The area around Chichester is believed to have played significant part during the Roman Invasion of A.D. 43, as confirmed by evidence of military storage structures in the area of the nearby Fishbourne Roman Palace. The city centre stands on the foundations of the Romano-British city of Noviomagus Reginorum, capital of the Civitas Reginorum. The Roman road of Stane Street, connecting the city with London, started at the east gate, while the Chichester to Silchester road started from the north gate. The plan of the city is inherited from the Romans: the North, South, East and West shopping streets radiate from the central market cross dating from medieval times.
The original Roman city wall was over 6½ feet thick with a steep ditch (which was later used to divert the River Lavant). It survived for over one and a half thousand years but was then replaced by a thinner Georgian wall.
The city was also home to some Roman baths, found down Tower Street when preparation for a new car park was under way. A museum, the Novium, preserving the baths was opened on 8 July 2012.
An amphitheatre was built outside the city walls, close to the East Gate, in around 80 AD. The area is now a park, but the site of the amphitheatre is discernible as a gentle bank approximately oval in shape; a notice board in the park gives more information.
In January 2017, archaeologists using underground radar reported the discovery of the relatively untouched ground floor of a Roman townhouse and outbuilding. The exceptional preservation is due to the fact the site, Priory Park, belonged to a monastery and has never been built upon since Roman times.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it was captured towards the close of the fifth century, by Ælle, and renamed after his son, Cissa. It was the chief city of the Kingdom of Sussex.
The cathedral for the South Saxons was founded in 681 at Selsey; the seat of the bishopric was moved to Chichester in 1075.
Chichester was one of the burhs (fortified towns) established by Alfred the Great, probably in 878-9, making use of the remaining Roman walls. According to the Burghal Hidage, a list written in the early 10th century, it was one of the biggest of Alfred's burhs, supported by 1500 hides, units of land required to supply one soldier each for the garrison in time of emergency. The system was supported by a communication network based on hilltop beacons to provide early warning. It has been suggested that one such link ran from Chichester to London.
When the Domesday Book was compiled, Cicestre (Chichester) consisted of 300 dwellings which held a population of 1,500 people. There was a mill named Kings Mill that would have been rented to local slaves and villeins. After the Battle of Hastings the township of Chichester was handed to Roger de Mongomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, for courageous efforts in the battle, but it was forfeited in 1104 by the 3rd Earl. Shortly after 1066 Chichester Castle was built by Roger de Mongomerie to consolidate Norman power. In around 1143 the title Earl of Arundel (also known as the Earl of Sussex until that title fell out of use) was created and became the dominant local landowner. Between 1250 and 1262, the Rape of Chichester was created from the western half of Arundel rape, with the castle as its administrative centre.
An enduring military presence was established in the city in 1795 with the construction of a depot on land where the Hawkhurst Gang had been hanged. It was named the Roussillon Barracks in 1958. The military presence had ceased by 2014 and the site was being developed for housing.
Chichester, although in terms of local government in England is a civil parish, has the status of a city, and is one of seven so designated, the others being Ely, Hereford, Ripon, Salisbury, Truro and Wells. The City Council consists of twenty elected members serving four wards of the city – North, South, East, and West.
Chichester Council House on North Street dates from 1731; prior to this the City Corporation had met in Chichester Guildhall. In addition to its own council offices, those of the Chichester District and the West Sussex County Council are located in the City. The current MP for the Chichester Constituency is Andrew Tyrie.
Chichester has an unusual franchise in its history. Chichester's residents had enjoyed political enfranchisement for 300 years before the 19th century Reform Bills expanded the right to vote for members of Parliament to include most ordinary citizens. However, when the mayor restricted the vote solely to Freemen in the election of 1660 for the Convention Parliament that organised the restoration of the monarchy, the House of Commons noted that "for One-and-twenty Parliaments, the Commonalty, as well as the Citizens, had had Voice in the electing of Members to serve in Parliament; and that thereupon the Committee were of Opinion, that the Commonalty of the said Borough, together with the free Citizens, have Right of Election" and overturned the election, seating instead the candidate elected by the more-inclusive Commonality of Chichester, and jailing the mayor for two weeks for contempt because of his wilful denial of the ancient rights.
The City of Chichester is located on the River Lavant south of its gap through the South Downs. This winterbourne for part of its course now runs through the city in underground culverts. The City's site made it an ideal place for settlement, with many ancient routeways converging here. The oldest section lies within the Medieval walls of the city, which are built on Roman foundations.
The Chichester Conservation area, designated for its architectural and historic interest, encompasses the whole of the Roman town, and includes many Grade I and II listed buildings. Further to the north lies the separate conservation area around the former Graylingwell Hospital, and to the south, the Chichester Conservation Area has been extended recently to include the newly restored canal basin and part of the canal itself. The Conservation Area has been split into eight 'character' areas, based on historic development, building type, uses and activities.
Chichester has an Oceanic climate. With its position in southern England, Chichester has mild winters and cool summers. It has high sunshine levels compared to other parts of the UK with around 1900 hours annually.
The city has a tourist industry. Several marinas are situated in the area together with related industries.
