CHICHESTER, a city and municipal borough in the Chichester parliamentary division of Sussex, England, 69 m. S.S.W. from London by the London, Brighton & South Coast railway. Pop. (1901) 12,224. It lies in a plain at the foot of a spur of the South Downs, a mile from the head of Chichester Harbour, an inlet of the English Channel. The cathedral church of the Holy Trinity was founded towards the close of the 11th century, after the see had been removed to Chichester from Selsey in 1075. The first church was consecrated in 1108, but fires in 1114 and 1187 caused building to continue steadily until the close of the 13th century. Bishop Ralph Luffa (1091-1123) was the first great builder, and was followed by Seffrid II. (1180-1204). Norman work appears in the nave (arcade and triforium), choir (arcade) and elsewhere; but there is much very beautiful Early English work, the choir above the arcade and the eastern part being especially fine. The nave is remarkable in having double aisles on each side, the outer pair being of the 13th century. The church is also unique among English cathedrals in the possession of a detached campanile, a massive and beautiful Perpendicular structure with the top storey octagonal. The principal modern restorations are the upper part of the north-west tower, which copies the Early English work of that on the south-west; and the fine central tower and spire, which had been erected at different periods in the 14th century, but collapsed, doing little damage to the fabric, in 1861. Under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott and others they were reconstructed with scrupulous care in preserving the original plan. The Lady chapel at the east end is in the main early Decorated, but greatly restored; the library is a fine late Norman vaulted room; the cloisters are Perpendicular and well restored; and the bishop's palace retains an Early English chapel. The cathedral is 393 ft. long within, 131 ft. across the transepts, and 90 ft. across the nave with its double aisles. The height of the spire is 277 ft.
At the junction of the four main streets of the town stands the market cross, an exquisite octagonal structure in ornate Perpendicular style, built by Bishop Story, c. 1500, perhaps the finest of its kind in the United Kingdom. The hospital of St Mary was founded in the 12th century, but the existing buildings are in a style transitional from Early English to Decorated. Its use as an almshouse is maintained. Other ancient buildings are the churches of St Olave, in the construction of which Roman materials were used; and of St Andrew, where is the tomb of the poet William Collins, whose memorial with others by the sculptor Flaxman is in the cathedral; the Guildhall, formerly a Grey Friars' chapel, of the 13th century; the Canon Gate leading into the cathedral close; and the Vicars College. The city retains a great part of its ancient walls, which have a circuit of about a mile and a half, and, at least in part, follow the line of Roman fortifications. The principal modern buildings, besides churches and chapels, are the council house, corn exchange, market house, and museum of the Chichester Literary Society. The grammar school was founded in 1497 by Bishop Story. There is a large cattle market, and the town has a considerable agricultural trade, with breweries and tanneries. A canal connects with Chichester Harbour. The diocese includes the whole county of Sussex except a few parishes, with very small portions of Kent and Surrey. The municipal borough is under a mayor, six aldermen and eighteen councillors. Area, 1538 acres.
The Romano-British town on this site was perhaps Regnum or Regni. Many inscriptions, pottery, coins, etc., have been found, and part of the medieval walls contain a Roman cave. An interesting inscription from this site is preserved at Goodwood. Situated on one Roman road in direct connexion with London and another leading from east to west, Chichester (Cissaceaster, Cicestre) remained of considerable importance under the South Saxon kings. In 967 King Edgar established a mint here. Though Domesday Book speaks of one hundred and forty-two burgages in Chichester and a charter of Henry I. mentions the borough, the earliest extant charter is that granted by Stephen, confirming to the burgesses their customs and rights of the borough and gild merchant as they had them in the time of his grandfather. This was confirmed by Henry II. Under Henry III. the fee farm rent was £38: 10s., but this was reduced by a charter of 10 Edward II. to £36, the customs of wool, hides and skins being reserved to the king. Edward III. directed that the Sussex county court should be held at Chichester, and this was confirmed in the following year. Confirmations of the previous charters were also granted by Edward III., Richard II., Henry VI., Edward IV., and Henry VII, who gave the mayor and citizens cognizance of all kinds of pleas of assize touching lands and hereditaments of freehold tenure. A court leet, court of record and bailiffs' court of liberties still exist. The charters were also confirmed by Henry VIII., Edward VI., Philip and Mary, and Elizabeth. In 1604 the city was incorporated under a mayor and aldermen. Since 1295, when it first returned a member, Chichester has been regularly represented in parliament. Throughout the middle ages Chichester was a place of great commercial importance, Edward III. establishing a wool staple here in 1348. Fairs were granted by Henry I. and Henry VII, Fuller mentions the Wednesday market as being famous for corn, while Camden speaks of that on Saturday as the greatest for fish in the county. The markets and a fair on the 20th of October are still held.
See Victoria County History, Sussex; Alexander Hay, History of Chichester (Chichester, 1804).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)