Two Days in Chichester and a Bit of a Book

Chichester market crossH and I were so taken with Chichester, our pitstop our way to East Sussex last year, that we decided to take a short break there before winter closes in on us, booking our first Airbnb which turned out to be very comfortable.

Were it not for its cathedral, you might call Chichester a small market town but it’s actually a city with a splendid market cross at its heart. We were lucky with the weather, spending our first morning walking the city walls in the sun before picking up someView of Chichester cathedral treats for lunch at the farmers’ market.

The main cultural draw for me was Pallant House but Chichester also has an outstanding local history museum built around the city’s Roman excavations to display the remains of the bathhouse. Novium opened in 2012 but it’s a good old-fashioned museum – no videos with distracting soundtracks but lots to entertain children. There was a brilliant little exhibition showcasing Chichester’s many cultural Street art, Chichestercontributions, from music to literature to the visual arts. We stumbled on some of the street art mentioned on our way home.

We set out on Saturday morning to visit the cathedral, beautiful in its own right but I was keen to see Chagall’s stained-glass window commissioned by Walter Hussey, the cathedral’s dean for over two decades and responsible for acquiring many of its art works including a strikingChagall window, Chichester cathedral altar tapestry by John Piper plus Graham Sutherland‘s ‘Noli Me Tangere’, very controversial when it was first hung, and some striking candlesticks designed by Jonathan Clarke either side of the shrine to St Richard, the cathedral’s founder. The shrine is usually set off by the Benker-Schirmer tapestry illustrating the miracles associated with the saint but, sadly, the moths got at it during Covid and it’s being restored. Thankfully the damage was spotted before the piece was ruined. A quicky round of the lovely cathedral gardens and it was time for lunch.

The cathedral acted as an appetiser for Pallant House which Hussey had helped set up, bequeathing the gallery his impressive art collection. It’s a rather lovely building, smartly extended, whose old entrance gateposts are topped off with what were supposed to be two ostriches although they look more like dodos to me. We’d seen much of the collection last year, but I’d forgotten about the cabinet of ceramics which includes two elegantly beautiful Lucie Ries. I was also taken with a particularly lovely Ivon Hitchens and a piece by Wycliffe Stutchbury who works with found timber. Made up of small pieces of overlapping wood, it’s very beautiful, full of subtly nuanced colour, impossible to capture on a phone camera.

Fully cultured up, we left on Sunday morning arriving home in time to grab lunch and shelter from the Cover image for Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantelrain at our local cafe. Chichester is such an interesting town, far enough away from London to have a life of its own with lots of history and art to explore. We thoroughly enjoyed our break. Two days was just right.

And the book? I’d started Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies before we left but, unsurprisingly, didn’t finish it while we were away. Sharp, witty and eloquent, her writing is superb. Such a loss to literature.

No more travelling for a while for us, probably until the spring, but you never know. Back to books on Wednesday.

33 thoughts on “Two Days in Chichester and a Bit of a Book”

  1. Oh, I love Chichester! Very near my grandparents so I spent a good amount of time there as a young’un and I’ve always had a soft spot for it. The cathedral gardens are particularly wonderful for picnics!

  2. What a lovely trip – I have been to Chichester for the Iris Murdoch Society Conference but only went on a walking tour around it and not in. I grew up near a small church with Chagall windows, slightly oddly, All Saints’ Church in Tudeley!

  3. I love that Chagall window. I’ve been to Chichester once, briefly and many years ago now, for an interview at the central library. Glad the Airbnb worked out well for you and you enjoyed your mini-break. That’s my favourite Mantel book (not that I’ve read anything close to all of them!).

  4. Chichester looks lovely, Susan. I’d really like to explore various place in the UK in the future (rather than going abroad), so I’ll definitely keep it in mind. That Chagall stained-glass window would be work the trip alone!

  5. Looks like the perfect place for a short break, and I’m glad you got some decent weather! I often find these small towns more interesting than the large cities, and considerably more relaxing.

  6. What a lovely sounding break. I don’t think I have ever been to Chichester. Your photos make it look worth visiting. It is years since I read the first two books in the Hilary Mantel trilogy, my mum recently started the third one. I am slightly put off by the size and how long it is since I read Bring Up the Bodies.

    1. It was so enjoyable! Lots to see and a very friendly town. It’s a year since I read Wolf Hall but it all came back to me once I started this one. Hope your mum’s enjoying the last instalment.

  7. Hi Did you see the Arundel tomb in the cathedral? Worth a look, as referenced in Larkin’s poem of the same name! Beautiful city

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