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The History of Chichester

Many view Chichester as a Georgian city, but its historical roots go back much further. There is also much conjecture and disagreement surrounding the reliability of much historical 'truth.' For example there is a great Roman influence on the City. The City was originally called Noviomagnus by Ptolemy, and not Regnum as first thought. The kingdom of Codiumnus (ruling prince of the Regneses) had his capitol here. There are many important Roman relics in the City and Chichester itself is a walled city, with four main streets (a typical Roman design).

If you wish to view the wall, the best two places are in Market Avenue, and south of the Cathedral. Completed around 200 AD, the walls have eleven sides. Additions to the walls were made most recently in the 18th Century (an inner rampart, much of which is now gone since it caused damage to the original walls), with previous constructions including bastions in the middle of the 4th century (best seen at Priory Park). There were four main gates that were sadly demolished between 1772 and 1783, but their influence is still in evidence For example, at West Gate the old Roman road that lead to Winchester can still be made out. Remains from the first inhabitants of Chichester go back as far as the 5th Century. Evidence suggests that the main role of Chichester was as farmland, taking advantage of its rich soil to produce grain, that would have been transported out of Chichester Harbour. There is also evidence of many Roman villas dotted throughout the South Downs. Chichester was invaded by the Saxons in 477. Troops landed at West Wittering, and Ella (Saxon chieftan) conquered Noviomagnus. He gave Noviomagnus to his son, Cissa, and the City became known as Cissa's camp, or Cissa's ceaster, and gave rise to the modern name of Chichester.

Little is known about the Dark Ages and Chichester. The Doomsday Book did not consider Chichester as a single unit. However records become more plentiful at the end of the 11th century, with the initiation of the construction of Chichester's most famous building, the cathedral. Chichester Cathedral stands close to the early Roman town, and many of the current shops and houses that surround the cathedral today are built on the remains of old Noviomagnus. The cathedral itself holds the key to much of Chichester's historical importance, and the City hosted fairs and markets, and was granted privileges by bishops and kings. Many of the houses and historical buildings within the City walls date back many centuries, and the red brick facades only replaced the original ones late in the 18th century. Gas, water, the railway, and the hospital arrived in the 19th century. Despite the destruction of many ancient houses during the 20th century, Chichester still retains plenty of evidence of its long history.