A Book review by David Wilson of “The Street Names of Chichester” published by Chichester City Council
978-0-9542252-2-3. Available from the Council House, £4.95
Although first published in 1996 (authored by Ken Green) and revised in 2008 by Guy Clifford and Helen Monckton, this is a surprisingly little-known book that provides an excellent guide to the street names of Chichester.
It is not just about the ancient street names, though some of these reveal unexpected sidelights on the development of the City, but follows through on modern names which we pass every day in the estates and side streets without a second thought. Many of these have been inspired by personalities and events in Chichester’s past and taken together, form an alternative and informative history of the City.
North/South/East/West streets are indeed ancient and have an obvious origin (Sussex towns seem to have a penchant for naming streets after points of the compass!), but some of the oldest names are less obvious. Broyle Road dates back to a Brullius, or hunting park, granted to Bishop Neville by Henry III in 1229. St Pancras is named for the church which itself dates to before 1309. That may be named after either a saint who gained converts in Taormina, Sicily in 40 AD, or a 14-year-old boy in Rome canonised after beheading for his conversion to Christianity, but what are either doing here?
As for the obscure saints who have streets in Chichester, St. Cyriac and St Rumbold, you will have to read the book!
Many people asked to indulge in some free association between Chichester and history will start by thinking of the Cathedral and its bishops. Indeed some 20-odd bishops and deans are commemorated by street names. Bishop Luffa will be familiar to most through both a Close and the nearby school – but how many realise that the road running through the middle of that estate, Sherborne Road, is not named after the Dorset town, but after Bishop Sherborne who was appointed in 1508?
The whole of that area reads like a complete roll call of church history in Sussex, but there are a few bishops to be found elsewhere. Mount Lane is not named for a hill but after Archdeacon Mount, appointed 1887. (Challenge: can you name the other road which suggests a hill in Chichester, but is actually named after a bishop?)
After the bishops come the Mayors. A similar number of roads are named after Mayors of Chichester, and again, mostly on estates which have taken up this theme. The earliest mayors, for some reason, appear on the Whyke estate, going back as far as William Taverner who was in office in 1249. Most of the other streets named after Mayors used to appear on the Orlit estate – the explanation of Orlit, named after the prefabs there, is in the book but you have to search for it – and that area now forms part of Swanfield. Redevelopment has caused a purge of Mayors there, though some names still appear on older street maps. The only ‘surviving mayor’ in Swanfield is Bradshaw Road, Elisha Bradshaw having been Mayor in 1536 though newer roads such as Seddon Close (James Seddon, 1972) have been named after more recent mayors.
Many street names properly commemorate benefactors, often Mayors, who provided for the welfare of Cicestrians, including almshouses (Cawley Road), schools (Oliver Whitby Road; one of the few where the Christian name is included), simply money (Juxon Close) and day centres (Tozer Way).
Service to the city is also included as at Silverlock Close; Fanny Silverlock was a leading figure in the Guides and is one of the few women to be remembered in a street name.
Other themed names which link to the city’s history also turn up in appropriate locations. The military are present at Roussillon Park and the pioneers of mental health at Graylingwell (but see below for more on these). There are also medical names – Bostock and Baxendale – tucked away behind St Richard’s Hospital and Forbes Place by the former Royal West Sussex Hospital where Dr Forbes was the first superintendent. On a broader theme it is obvious that all the roads in the East Broyle Estate to the North West of the City are named after English cathedral cities – but the challenge is to find all 17 cities whose names were used (including the one omitted from the book!) and then to name the 25 who were not chosen. There is no indication as to why Carlisle and Truro are included but not, say, Ripon and Portsmouth.
Ordinary people have made their bid for immortality, though, mostly those who built the houses now standing there. Some of these names seem to record a family compromise – Winden Avenue = Winifred + Dennis. And one which has always puzzled me personally – Velyn Avenue – turns out to be named for the builder’s daughter Evelyn.
In the same area there are names from northern France commemorating the death in WW1 of the brother of Frederick Keates, the builder.
There are also many examples of streets being named for their uses. Pubs come top of this list with the oldest being Crane Street, recorded in 1277, and thought to be named for an inn there. But there are also examples of names remembering market gardens, ironworks, transport and quarries. Perhaps the oddest, which I thought must be apocryphal until I saw it in print, is the story of how a select part of Summersdale came to have a set of roads named after drain covers!
