Thousands celebrate the restoration of Chichester's 1,800 year old City Walls
Around 2,500 people celebrated the restoration of Chichester's historic City Walls at a free special event on Saturday (14 April).
The event, which took place in Bishops Palace Gardens, was opened with a lantern parade by children from Jesse Younghusband and West Wittering primary schools. The children, who had made the lanterns especially for the event, were led around the gardens by a local band.
"It was great to see so many people come out and help us celebrate the important history of Chichester's City Walls. They have stood for almost 1,800 years and will continue to be enjoyed by future generations," says Cllr Eileen Lintill, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Wellbeing at Chichester District Council.
"The children and the band started the event off with a bang, dancing along to the theme music from the Jungle Book. The band continued to play music throughout the evening while people enjoyed picnics in Bishop's Palace Gardens. The gardens were beautifully illuminated with lanterns, statues, and special lighting, creating an enchanting atmosphere. From Cinderella styled coaches to a large butterfly and a unicorn, there were plenty of things to see.
"The walls at Westgate Fields were also lit up using atmospheric lighting to celebrate their unique architecture and history. Throughout the evening a specially commissioned film about their history was projected onto the face of the walls, which featured local people recalling their memories of the walls over the years. Small lights were also available on Westgate Fields for people to write messages to those on top of the Walls."
Andy Howard, City Walls Project Officer, says: "The event celebrated the end of a three-year restoration project including repairs to the most critical parts of the walls and research into their history. We've found out lots about the walls along the way and I'm sure there's even more yet to be uncovered. I'm really pleased the event went so well. We received lots of positive comments and feedback from the thousands who attended. It really was quite a spectacular night."
The walls are a Scheduled Monument, and at almost 1.5 miles long, they are the most intact circuit of town walls in the South of England. Originally built by the Romans, they have experienced mixed fortunes over the centuries but survive today as a valuable resource for local people as well as being nationally recognised.
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.
Following a geophys survey, which is used to create maps of the subsurface, at Westgate Fields, archaeologists and volunteers worked together to excavate more than 375 cubic metres of soil. They revealed the huge foundation stones of a bastion - one of 70 artillery towers that once encircled the City.
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.
Photos from the event will appear on the council's Facebook page over the next week. The film that was projected onto the Walls will also appear on the council's YouTube page.
Date: 17 April 2012