The History of Chichester
Celtic tribes were living in Chichester before the Romans invaded Britain in 44AD, and when the 2nd Garrison of Romans arrived the Celts assisted them when they decided to build a fort here in the newly named Noviomagus Reginorum. Close by the Lavant river offered essential water and the harbour provided an access route for all of the imported goods that were necessary in the building of the site, as their numbers grew entertainment was needed for the Legionnaires, so an Amphitheatre was constructed which provided a Gladiatorial showcase arena where Gladiators battled to their death. The street plan that was laid out with North, South, East and West Street, still remains today. When the Romans finally left, the Celtic leader Cogidnubus became King of Sussex; he moved into the Fort, and expanded the settlement. The Saxon settlers arrived soon after, and the town was given the new name of Cissa's Ceaster, eventually changing over time into Cisscester and finally Chichester.
The growth and prosperity of the town continued across the centuries where carpentry, pottery and the tooling of leather proved lucrative. The battle against the marauding Danes was won in 894, the Normans then landed in England and gradually conquered the land, building castles and churches in their wake, Chichester was no different, they were to build a castle on a Motte in 1081, and although the castle no longer remains the motte is clearly seen. The decision to build the Cathedral at Chichester was taken in 1091 when construction began, this stunning piece of architecture has suffered over the centuries, with fires which destroyed parts of it that required re-building in 1114 and 1187, this architectural masterpiece still dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around.
The town produced a Saint in the 13th Century who took up the position of Bishop, the first Mayor was elected in 1239, and the Guildhall took shape, originally built as a church for Greyfriars until the Dissolution. Medieval times saw the market increase in importance, and trade flourished; the erection of a Market Cross occurred in 1501 and the ornate architecture has stood firm, the usual practise where all sellers had to pay a toll to peddle their wares even though poor farmers could ill afford it was tackled by the Bishop who decided that they needn't pay if they stood under the Market Cross.
Soon after the 16th Century heralded the decline of the wool trade in exported goods, wheat and malt then took precedence, the paving of streets occurred for the first time in 1578, and later the building of houses changing from timber where thatched roofs were the order of the day, to brick built structures and again a growth in the economy with the production of bricks playing its part.
17th Century England saw the ravages of Civil War , when Parliament and the King were torn apart and it necessitated the choosing of sides. Chichester's loyalties were split, however, the town became a Royalist stronghold, until the Parliamentarian Army arrived and besieged the town with cannon fire, where it was held until the end of the Civil War.
A Butter Market was built in 1808 in North Street specifically for the selling of butter, milk and produce, Gas light arrived in 1820, followed by an enthusiastic Police Force, the opening of the Chichester Canal in 1823, and a piped water supply in 1875.
The twentieth Century saw the survival of the town through the Second World War bombing raids, the building of the War Memorial, Theatre , and art galleries, and the bestowing of a Royal Charter heralding the birth of a city in 1974.
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