This review has spilt the beans on perhaps 5% of the examples in the book. That should surely be an incentive to buy it and discover more examples of Chichester’s history all around you!
However, there are new streets which have been built since the book was published in 2008, and if you do the ‘Green Spaces in Chichester’ walk described in the September 2020 Society Newsletter, you will pass some of these.
In the Roussillon Park development off Broyle Road the older roads are named after Colonels of the Royal Sussex Regiment which used the barracks from 1873 onwards, and of Generals who had raised regiments which became incorporated into the Royal Sussex. These names appear in the book. Some of the newer roads, on the south side of the Square, have been named after men of the Royal Sussex who were awarded the Victoria Cross:
Carter Road: to honour Company Sergeant-Major Nelson Victor Carter VC (1887-1916)
When serving with the 12th Battalion at the Boar’s Head, Richebourg l’Avoue, France, he led a successful attack inflicting casualties and capturing a machine gun. Later he carried several wounded men to safety before being mortally wounded himself. The award of the Victoria Cross was for his most conspicuous bravery.
Johnson Mews: to honour Major-General Dudley Johnson VC, CB, DSO, MC(1884-1975)
When commanding the 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment he successfully led them in forcing a crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal in France in 1918. An officer on secondment from the South Wales Borderers, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery and leadership.
McNair Way: to honour Captain Eric Archibald McNair VC (1894-1918)
In February 1916, an enemy mine exploded under the front-line trenches held by the 9th Battalion. Although much shaken, he at once organised his men and with a machine gun team drove off the advancing enemy. Then, across open ground and under heavy fire, he brought forward reinforcements. The award of the Victoria Cross was for his most conspicuous bravery.
Queripel Mews: to honour Captain Lionel Ernest Queripel VC (1920-1944)
At the Battle of Arnhem, when serving with The Parachute Regiment, he rescued a wounded Sergeant and was wounded himself. He led an attack on a strongpoint and re-captured a British anti-tank gun. Later as his company position became untenable, he ordered his men to withdraw but stayed behind to give them covering fire. The award of the Victoria Cross was for his courage, leadership, and inspiration to all.
In the expanding Graylingwell development to the North East of the City the following new streets can be noted.
Lloyd Road is named for Robert Lloyd, horticulturist and Head Gardener at Brookwood Asylum, who designed the gardens and especially the ‘airing courts’ for Graylingwell and other asylums as healing spaces.
Connolly Way is named for John Conolly (he spelt his name with one ‘n’, unlike the road), a Victorian psychiatrist who with Lord Shaftesbury drafted the Lunacy Act of 1853 which shifted the treatment of the insane from restraint to medicine. He practised in Chichester about 1820 at the outset of his career and in 1839 became Superintendent of the Hanwell Asylum where he was able to apply principles, it being the first major asylum to dispose of all mechanical restraints. His son Edward was born in Chichester, but emigrated to New Zealand where as lawyer and politician he was able to institute his father’s principles of rehabilitation to the New Zealand penal system.
Just off the route of the ‘Green Spaces in Chicester’ walk, the newest part of the estate is Anna Sewell Way. Anna Sewell was born in 1820 in Norfolk and lived at ‘Grayling Well House’ the farmhouse to the east of the asylum, from 1853 to 1858. She was unmarried and lived with her parents; her father was manager of ‘The London And County Bank’, a forerunner of and on the site of the Natwest Bank in East Street. She only published her famous children’s novel, Black Beauty, much later, in 1877 a few months before her death in Norwich.
Longley Road which winds through the centre of the main buildings recalls the builders of the original asylum, James Longley of Crawley, established 1863 and who continued in business until taken over by Kier Group for £1 in 2000.
This review came to be written because my wife and I have been doing walks in Chichester during lockdown rather than getting the car out to go further afield. The result will appear in a ‘Green Spaces in Chichester’ walk to appear in the September 2020 edition of the Chichester Society newsletter.
I had intended to include something about street names in notes to go with the walk but found too much material to be included there. Part of the way through the research I discovered that the City Council had published the book reviewed above, doing a much more thorough job than I could hope to do. Hence the review.