With pedigree stretching back to the Romans, Mark Beech explores the city of Chichester to find out if it really is the smartest place in Sussex
hichester, whisper it, even though everyone already knows, is actually rather chic. Which represents something of an achievement for a doughty English cathedral town with a noble pedigree stretching back to the Romans. It’s an elegant small city on the river Lavant at the head of its own harbour and appropriately enough it is twinned with the lovely Chartres in France. Thanks to its cathedral then, surrounded by a charming array of 18th-century houses, a lively theatre, distinctive art gallery, brand new local museum and some diverting shops, the county town of West Sussex is truly remarkable.
The Romans called their fort here Noviomagus, apparently translating into Latin a British name for the place that meant “new fields”. And these days there are pastures new a-plenty ready and waiting to be discovered within its ancient walls. Under the Anglo-Saxons it became the capital of the Kingdom of Sussex, roughly the same land area as contemporary East and West Sussex, and it was called Cissecaster (hence Chichester) after the invaders’ supposed leader Cissa.
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