John Keats returns to Chichester

After much anticipation a statue to the poet John Keats has been unveiled in the centre of the city! The poet visited Chichester in January 1819, staying with the parents of his friend, Charles Dilke in Eastgate Square. So it is fitting that the sculpture depicts John Keats relaxing on a bench looking up towards the city centre and cathedral – the inspiration for his epic poem, The Eve of St Agnes which he began during his stay. Vincent Gray, the sculptor had long had the vision for just such a work and his passion and desire to bring this to fruition was finally rewarded with its unveiling by Dame Patricia Routledge at the end of August 2017. Vincent has really brought Keats alive – it is easy to sit beside him and ponder on what life was really like in Chichester at the beginning of the 19th Century. Last weekend the University of Chichester hosted the Iris Murdoch Society Conference. Chichester Tour Guides enjoyed conducting a tour of the city for about 25 of the participants. We split into two groups and as well as building the story of the city as we meandered through the old lanes, we enjoyed focusing on the literature and art in the city. So it was fitting that we ended our tour in Eastgate Square right beside the new statue of John... read more

Buy Me?

I would have loved to buy this work by Frieda Hughes. It is called “The Last Kiss”!   read more

Frieda Hughes – Inspiring Words

I decided to add this photo as a separate post! I need to be reminded of this every day! It is so easy to get caught up in negative thoughts, but Frieda’s words are so relevant. I need to remember  that it is only through trying to make small changes on a daily basis that the future starts to look... read more

Frieda Hughes exhibition in Chichester Cathedral

Frieda Hughes – artist and poet has an exhibition in Chichester Cathedral. At the end of 2015 she decided to create a work of art based on a commitment to paint a picture every day for a year. She ended up working for 400 days and it is this and other new pieces which are on show in the North Transept of the Cathedral until 17th August 2017. Each of the 400 paintings is 10 inches by 14 inches – oil on canvas. They are all hung together in one block – 16 paintings high by 25 wide. Also on show are paintings from her collection ‘Alternative Values’ – this is a collaboration of Fried’s poetry and artwork, which is a personal interpretation of her  childhood with her parents, the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath and her experiences of love, life and death.... read more

The Country Wife

Tucked quietly away in a corner of Berkshire is an amazing textile mural called The Country Wife. It is currently being renovated by volunteer embroiderers with the hope that one day it will be put on public display for the general public to marvel over. The National Needlework Archive is located in the Old Chapel on the former Greenham Common Airbase which was operational bet ween 1940 and 1991. The whole area is strangely evocative of 1960s America. The way the old huts are laid out along roads incongruously  named Main Street and First Street etc. just seems so alien in rural Berkshire! Sadly the modern world is steadily moving in – the prefabs are being demolished to be replaced by shiny car showrooms and workshops. Such a shame – though I suppose the small, dark rooms are not conducive to modern living. The Chapel was built in the mid 20th century for all denominations of Christian worship – with services and meetings arranged to avoid clashes between the various congregations. The Country Wife is an immense mural made in what is called Stumpwork Embroidery – this is described by the Royal School of Needlework as: “raised embroidery which uses an array of different materials and embroidery techniques to tell a contemporary story in stitch using three dimensional elements. Techniques include silk work, goldwork, counted work, flat & raised stitching, bead work, padding and needlelace”. It was designed by an acclaimed textile artist Constance Howard in 1951 to be displayed in the Country Pavilion at the Festival of Britain on London’s South Bank. It is 5 metres wide by 4.5 metres high... read more

