Sunday, 7 November 2010
The original plan was to see the cathedral, but we pestered Viv and Giles, with whom we were staying, to show us the walk around the city walls as well. We began in the South East Quadrant, which turned out to be one of the least impressive sections: just a path through a small garden.
We headed across town, past the impressive octagonal St John's chapel.
Apart from being a handsome building, it has a fascinating story. It was built in 1814 as a proprietary chapel: it was part of the Church of England, but was run as a commercial venture. The trustees had to raise enough money to pay a dividend to their investors and pay the minister's salary. It is no longer used as a place of religion.
We then passed St Pancas Church to follow the East walls. The first section was pleasant, but the walls became much more impressive once we reached the section that flanks Priory Park. To left was the handsome Guildhall.
But it looks like a church! And in fact it was once the church of a Franciscan friary founded in 1240. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was sold by Henry VIII to the city and became its Guildhall. It is now part of the Chichester museum.
A bit further on is a mound that was apparently once the site of a castle. Presumably health and safety concerns account for the barriers. The cathedral can be glimpsed in the background.
The North walls, the next section, also offer a nice promenade and the interesting array of houses, large and small, that back onto them provided us with plenty to discuss.
At the end of this section, we walked along East Street to see the fine Chichester Market Cross, which dates from 1501.
We then retraced our steps to have a look at the magnificent cathedral. The first thing you see is the separate campanile, free-standing in the Italian fashion. It dates from 1406.
The original cathedral was founded by St Wilfrid in Selsey, but the Normans built a new one here starting in 1076. It is difficult to take a photo of the cathedral which shows it as a whole: this one is from a corner of the cloister. A service was underway so we did not get to see the interior.
Emerging out of the cloister, we walked along the charming Vicars Close and emerged under an archway into the town centre again.
Conditions: sunny, fresh.
Distance: a couple of miles.
Rating: four stars.
I found it surprising that Chichester does not make more its walls. There does not even seem to be a leaflet describing a walk around them or the sights you can see from them. Chichester District Council's web site contains only sketchy information and even admits that the signposting is poor. However, it does at least describe a Walls Project and promises improvements that will allow 2011 to be the celebratory year of the walls.