The Fountain at 29 Southgate is probably Chichester’s oldest surviving pub, dating back to the late eighteenth century. It abutted the south gate of the city as shown by a missing length of cornice. Apart from a brief interruption in the 1980s, when it was renamed, the Cathedral Tavern, it has always been known as the Fountain.
What was described as a ‘gargantuan meal’ was eaten here in 1807 by a soldier looking to win a bet. George Neal was the landlord here in the 1830s. His daughter, Sarah, married Joseph Wells, the Kent county cricketer. Their son found fame as the novelist, H.G.Wells. The old game of Singlesticks or Back-sword was played here. One worthy winner was known as the ‘Muff of Lavant.’
On 12 November 1873 licensed victualler of the Inn, Sampson Willcocks was declared bankrupt in Lloyds list. A special license was granted to George Smith for the Fountain, as trustee under the bankruptcy of Sampson, and temporary authority was given to George Griffiths to carry on the house till next transfer day when the license was to be transferred to him.
It seemed to be the favoured venue for meetings of Post Office staff – the Amalgamated Society of telephone employees (Chichester Branch) held a ‘smoking’ concert in 1914 while the Engineering Staff (Post Office Telephones) enjoyed one 1915. Those in 1914 enjoyed a programme of songs such as ‘Tis the Navy’, ‘Handy Man’, Madam La Sharta’ and ‘O’er the green fields’ with an interlude where Mr Reed-Ford performed his sleight of hand tricks and card manipulation. It was also noted that Mr Cole’s Tango dance was very amusing! In 1915 a collection was initiated limited to 1d to provide matches for wounded soldiers – it realized 4s (about £50 in 2020).
The Fountain Inn is privately owned but is leased to Hall and Woodhouse for a period of 49 years from 1997. The Fountain Inn including the buildings adjoining the Inn to the West were Grade II listed in 1971.