester Cross

Saturday, at last! With the work week behind me, I was excited about spending 100% of my time over the next two days vacationing with Maurene in West Sussex. I had never visited any part of the British countryside, so this would be a new adventure. Also, I hoped the weather by shore would be a little cooler than what we'd endured in London during the past week.

Maurene and I were to stay overnight with her 90-year-old friend Betty, who met us at the train station in Chichester. We were driven to the nursing home where Betty’s 95-year-old sister Nancy lives. After a short but very pleasant visit, Maurene and I set off to find lunch and fortify ourselves for a day of sightseeing in Chichester.

Driving into Chichester, our view of the city walls was the first evidence of its long history. The ancient city of Chichester was laid out in Roman times, possibly as early as the end of the second century. In 1204 AD repairs to the Roman wall were undertaken, with additional work performed in 1261 and in the 1370s. The medieval construction used “knapped flint.” Flint is apparently the local stone, and knapping was probably a rather manual process which involved cracking open the flint rock to expose the beautiful coloration inside. Standing in the middle of Canon Lane, which is just off South Street near the entrance to the cathedral close, I took this picture of the old city walls.

Turning around (still on Canon Lane), I saw the Canon Gate House which dates back to the 13th century.

This picture gives a closeup view of the surface of the walls. You can see not only the knapped flint but a spot where recent brick repair has been applied.

Maurene and I didn’t walk the perimeter of the walls (1.5 miles or 2.4 kilometers), but the internet provides a nice virtual walk which I highly recommend.

Chichester’s four main streets – simply named North, South, East, and West streets – all radiate out from a central “cross,” a structure given to the town in 1501 by the Bishop Storey to shelter farmers who sold produce in the city. Here’s my picture of the Chichester Cross.

In Roman times there was no Cross, of course, but these same four streets extended from the center of town in all four directions: North to London, East to Winchester and Silchester, South to the sea, and West to Fishbourne, which was the Roman supply base on Chichester Harbor.

What makes Chichester interesting, however, is not only the landmarks of Roman and medieval times but evidences of all the other eras in between. It has had a vibrant, continuous history with a consistently rich cultural heritage. In addition to being the center of the diocese and providing religious leadership to the region, Chichester has also offered music, theater, art, museums, libraries, societies for intellectual improvement (such as the 19th century Literary and Philosophical Society), and community dances. Personally, I think the Chichester Cross is a symbol of all that. This beautiful landmark, which is neither Roman nor medieval, stands in the center of town and symbolizes how artistic contributions of all the periods have added to the culture and beauty of the little town of Chichester. 

(P.S. All the photos in this post are mine.)

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

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