Dating back to the first century BC and called Noviomagus by the Belgae invaders, Chichester is today an attractive and compact Georgian city, the administrative capital of West Sussex and the cathedral city of both East and West Sussex. With the nearby Chichester Harbour and its 17 miles of navigable creeks and channels, the area is one of the most unspoilt in the country.
Settled by the Romans, Chichester became the trading and administrative centre for their military base, the nearby palaces, such as the one built for the client-king Cogidubnus in Fishbourne, as well as the other settlements in this area. Renamed Regnum, the Romans built a wall around the city and laid out the grid pattern of streets which is still used today.
Called Cissa's Caestra in the fifth century by the Saxons, Chichester was one of the few Roman cities that the Saxons occupied. It was not however until the Normans came, that in 1075 the bishopric was moved here from Selsey.
In the early eighteenth century during a time of great prosperity as a result of a boom in the corn trade, many of the houses were rebuilt or refaced with Georgian facades. A number of medieval buildings however remain to this day and parts of the medieval wall can still be walked. The Pallant area of the city, which is built on the site of medieval warehouses and malthouses, is a tasteful array of Georgian splendour and should be viewed.
The four main streets, named after the points on the compass, meet at the Market Cross which was built of Caen stone by Bishop Edward Story. Given to the city in 1501 to provide shelter to the poor, who were able to sell their produce beneath it, the original statues that adorned the structure were destroyed by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War.
Many other fascinating buildings can be found around the city, including the Norman Cathedral, construction of which started in around 1091, its separate fourteenth-century bell tower, the thirteenth-century Guildhall Museum, the timber-framed White Horse Inn dating from 1416 and the almshouses of St Mary's Hospital dating from 1253.
Waterborne travel into Chichester is no longer possible via the Chichester Canal. Instead, sailors have to make do with Chichester Harbour and the 17 miles of navigable creeks and channels which it provides. Home to approximately 8,000 pleasure boats, it is surprising that the Harbour does not look at all congested. Even with the dozen or more local sailing clubs, with an area of 4,000 acres there is plenty of water to choose from.
The Harbour is classed as an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' and the headquarters of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy, who manage the area, is located in Itchenor. It is also an important breeding ground for seabirds and waterfowl, and the eastern tip, called East Head, has one of only three active sand dunes to be found in Sussex.