Chichester History In Old Photos & Film

Chichester West Sussex England UK local history videos

The Cathedral city of Chichester in West Sussex boasts beautiful historic homes and ancient streets. The city centre in particular has been captured many times on film throughout the past century. 

In Ancient Sussex (1915)

YouTube channel James Aslett uploaded this silent, black and white travelogue film from 1915. 

ROYAL: Princess Mary visits hospital in Chichester (1929)

Posted to YouTube by British Pathé

In 1929, Princess Mary came to open the new nurses extension to the Royal West Sussex Hospital. It’s quite blurry footage, but it’s interesting to see the cars, outfits and uniforms of the day. At the end, a lot of smartly dressed women and children are seen watching from the other side of the road.

A public dispensary was established in cottages in 1784. Then in 1825, these were replaced with a two storey hospital building, known as the West Sussex, East Hampshire and Chichester General Infirmary and Dispensary. 

The 1st Matron, Mrs Rogers, received a wisteria tree from China, and planted it on the hospital facade sometime between 1825 and 1828. It still survives today and is claimed to be the oldest specimen of its kind in England.

A third storey was added to the Georgian building in the late 19th century. 

In 1913 a grant of King George V renamed the Infirmary to The Royal West Sussex Hospital. 

In 1972 the Royal West Sussex Hospital closed following development of St. Richard’s Hospital. The beautiful Georgian building was retained and transformed into domestic housing units.

Chichester (1942)

Posted to YouTube by British Pathé

The Norman cathedral church was built towards the close of the 11th century. Then its spire was added in about 1500. The House of the Dean is where we find a rather severe Arthur Duncan-Jones. 

Then we see the 12th century hospital of St Mary’s. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I this was an Almshouse.

After a panoramic view of the city, focus turns to the belltower at the end of the main street.

Next, there’s an old boy’s cricket match taking place at Priory Park. A crowd sits next to Greyfriar’s Chapel to watch.

Finally, we see a beautiful thatched cottage on one of the rural lanes out of the city.

Scenes of Chichester Cathedral (1942)

A British Pathé film which lasts 1 minute 33 seconds.

A Drive Through Chichester (1953)

YouTube channel belfast jack uploaded this black and white footage from 1953. An old fashioned open top vehicle is driven through the streets of Chichester. Inside adults and children in costume hold up a sign reading “We are taking Haiwatha to Granada in our Jalopy”. 

Lots of pedestrians, bicyclists, delivery vehicles and people waiting at bus stops. Nice clear footage of the street scenes.

Drive Through Arundel & Chichester (1965)

YouTube channel smitm10 uploaded this old cine film of a drive through various streets including Franklin Place and St Pauls Road in Chichester.

Chichester Festival Theatre (1960s)

Crowds of people stand about the outside of Chichester Festival Theatre in the 1960s.

Chichester Festival Theatre Scenery Dock (1960s)

30 second clip from Heritage CFT showing the theatre scenery changes. 

Cathedral Renovations (1968)

Construction of Chichester Cathedral began in 1076, under the supervision of Stigand of Selsey. 

It was not long after the Norman Conquest. Stigand of Selsey previously served as chaplain in the court of William the Conqueror, before his appointment in 1070 to replace the deposed Æthelric II, Bishop of Selsey.

The South Saxon see was transferred to Chichester in 1075, and in 1082 Stigand became the first Bishop of Chichester as the Bishoprick of Selsey simultaneously ended. 

Stigand upset the Archbishop of Canterbury with his reorganisation of parishes. He also drew displeasure from King William I for initially refusing to travel to Battle Abbey to consecrate its new abbott. However, he remained Bishop of Chichester until his death in August 1087.

Chichester Cathedral was finally completed and consecrated in 1108, by Bishop Ralph Luffa. 

Bishop Ralph Luffa was Bishop of Chichester from 1091 until his death on 14 December 1123. Contemporaries praised him for his piety, undertaking regular preaching tours while avoiding all appearances of extorting donations, and his diligence in seeking worthy candidates for the priesthood.

Maintaining Chichester Cathedral

Maintaining the vast and ancient Chichester Cathedral has been an ongoing task for hundreds of years. 

Normal cathedrals require ongoing maintenance and expenditure. Sometimes, big restorations are needed too, such as when the central spire fell down in 1861. In 1968, teams of builders in ‘Cathedral Works’ hardhats (and often not!) set about restoring the structure and fabric of Chichester Cathedral, which suffered from subsidence. The foundations of the cathedral were built on spongy clay rather than the solid rock a couple of feet lower.

We see the stonemasons at work in their workshop. “Now there’s so much work to do, the young apprentices here will be kept busy for the rest of their lives”. 

Then we see Harold Shepherd, the cathedral’s glass artist. The ancient glass panels were damaged both by subsidence movement, and the post-reformation zeal of those who thought religious imagery was corrupting and idolatrous. Harold Shepherd’s work was to restore the panels back to their medieval imagery as far as possible.

Finally, we are told that all this work is costing 5 shillings every 4 minutes for the next ten years. 

Chichester Gala Day (1972)

Ian Welch’s film is just three and a half minutes long yet shows a large number of people and several locations. 

The Gala had a large procession and there was a great turn out to see it.

The Queen’s Maundy Thursday Visit To Chichester (1986)

On Maundy Thursday in 1986 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited Chichester Cathedral. It was the location of the 1986 Maundy Money tradition. 

Three weeks later the Queen celebrated her 60th birthday. 

Colonel Buchan uploaded three TV news reports about the event:

  • Coast To Coast (TVS) with Fred Dinenage and Fern Britton
  • BBC News
  • South Today (BBC South) with Bruce Parker and Debbie Thrower

Sainsbury Fire (1993)

On 16 Dec 1993, Christmas shoppers fled the multi million pound supermarket in three minutes as a storage room fire quickly spread. 

Over a hundred firefighters battled the blaze. 

Colonel Buchan uploaded two TV news reports about it:

  • ITN News At Ten 
  • Meridian late news with Fred Dinenage

Chichester Flooding (1993-1994)

Uploaded by Paul Archer, this 23 minute film shows a wide range of locations and interviews with local people.

Tony Blair’s Chichester Flood Visit (2000)

Ken Lloyd uploaded this TV news footage of Tony Blair’s visit to the cathedral city. 

Six years on from the floods, the flood defences were still not in place. 

Footage includes an interview with local resident Chris Sherborne.

The commentary ends with “The Prime Minister left as quickly as he arrived.”

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