Saturday, April 26th 2014
In the land occupied by the Celtic tribe called the Regni or Regini, was a town that had perhaps gained the status of a market town because when the Romans came, they Latinized its Celtic name as Noviomagus Regnorum. Magus comes from the Celtic word meaning a ‘field’, ‘clearing’ or ‘market’. So the name probably means “Newmarket in Regni territory”.
It seems, however, that the settlement fell into disuse at some point until the late 5th or early 6th century when, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it attracted the attention of Ælle, King of the South Saxons, who took it over and named it after his son Cissa. The town thereafter became known as Cisseceaster, “Cissa’s (ex-Roman) town”, and today, Chichester. Cissa may have succeeded his father as King of the South Saxons (the kingdom of Sussex) in approximately 514 to 567.
This morning we took the Brighton train from St Pancras and changed at East Croydon to the train for Portsmouth Harbour which calls at Chichester. As mentioned in my post of last Tuesday, this would be my first chance to try out my new camera in earnest.
In the Middle Ages, Chichester was a market town and part of it belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury, something which no doubt added to its importance and wealth and has also left traces on the modern city.
Wherever money changes hands, there will be someone who looks to extract a share of it. Chichester market was no exception to the rule and Edward Storey (d. 1503), Bishop of Chichester (1477-1503), erected the Market Cross in 1501, after which merchants must pay a toll in order to be allowed to trade. The handsome edifice, complete with clock, still commands the approaches from its position at a crossroads and seems to be a popular place for people to meet or simply to sit and pass the time.
We turned off South Street into a narrow curving street called West Pallant. It is one of a set of four roads named after the cardinal points of the compass. The houses in this street are all very ancient and very expensive. Some are residential and others have become prestige business addresses. The barn-like building you see where the road turns was once the Church of All-Saints-in-the-Pallant. It was built in the first half of the 13th century but has a 19th century addition (see below). The church became redundant in the 1960s and was sold in 2008.
In the 19th century, a vestry was added to the church, matching the style of the main building. It is today used as office accommodation. The name ‘Pallant’ derives from the fact that the land here was once part of the estate of the Archbishop’s palace. For this reason it was known as the Palatine, which name became corrupted into the modern ‘Pallant’.
Our destination lay in North Pallant and was the Queen Anne townhouse (built 1712) called Pallant House and known more humorously as Dodo House, because of the two rather inaccurately represented ostriches decorating the gateposts. This beautiful and historically important house is the old part of the Pallant House Gallery which has been enlarged with a modern extension. We had come to see the exhibition Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War.
Pallant House is an impressive and important art gallery. We were not surprised to learn that photography was not allowed in the Spencer exhibition which consisted of works not owned by the gallery. But what about the permanent collection? We enquired and were each issued with a “Photo Pass” to hang round our necks. Even so, we were challenged a couple of times by staff though they were disarmed by showing them our passes. No conditions seemed to be attached to the issue of passes so I assume I am allowed to post the pictures I took.
The Spencer exhibition was “interesting” – by which I mean that I appreciate the skill and the artistic merit but don’t like the works all that much. Perhaps I need to see more and that with familiarity will come a deeper appreciation as, strangely, I find happening to a certain extent with the sculptures of Paolozzi.
After viewing the exhibition, we made a tour of the rest of the gallery. There is so much there that I cannot show you more than a few samples, both of the artworks and other sights that caught my attention. One small gallery exhibited pairs of works, in each case the finished painting and a preliminary study. This is illuminating to the non-artist who might be tempted to think that painters simply start slapping paint on a blank canvas and by some sort of magic arrive at a completed work. As shown by the above pair, South-East Corner of Jerusalem by David Bomberg, the artist may make one or more preliminary sketches or models before going on to execute the work in its final form.
Features of the house itself often impressed me for their “picturesque” quality as much as the artworks. A case in point is this view of the garden, somehow rendered more poignant by the security bars separating the viewer from the view.
