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Special plaques installed to celebrate Chichester's City Walls

Introduction

Special plaques, panels and waymarkers are being installed in Chichester this week as part of a major project to restore the City Walls for future generations. The signs, which will create a 1.5 mile circular trail around the City Walls, are one of the last parts of a three-year project to celebrate and improve the City Walls.


Over the past three years structural repairs to the most vulnerable sections have been completed. Restoration work has involved stitching cracks and removing loose mortar. In other places the work was structural, with eight metre long anchors being driven through the wall to prevent it from leaning or bulging further.

Access improvements have also been made so more people can enjoy the City Walls Trail.

Other parts of the project include:

·       publishing a detailed history of the Walls from the arrival of the Romans to the present day;

·       adding resources for schools to a new website so local children can learn more about the role of the Walls in defending the city;

·       discovering hidden evidence of life around the Walls through surveys and archaeological excavations involving the local community;

·       celebrating the Walls in style on a national scale with the City Walls Illuminations in April 2012; and

·       producing a free leaflet and souvenir guide, which introduces residents and tourists to the Walls (available from The Novium next week).

The Walls and gates were first built around the Roman town of Noviomagus Reginorum or Chichester as we now know it.

For 70 years the Walls encircled a prosperous market town and citizens enjoyed the heyday of Roman rule. However, by the 4th Century the Roman Empire faced enemies on all fronts so the local authority decided to fortify the town with defensive towers. This impressive structure was a show of strength, intended to deter potential invaders. In this respect it worked but the Roman Empire had expanded beyond its means and was on the brink of collapse. Under instruction from Rome, forces were withdrawn from Britain and the town was abandoned.

This could be where the story ends but over the centuries the Walls were repeatedly rescued from the brink of destruction. The Saxons repaired the almost derelict Walls in preparation for Viking invasion. Following the conquest of 1066 the Normans built a castle and a magnificent Cathedral within the protection of Chichester's Walls. The Georgians took a more leisurely perspective and used the Walls to create a promenade around the city. These interventions prevented the Walls from being lost forever but at the same time enabled a city to slowly establish itself, safe behind a walled curtain.

Today the Walls represent the most intact circuit of Roman town defences in southern England. More than 80% of the original structure has withstood the test of time and virtually the whole circuit is publicly accessible.

The project was awarded £685,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, recognising the national importance of the Walls. The grant was awarded to Chichester City Walls Partnership. Chichester District Council also contributed £199,000 towards the project.

For more information about the City Walls project, please call 01243 534695 or email ahoward@chichester.gov.uk .