We managed to leave the house by 8:40 but just missed a 341 which would have taken us straight to Waterloo, and instead took three others to complete the same journey. Never mind; we got there in the end.
We changed buses at Holborn and walked through Sicilian Avenue which was partially closed for weeks during refurbishment. It’s nice to see it open again and looking smart.
Waterloo, as is usual for a Saturday, was moderately crowded. Tigger went off to buy train tickets while I acquired a baguette and coffee breakfast from Upper Crust. This is a routine that we have perfected on our many trips.
You need to cross the level crossing to reach town
We reached our destination, Chichester in West Sussex, just after 11 am. To reach the town, you need to cross the railway lines by the level crossing. We had to wait for two trains to pass so everyone was becoming impatient. When the barriers went up, it was like the start at Silverstone!
On the way, we passed the Crown Court. It is an unremarkable brick box, no doubt perfectly suitable for its purpose, but what amused us was that someone had seen fit to add instructions for opening the door. Doors can be tricky things to operate…
We continued up Southgate and then into South Street. One of the pretty buildings along here is what I call the “pebble house” for want of a more accurate name. I don’t know how old it is but I am guessing it is Georgian and perhaps built as the home of a merchant. It is faced with grey pebbles and has steps to raise the front door from what would once have been a muddy street.
Another building that caught my eye was this one. That is because it was built in 1849 for the Chichester Mechanic’s Institute and as my postgraduate education was funded by a mechanics’ institute grant, I have always been interested in them and their work. This building was provided by John Barton, a Quaker economist, businessman and writer who was one of the founders of this Institute in 1825.
South Street goes past Canon Lane whose entrance is protected by this impressive gateway, called Canon Gate, giving access to the grounds of the Cathedral. Built in the 16th century, it was rebuilt in 1894.
I am intrigued by the room above the gate with its small leaded windows and wonder whether it is still used.
South Street also leads to the historic centre of Chichester, marked by the Market Cross. From it, four streets go off to the four cardinal points of the compass: North Street, South Street, West Street and East Street. A nearby plaque tells us the the Cross was given to Chichester by Bishop Story in 1501. It was used by market traders as a place to sell their wares.
Another set of compass-directed streets is formed by the Pallants – North Pallant, South Pallant, etc. (No, I do not know what “pallant” means, if anything.) At their meeting point stands Pallant House, built in 1712 for a merchant. It is in late Queen Anne style and, being the first of its kind in Chichester, would have been considered the height of modernism if not somewhat overdone.
The gate is topped by two ostriches which look to me like ostriches designed by an artist who has never seen an ostrich. There is a certain cartoonish quality to them.
Adjoining the original Pallant House is a new wing, opened in 2006. The gallery houses what is said to be an impressive collection of modern art. I will take their word for it as we did not go in.
I liked this house in North Pallant whose plain, classical-looking front offsets a gem of a doorway. It was built in the early 18th century and today belongs to the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, a very worthy organization.
North Pallant leads into East Street, one of the main shopping areas. Here, one Slim Lightfoot was making a fine old racket with a golden guitar. (See Update below.)
We followed East Street as far as the Corn Exchange and then turned back to the centre to find lunch. The Exchange, designed by George Draper, was built in 1830, funded by a consortium of local businessmen. From 1883, it could be hired for entertainments and other events. Chichester’s first moving picture show was held here on December 26th 1896.
For lunch we went to the Buttery in South Street, We have been there several times before and hoped it was still as good. I am glad to say it was.
The building occupied by the buttery originally dates from the 12th century. It’s part of a group with the Canon Gate and Vicar’s Hall.
Tigger had once been to East Wittering and wanted to take me there, so we caught the bus and went.
East Wittering (there is a West Wittering as well) is a small seaside town. It has small shops and houses, some houses so small as to suggest they were built as holiday chalets. There is surfing but no fairground rides.
Drawing swimmers, surfers and sunbathers is the beach. It is a shingle beach but it seems to go on for ever. The sun had come out and the temperature had risen, making the beach more attractive still.