Trees – the very essence of life in the South Downs

Last Christmas my daughter presented me with tickets to take “A Walk through the Woods”! And last weekend that is exactly what we did! Nor just any old walk in any old wood – rather a proper guided tour of the lesser known areas of the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton near Chichester. We had no idea at all what to expect or who would be guiding us. We had simply been told to wear sturdy shoes and be prepared to scramble around a bit. More than two hours of tree identification seemed rather like hard work, so the bit I fancied most was the prospect of tea and cake afterwards…. We were introduced to Jon, who has worked for the Museum for many years and clearly has a great passion for the social history of the South Downs. With a gentle and unassuming manner Jon introduced us to many local trees – by the end we felt that we really knew the nature of each individual one – not just how to identify them, but quirky anecdotes, how they got their names, snippets of history, how and why they were planted and their uses over the centuries. Note…. I said planted didn’t I! We tend to assume that so many trees we see on the South Downs are as nature intended – not a bit of it. What we see today is how man has shaped the area – first of all to eke out a subsistence in the very early Middle Ages. Then by establishing woodlands to service the needs of a growing and modernising population – these are just a few of the... read more

Bronze Age Chichester – The Devil’s Jumps

Spring has almost sprung! The last day of February and a perfect sunny morning up on the South Downs Way to the north-west of Chichester. The Devil’s Jumps are well known to local walkers, but I just couldn’t resist taking a photo as they looked splendid against the backdrop of the blue sky. These Bronze Age ‘barrows’ date back about 3000 years. The site is a fantastic example of  a barrow cemetery. Archaeological digs have shown that although many of the barrows contain burials, others were left empty. In 1853 bones were found in two of the large mounds, but the outlying smaller ones were left empty. What I find most exciting though is that the barrows were orientated upon the setting of the sun on Midsummer Day! These people lived so very long ago and yet they were able to accurately pinpoint specific events in their calendar! Plus their lives were not simply surviving the grind of everyday existence, they attached meaning to events and celebrated their lives! If you don’t happen to know where you can see the Jumps, they are on the South Downs Way just to the north of Hooksway which is just off the Chilgrove Road to Petersfield. There is very little parking – really only in The Royal Oak pub car park – in which case you will need to stop for a drink. Otherwise you can access that part of the South Downs Way by parking in the car park just south of Cocking on the A286 and then walk westwards for about 30... read more

Roman discovery in Chichester’s Priory Park

Is this so surprising? After all Chichester was an important Roman town called Noviomagus Reginorum – meaning  ‘New Market town of the Regni Tribe’. Well yes, it is a really amazing discovery! The difficulty with a small walled city is that of course there has been so much building work in the intervening centuries! Plus the fact that the city’s sewers were only installed in the 1880s, so this had meant that until then the inhabitants had to dig their own holes! This meant that so much of the archaeology was simply lost, dug over and built upon! So we are allowing forward to further investigations taking place later this year! Following extensive geophysical scanning of Priory Park, local specialist David Staveley discovered three buildings, two of which look like houses lying just half a metre below the grass! It is thought that the houses were originally on a street which did not survive. The scans show a townhouse with rooms and a building next door which may have been a bathhouse, cellar or winter dining room with under-floor... read more

The Labyrinth – Chichester Cathedral

The North Transept of Chichester Cathedral is a bright open space set aside for temporary exhibitions. These are not necessarily Christian – but they always are spiritual and reflective. ‘Labyrinth’ – the latest exhibition is engaging and thought provoking. A willow screen and archway separates the space from the rest of the cathedral, so it feels as though you are stepping out of the hustle and bustle of ordinary life. A labyrinth is an ancient symbol used all over the world to depict stories of journeys, encounters and transformations. They were commonly seen in ancient cathedrals – there is still one to be seen in Chartres, France dating from 1220. Perhaps the most well known is the Greek myth of Theseus overcoming the Minotaur in his skilfully devised labyrinth. The idea of presenting a labyrinth in Chichester Cathedral is to encourage all to reflect upon their lives as a spiritual journey. The idea behind it, is its representation of winding paths where we let go of the busy preoccupations of daily life and have time to think about the things most important to us. Just a quick reminder – Chichester Cathedral is open daily with free entry. The exhibition continues until the 23rd February.... read more