A day in Noviomagus

Market Cross, Chichester

On Friday, it was the turn of Chichester to be visited. We have been there before but it is a pleasant town to visit from time to time. It is also historically important but I won’t say anything about that here. If you want to know the history of the town you can look at this page and many others.

Market Cross, Chichester

In Roman times, the town was known as Noviomagus. There seems to be some dispute among scholars as to what the name actually meant. According to some, it means “New Port”; to others, it means “New Market”; and to still others, it is “New field or plain” from the Celtic words nowyos (“new”) and magos (“field” or “plain”).

There is fortunately less uncertainty about the modern name. The Saxon King Aella or Ella who conquered the area and carved out a kingdom, passed it on to his son Cissa (pronounced “Chissa”) who renamed the town “Cissa Ceaster” (ceaster being the name given to old Roman towns) and this name developed into modern “Chichester”.

The Buttery at the Crypt

As it was rather a dull day to start with, we started with a cream tea. Does this surprise you? No, probably not… The venue, shown on the left, was The Buttery at the Crypt for reasons you can see in the photo. One question neither the Romans nor the Anglo-Saxons had to face, but modern Britons do, is this: When you have a cream tea, do you put the cream or the jam on the scone first? (And is scone pronounced “scoan” or “scon”?)

Strange beasts on gate posts

After a satisfying cream tea, we went for an exploratory walk, during which we saw a number of interesting sights, such as the market cross, pictured above, these strange beasts (right) on gate posts. Are they dodos or perhaps ostriches as portrayed by early European explorers? Then there was a pair of faceless angels inside a gateway, one of which is shown below.

Faceless Angel

I suspect the angel is faceless because of the friction of passing traffic, whether people, animals or vehicles. There is of course a lot of religious building and symbolism in Chichester, not least the Cathedral. Remove all these vestiges and you would still have some beautiful and historic artifacts in Chichester but our past history is so intimately intertwined with the Christian fantasy that it cannot be ignored.

Chichester Cathedral

With that in mind, here is the obligatory photo of Chichester Cathedral. We didn’t go inside but from the outside it’s quite good as cathedrals go.

Sun dial

Another item of interest was this sundial, though the day was too cloudy to be able to see whether it was telling the right time or not.

Walled garden

We were feeling tired from our wanderings (and my back was still playing up) so we were pleased to find this beautiful little walled garden that is open to the public. There was a bench at the far end (from where the photo is taken) that was just big enough for the two of us. So if any other people came in, we frowned at them until they went away.


We amused ourselves trying to photograph the bumblebees and birds, with somewhat limited success on my part, as you can see. When photographing small objects, especially at full zoom, this camera finds it hard to know what to focus on and sometimes gets it spectacularly wrong.


We sat for quite a while in that little garden, enjoying the peace and the sunshine but in the end it was time to leave and return to London. Chichester, though, is definitely on our list to revisit.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to A day in Noviomagus

  1. Carol says:

    And when you do come back please do visit the Bishop’s Palace Gardens which are accessed through the Cathedral close.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    We did try. The was a flower festival or some such on at the time and parts of the Cathedral were closed. Maybe that was the reason we couldn’t get through. We found “No public assess” at every turn.

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