The Butter Market in North Street was designed by John Nash, and was opened in 1808 as a food and produce market. In 1900, a second storey was added to the building, originally housing an arts institute. The building has recently been renovated.
The Corn Exchange in East Street was built in 1833, one of the first in the country. It is an imposing building, designed to show off its importance to trade. In 1883 it was also used for drama and entertainment. From then it became a cinema (1923–1984), a restaurant, and then a fast food restaurant. It is currently occupied by Next clothing retailers.
The Chichester Cross, which is a type of Buttercross familiar to old market towns, was built in 1501 as a covered market-place, stands at the intersection of the four main roads in the centre of the city.
Chichester Cathedral, founded in the 11th century, is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and contains a shrine to Saint Richard of Chichester. Its spire, built of the weak local stone, collapsed and was rebuilt during the 19th century. In the south aisle of the cathedral a glass panel in the floor enables a view of the remains of a Roman mosaic pavement. The cathedral is unusual in Britain in having a separate bell tower a few metres away from the main building, rather than integrated into it. Within the cathedral there is a medieval tomb of a knight and his wife, the inspiration of the poem "An Arundel Tomb", by Philip Larkin. A memorial statue exists of William Huskisson, once member of parliament for the city, but best remembered as the first man to be run over by a railway engine. Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms were commissioned for the cathedral. The statue of St Richard (pictured left) is by the sculptor Philip Jackson. There are further Philip Jackson sculptures outside the Chichester Festival Theatre and St Richard's Hospital in Chichester.
In addition to the cathedral there are five Church of England churches, St Richard's Roman Catholic church and nine religious buildings of other denominations. Redundant churches include the Grade I-listed St John the Evangelist's Church, an octagonal white-brick proprietary chapel with an impressive three-decker pulpit.
Chichester is the hub of several main roads. The most important of these is the A27 coastal trunk road (connecting Eastbourne with Southampton) which passes to the south of the city. The A27 connects Chichester to the M27, M3 and M275 motorways. The secondary coastal road, the A259, which began its journey at Folkestone in Kent, joins the A27 here and ends in Havant to the west. Both those roads make east-west connections. Three roads give Chichester access to the north: the A29 to London joins the A27 several miles to the east of the city; the A285 runs northeast to Petworth and beyond; and the A286 runs northwards towards Haslemere, Surrey.
Chichester railway station, on the West Coastway Line, has regular services to Brighton, London Victoria via Gatwick Airport, Portsmouth and Southampton. In the past there was a branch line to Midhurst in the north; and a light railway built by Colonel HF Stephens known as the West Sussex Railway which ran south to Selsey, and which closed in 1935.
There are also many bus services, with Chichester bus station, adjacent to the railway station, acting as a local hub. Operators include Stagecoach in the South Downs, Compass Travel, and Emsworth and District National Express' Poole-Gatwick Airport routes serves Chichester.
Chichester Airport is north of the city.
There are several long distance routes for walkers, cyclists and riders in the area, some of which, like the Centurion Way to West Dean, start here. Centurion Way was opened in the mid-1990s and runs along the former railway line. The name was chosen by Ben Adams, a local schoolboy who won a competition to name the path.
There are three secondary schools in Chichester: the Chichester High School, Chichester Free School (which also has a primary sector there) and the Bishop Luffa School. Chichester High School for Boys and Chichester High School for Girls merged in 2016 to become Chichester High School. In the primary sector there are two infant-only schools: Lancastrian and Rumboldswyke; the Central C of E Junior School; six all-level schools; and two special-needs schools at Fordwater and St Anthony's. There is also a Roman Catholic school, St Richard's Primary School, and a Sure Start Children's Centre, Chichester Nursery School, Children and Family Centre.
In the independent sector there are three-day preparatory schools (Oakwood Preparatory School, Prebendal School and Westbourne House).
The higher and further educational institutions include the Chichester High Schools Sixth Form, which is the largest Sixth Form in West Sussex. It offers a range of A-Level and vocational courses with full use of a wide range of facilities at both boys and girls high schools. Chichester College, formerly Chichester College of Arts, Science and Technology; offers both foundation-level and degree-equivalent courses, mainly focused towards vocational qualifications for industry. The college has recently made significant investment in upgrading facilities, and is now offering a wider range of subject areas in its prospectus.
The University of Chichester was granted degree-awarding body status by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in 2005. Whereas Chichester College has always been focused towards vocational qualifications, the University of Chichester has a more academic bent.
St Richard's Hospital is a medium-sized District General Hospital (DGH). Built in 1938 and expanded during World War II the hospital is to the north of Spitalfield Lane in the northeast of the city.
The city holds an annual four-week arts and music festival ("Festival of Chichester") held in June and July.
Chichester Festival Theatre, is one of the United Kingdom's flagship producing and touring theatres, whose annual summer season attracts actors, writers and directors from the West End theatre and the USA.
Pallant House Gallery, winner of the 2007 gallery of the year Gulbenkian Prize, has a major collection of chiefly modern British art and in 2006 opened a new extension that houses the collection of Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson. It has a changing programme of exhibitions.
