Discover Chichester with North Walls House
23 April 2019
Nestled on the coastal plain of the English Channel between the South Downs and a large natural harbour, Chichester started life as a fortified camp of the South Saxons occupied by Cissa, a son of the first South Saxon king. It was more formally settled by the Romans who called it Noviomagus. The name did not survive Rome's departure: it was recorded as Cissaceastre or Cisseceastre in 895 and Cicestre in the Doomsday Book of 1086.
Today much of the medieval city walls, built on Roman foundations, still encircle Chichester and provide quiet walks with good vantage points to view the city. Its focal point is its magnificent Norman cathedral, begun in 1076 and completed under the guidance of Bishop Luffa in 1108. The cathedral is beautifully proportioned and graceful rather than imposingly large and it is still very much the spiritual heart of the city with a small but superb choir. Most unusually these days it is also free to enter: there is no admission charge. This makes it something of a bargain. A magnificent tapestry designed by John Piper provides a beautiful backdrop to the altar, there is a window by Marc Chagall and many other features of historical interest. A unique feature of this cathedral is its separate medieval bell tower set apart from the main building to contain the vibrations caused by its impressive bell. The Bishop’s Park gardens are tranquil and beautifully set out with trees, shrubs, and plants, so well worth strolling around. Perhaps because of the cathedral's dominant presence all of the other churches within the city walls have been deconsecrated and are used for other purposes but are worth visiting nonetheless, especially if they are now bars and even if they're banks.