I liked this painting by Victor Willing (1928-1988), even though I do not “understand” it in the way that the artist “understands” it. (I could say the same thing about most artworks, I suppose.) The artist said that he imagined he was on a sailing boat, alone at night, and found it a problem to know how to represent it, given that the boat’s structure and rigging were all around him. Has he succeeded?
This one, by R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007), jumped out at me for several reasons: it’s colourful, there’s an impression of depth and it possesses an off-beat realism. Anyway, there’s a cat in it: ‘nuff said!
There were of course chairs to sit on (though I think most of these were for the curators rather than the visitors) but a lot of the furniture was strictly look-but-don’t-touch. In particular, many of the chairs were defended from injudicious posteriors by that universal symbol of prohibition, the pine cone.
In my better moments I think of fellow visitors to galleries and museums as a valid part of the scene and sometimes include them in my pictures. At other moments I find their presence annoying and become frustrated waiting for them to move away and give me a clear shot. I, of course, never get in anyone’s way. No, not ever
I have to admit that I usually just walk by abstract paintings but this one by Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005) caught my eye. At a quick glance you might think it’s an unusually simple piece by Piet Mondrian (see here, for example), but then you notice the birds. They seem an almost whimsical or humorous addition to an otherwise purely geometrical design. What would Mondrian think, I wonder?
Art, furniture and the useful sometimes fruitfully collide. Above is an example, a tea trolley by Alvaar Aalto (1898-1976) that is also a work of art. Presented at the Paris World Fair in 1937, its style, simple, elegant and rhythmic, seems to me to be of its age and yet still attractive to us now. An ageless piece, perhaps.
The gallery has some paintings by Stanley Spencer, quite apart from the visiting exhibition. I was much taken by this painting which, in contrast to the works in the exhibition, is completely realistic and could serve an an illustration in a manual of botany. (The species shown is papaver orientali not the more familiar field poppy.) Spencer of course is aware of the symbolism of the poppy as commemorative of the victims of war. Ironically, the work was done in 1938, on the eve of yet another frightful war.
Though houses may contain artworks, a house arranged for living in is not necessarily suitable as an art gallery. Modifications will be needed for a home to become an exhibition space. I liked the way the light in this room is controlled by what appear to be the original wooden shutters.
At the bottom of the staircase, a familiar figures was waiting. We immediately recognized the subject and knew who the artist must be. We first encountered sculptures of Dhruva Mistry on our visits to Birmingham, where a pair of his Guardians resides in Victoria Square (see, for example, A library in Birmingham, or this picture). As I was able to get pictures from several angles, I have compiled them into a slide show. Click on the above image to see it.
Leaving Pallant House at last, we took to the streets once more, intending to explore parts of the town we had not previously visited. At its top end, North Pallant becomes an alleyway and there we found some familiar-looking paintings. Immediately recognizable, they are by street artist Stik.
This is the Church of St Pancras, a rather fine chunky design, built in the 18th century. There were two saints called Pancras (in Greek, Pancratios, meaning ‘the one who holds everything’). They are distinguished respectively as Pancras of Taormina and Pancras of Rome. The St Pancras commemorated in London is the latter but I do not know which is the Chichester St Pancras.
The City War Memorial was installed in 1921 in Eastgate Square in commemoration of those who died in the First World War. Sadly, it has had to be modified to commemorate also the dead of the Second World War. It is now sited in Litten Gardens, an ancient burial ground that has been cleared to make a park by moving the gravestones to one side. I think this is in fact a fine and peaceful setting for the memorial.
The open prospect of the Gardens suggested that I try out the camera’s panorama function (see A new body, hurrah!). The above image is my first attempt. I can see that this could be quite a useful feature of the camera (click to see a larger version).