Chichester is home to the South Downs Planetarium & Science Centre, which opened in 2001 and features a program of public star shows in its 100-seat theatre.
The Sloe Fair, a funfair that dates back to the 12th Century, is held annually on 20 October in the city's Northgate car park.
Chichester Cinema at New Park is the city's first and only arthouse cinema. It shows a selection of mainstream, small-budget and older films 7 days a week. It hosts an annual 18-day International Film Festival in August/September. Vice-presidents are Dame Maggie Smith and Kenneth Branagh. There is a larger, multiplex cinema located at Chichester Gate.
The Chichester Open Mic has supported regular programmes of readings by contemporary poets in the city since 2010. It also hosts a high-profile annual event under the banner Poetry and All That Jazz which included performances by Don Paterson in 2010, Sam Willetts in 2011 and David Harsent in 2012.
In 2012 The Novium, Chichester's museum, was opened by author Kate Mosse. Designed by the architect Keith Williams, is approximately 2.4 times the size of the previous museum in Little London. Key highlights are Roman Bath House, Jupiter Stone and Chilgrove Mosaic.
In May 2013 Chichester hosted the Chichester Street Art Festival week where international street artists created colourful murals around the city.
Chichester is mentioned in a 1992 episode of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, the 2003 film Bright Young Things directed by Stephen Fry, the 2005 film Stoned about Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones, and also in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes. The city is periodically referred to in Call the Midwife, as the seat of the Order of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, the mother house's exterior being depicted in episode 1.6.
Founded in 1881, the Chichester Symphony Orchestra has both amateur and professional players. Three concerts are given each year with the summer concert being part of the Chichester Festivities while the autumn concert is included in the Chichester Cathedral Lunchtime Series.
The Chichester RAJF (From "Real Ale and Jazz Festival"), was a four-day festival of music and real ale held each July in tents beside the 13th century Guildhall in Priory Park. Founded in 1980 by members of Chichester Hockey Club as a fund-raising event, the festival's early years focused on traditional jazz and featured performers such as Kenny Ball, Humphrey Lyttelton and Kenny Baker. In the 1990s blues and R&B were introduced and acts including James Brown, Status Quo, Blondie, Boney M, Robert Cray, Hot Chocolate, Howard Jones, Go West, The Pretenders, The Drifters and Simple Minds played the festival up until its final staging, in 2011.
Chichester City F.C. is the main football club and are based at Oaklands Park. They play in the Sussex County League. The rugby club, Chichester R.F.C., are also based at Oaklands Park.
Chichester Priory Park Cricket Club and Chichester Priory Park Hockey Club share a clubhouse at Priory Park.
The city is home to the Chichester Sharks Flag American Football Club who are members of the BAFA National League. In October 2007, the Sharks won the National Championship, beating Andover Voodoo 31-29 in the final. The Chichester Sharks also won the title in 2003.
Chichester Falcons Softball Club, based at Oaklands Park, play in the Solent Softball League. They have enjoyed success in league and tournament matches.
Chichester Bowls Club in Priory Park is the oldest established bowls club in Sussex, being founded in 1881. The club has men's and ladies' sections and plays a mixture of competitive and friendly matches.
The city has a leisure centre with swimming pool, flume, sports hall and fitness room; it plays host to Chichester Cormorants swimming club. Chichester Runners and A.C is a club with runners and athletes from all ages. Other sports include cycling.
William Juxon, born 1582, attended The Prebendal School before studying at Oxford. He became chaplain to Charles I and was the last English cleric to hold both church and secular high office. He became Archbishop of Canterbury following the Restoration. William Cawley, born 1602 in Chichester, was on the other side of the English Civil War. Also educated at Oxford University he became the Member of Parliament for Chichester in 1628 and for Midhurst in 1640. He was a regicide and served on the Council of State during the Commonwealth, being forced to flee to Switzerland after the Restoration. A later MP for the town, William Huskisson was one of the earlier people to die from a railway accident, when he was run over by Stephenson's Rocket at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. In modern times middle distance runner Christopher Chataway was elected to Parliament in 1969.
Military people have included Edric Gifford, 3rd Baron Gifford who won a Victoria Cross during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War. General Charles Harington Harington served in the Second Boer War and as a staff officer throughout World War I, and military theorist Major General J. F. C. Fuller planned the first large scale tank assault at the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.
Timothy Peake, who became the first official British astronaut when he arrived on the International Space Station in December 2015, was born in Chichester in 1972. Peake attended the Chichester High School for Boys, which now has a Sports and Conference centre named after him and opened by him.
Edward Bradford Titchener (/ˈtiːtʃənər/; 11 January 1867 – 3 August 1927) was a British psychologist who studied under Wilhelm Wundt. Born in Chichester, Titchener created the school of thought in psychology that described the structure of the mind: structuralism. He also created the largest doctoral program in the United States (at the time) after becoming a professor at Cornell University, and his first graduate student, Margaret Floy Washburn, became the first woman to be granted a PhD in psychology (1894).
The City of Chichester is twinned with Chartres, France and Ravenna, Italy.