Chichester is a cathedral city in the Chichester District of West Sussex, and is also the county town of West Sussex, home of West Sussex County Council. The city is twinned with Chartres in France and Ravenna in Italy and has a population of over 25,000.
The impressive remains of Fishbourne Roman Palace was discovered in 1960, when a water main was being laid. The discovery led to nine years of excavations that showed the site had developed from a military base at the time of the Roman invasion in AD43 to a sumptuous Palace by AD75. Around the size of Buckingham Palace, it had under-floor heating, a separate bathhouse and 50 rooms with mosaics. Fishbourne Palace would have been considered one of the most luxurious buildings in the whole of the Roman Empire. Open to the public, it is still being excavated today, with new discoveries continuing to be made.
Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Chichester Harbour is one of the few remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern England and still remains relatively wild. Its wide expanses and intricate creeks are at the same time a major wildlife haven and among some of Britain’s most popular boating waters. The massive stretch of tidal flats are home to large populations of wildfowl and waders that feed on the rich plant life and huge populations of intertidal invertebrates. Some 7,500 Brent geese over-winter on the intertidal mud-land and adjacent farmland and more than 50,000 birds reside in or visit the Harbour throughout the year.
In the heart of the city, Chichester Cathedral has been a centre of community life for more than 900 years and is the site of the Shrine of St Richard of Chichester. Its treasures range from Romanesque stone carvings to 20th Century works of art. It is the only medieval cathedral in England with a separate bell tower and the only one visible from the sea. The 14th century spire was repaired in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren and survived a lightning strike in 1721. However, its construction from poor quality local stone led to its sudden collapse in1861. It was immediately rebuilt by English architect George Gilbert Scott, and now rises to a height of 82 metres. Notable additions in more recent times are a stained glass window by Marc Chagall, a tapestry by John Piper, and a painting by Hans Freibusch.
Still with its market town atmosphere, Chichester has been preserved from the ravages of modern development and makes a delightful place to visit having much to offer both within the city as well as in surrounding areas. It’s close location to the South Downs makes it an ideal choice for walkers, whilst the pretty harbour and coastal resorts such as The Witterings and Bosham are also popular places for day trips. Chichester still has traces back to its roots, from its cattle market to its ancient architecture, the legacy of the Romans, Saxons and Normans still lives on today.