We next thought of paying a little visit to the picturesque and historic town of Arundel. However, as our train tickets were for Chichester to St Pancras, we would have to return to Chichester again to make the journey home, counterintuitive though that might seem. Enquiries at the bus station elicited the information that we would have to catch a bus to Littlehampton and change there to a bus for Arundel. I don’t know how long the journey was, as I didn’t think to time it, but it seemed very long and the thought that we would have to make the return trip in order to catch our train disinclined us to spend very long in Arundel. What follow are a few, almost random pictures from our visit.
In common with much of Sussex, Arundel is a hilly place. This, after all, is what induced the Normans to build a castle here. Bakers Arms Hill is one of the hilly streets of Arundel. Very picturesque it is too, though I expect this causes difficulties in icy conditions. How old is the street? Quite old, I imagine, and as an indication, the two white-painted metal posts have this lettering moulded onto them: “ARUNDEL º CORPORATION º 1819”. I could see no sign of the Bakers Arms after which the street is named.
We climbed up the parallel King’s Arms Hill (no sign of a pub there, either) to reach Maltravers Street. Here we found a rather impressive stand of three fine terraced houses, numbers 40 to 44. I thought they must be quite old and wondered whether they might have been almshouses though, on reflection, this would be unlikely in view of their size. According to English Heritage, which has given them a Grade II listing, they were built in the late 19th century, exact date not specified. This is all the more strange in view of the eroded condition of the sculpture on the corner of the building, though I suppose its position does rather expose it to the weather. Who or what does the figure represent, knight or churchman? It’s hard to tell. According to English Heritage, the installation is an aedicule:
Between stringcourses at the south-west corner is an aedicule, the moulded base taken on acanthus corbelling, framed by colonnettes, with a battered canopy with finial and drop tracery, over niche containing statue of crowned male figure in mediaeval dress, a sword in right hand, and model of a Romanesque church in left hand (presumably a royal founder).
The castle was built at the end of the 11th century by one Roger de Montgomery, Early of Arundel, and should obviously be visited. Unfortunately, we did not have time to do so and this was as close as we came to it.
With regard to the name of the town, its etymology seems uncertain, though the one thing we can say is that the town is built along the Arun river. Where the del (originally spelt dell) comes from is subject to argument.
Time was moving swiftly on, as is its wont, and we found that a bus to Littlehampton (where we would change for Cisseceaster) would arrive shortly. My remaining photos were therefore taken in the neighbourhood of the bus stop in the High Street.
This building at 53 High Street is either quaintly beautiful or is a clumsy pastiche, depending on your taste in architecture. Today, the ground floor houses a shop but 53 used to be the offices of the West Sussex Gazette (which now lives is Horsham). According to the blue plaque, “THE WEST SUSSEX GAZETTE WAS PUBLIUSHED HERE 1853-1996” and this is supported by the projecting cornice bearing the motto “Established 1853” (see above). On the other hand, English Heritage (while acknowledging the 1853 foundation date) states that the structure was built in 1899 to 1900. If English Heritage is right, and I don’t doubt that they are, then perhaps 1853 was the date when the newspaper was founded, not when the office was built.
Arundel’s War Memorial was erected in 1921 in commemoration of those citizens of the town who died in the First World War but, as in many other cases, it had to be adapted to commemorate the dead of the Second World War as well. The boundary wall is a later addition, not shown on earlier photographs (see, for example, here). Interestingly, the streetlamps standing to either side of the memorial are listed buildings, though I do not know their age or provenance. They do not appear on earlier photographs so either they are younger than the memorial or were brought from somewhere else.
My last photos were of a row of old but elegant houses next to the Norfolk Arms. I was intrigued by the clock which seems to have a face carved from stone, the first I have seen. The house to which is belongs is a timber framed building of the 16th or 17th century with, on the ground floor, a 19th century shop front. I have not been able to identify any information about to house to its left which looks equally interesting.
The bus arrived and carried us to Littlehampton where we changed and continued to Chichester. Then followed the train ride home. Was all that time spent on rail and road worth it for the experience of exploring Chichester and Arundel? Definitely. And we shall be back one of these days!