The beach allows distant views along the coast. Looking east you can see as far as Selsey.
For some reason, there were more people on the western stretch of beach than on the eastern. Plenty of people were in the water while others paddled boats.
We were surprised by a sudden flight of four aircraft going past, holding formation. They were probably on the way to the Annual Air Festival at Bournemouth. It was only later that we heard the sad news of the fatal crash of one of the Red Arrows.
I was, as usual, watching the animals. The spider was quite still in his web, perhaps resting in the heat. Then I spotted this dog, the very image of frustration.
The lead was just too short to allow the dog to reach his ball and his people were busy chatting and ignoring him. He kept trying but failing. After taking the photo, I rolled the ball to him.
After enjoying the beach and the animated scene for a while, we went off to look for a cup of tea, passing the minuscule public library along the way. Unfortunately, it was closed as I would have liked to take a look inside. I have worked in big and small libraries and know that a small library often provides a greater service than its size might suggest.
For tea, we chose Calamity’s cafe (the name refers to problems encountered when it first opened in 1989). A characteristic of this establishment (apart from the surly service that made us feel we were intruders in a family gathering rather than welcome customers) was the huge collection of tea pots, of which just one section is shown above.
We took the bus back to Chichester bus station and straightaway transferred to one to Midhurst. Why? Well, why not?! It might have been an interesting place to visit. In the event, we found that after 6 pm the bus services were greatly curtailed and so we deemed it safer to go back onto the bus and return to Chichester. Maybe we’ll get around to Midhurst another time.
We went for a final walk around Chichester. Everything was closing down for the evening but that was to our advantage as there were fewer people to get in the way. One of the main points of interest, of course, is Chichester Cathedral, known also as the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity.
Originally consecrated in 1108, the Cathedral was greatly damaged by fire in 1197, rebuilt and re-consecrated in 1199.
An unusual feature is the free standing bell tower, built in 1402.
I liked the 18th century sundial, even though it wasn’t showing a time that was remotely correct, and…
… some characterful gargoyles, of which I show one above. This bewigged gentleman is obviously much younger than the Cathedral, perhaps a later replacement for a damaged one.
The Cathedral itself and the extensive grounds form a huge complex. It would need a book, never mind a blog post, to do it all justice. An introduction to its history and architecture may be found here.
Free of the daytime clutter of people, the Market Cross could be seen, along with its various decorations, such as this shield-bearing angel.
The light was beginning to fade and we felt it was time to be making for the station. Inevitably, though, other distractions awaited along the way. (Not that we minded!)
The Butter Market opened in 1808 and was designed by no less an architect than John Nash. Selling more than just butter, it replaced the Market Cross which was then closed off with railings to prevent trading there. An upper floor was added to the Butter Market in 1900 as an arts institute.
In the 17th and early 18th century, the town Council met in an upper room of a market building in North Street, which I think no longer exists. It was eventually decided that new premises were required and, with the cooperation and financial help of the Duke of Richmond, a Council House, designed by Roger Morris of London, was built in 1731.
In the 1780s, a need was felt for a venue where cultural events could take place and an Assembly Room was added at the rear of the premises.
Like all self-respecting public buildings, the Council House has a dedicatory panel in Latin. This one is guarded by a lion.
The Duke of Richmond, who contributed what we might call the lion’s share of the building expenses, kept lions at Goodwood. This lion has perhaps been added as a reminder of these and, more especially, of the Duke’s generosity.
Back at the station at last (after more distractions not logged above) we caught a Victoria train and changed at Gatwick for London Bridge where we took a bus to the Angel and home.
Chichester, an ancient city, has much to interest the visitor – more than you can see properly in one day. In addition, Tigger introduced me to East Wittering and we almost visited Midhurst. A good day out? Most definitely!
I originally stated that the “Man with the Golden Guitar”, Slim Lightfoot, was using a backing tape. I was mistaken. Slim has been in touch (see his comment below) to tell me so. As he considers it important to dissociate himself from the use of a backing tape I am keen to set the record straight and to apologize to Slim for any embarrassment caused. Please read his comment.