The History of Chichester and its Harbour

By: Keith Mcgregor
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The Romans did not stay in Chichester long, and after they had left, the now king of Sussex (Cogidnubus), decided to turn the fort into a town. The town was called Noviomagus by the Romans, which, roughly translated, means 'new market place'. The layout of the town has changed very little since then, and the main streets (North, East, South and West) reside nearly exactly the same way as when they were first built.

The famous city walls were constructed at the beginning of the 3rd century to protect the city from attack and invasion, and were later reinforced in the 4th century with bastions where guards could stand. An amphitheatre where gladiators often fought to the death was a popular source of entertainment, and the public baths located in Chapel Street were also extremely popular among the Roman population; not just for washing, but as a form of socialisation.

Many of the residents of the town made their living in craft. Some very popular careers were carpentry, blacksmithing, pottery and leather working – all of which drove great sums of money to the town, though ironically most of the workers were relatively poor. The richer residents of the town lived in large houses in the town centre, which featured magnificent mosaicked floors and even a primitive central heating system (called a hypocaust).

By 408AD, however, the Romans had left Britain. It is unknown whether the town was completely abandoned or whether a small percentage of the population remained – either way, the Saxons arrived soon after. Although little is known of this time, it is known that the town was used as one of a series of defensive points throughout Britain.

It is the Saxons who gave Chichester the name it is called by today. Originating from the Saxon name 'Cissa' and word 'Ceaster' (what the Saxons called a set of Roman buildings), they gave the town the name 'Cissa's Ceaster'. This evolved into 'Cisscester', and eventually 'Chichester'.

In the middle ages, during the Norman conquest of Britain, Chichester even had its own castle. Constructed in what is now Priory Park, the wooden castle was built on a motte (a man made hill) and was made of wood. The motte still stands today, but the castle, which may have been rebuilt with stone sometime, was destroyed long ago after being left redundant by a French prince who had been invited to Britain to become king during the civil war.

Perhaps Chichester's most famous landmark, its cathedral, was built in 1091 after the the local Bishopric was moved from Selsey to Chichester. When it was built, the cathedral had no spire, but a bell tower. After burning down twice, the bell was moved to a separate tower and a spire was built in its place. Much later, in 1861, the cathedral (along with its spire) collapsed in a terrible thunder storm – though it was soon rebuilt and, surprisingly, no one was injured.

In the middle ages, the Chichester born Saint Richard, who had been the bishop of Chichester from 1245 to 1253, was made patron saint of Sussex. Today Chichester's hospital is named after him, and a statue in his image stands outside the Western wall of the cathedral.

To this day Chichester still has traces back to its roots, from its cattle market to ancient architecture, the legacy of the Romans, Saxons and Normans lives on.

Chichester is such a great place to visit for a holiday or long weekend. For the perfect hotel in ChichesterBusiness Management Articles, why not visit Crouchers Country Hotel and experience both this fascinating historic town and this beautiful hotel in Chichester at the same time!

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