Centenary celebration for Chichester's Priory Park

Chairman Richard
Chairman Richard

Significant moments in the long, rich and at times shocking history of Priory Park will be recalled as the city unites to celebrate its centenary. Priory Park 100 offers a wide range of events and activities from September 22-30, all part of commemorating the park’s past and encouraging people to re-engage with its present.

100 years ago this September the Park was given by the 7th Duke of Richmond and Gordon to the people of the city, for their leisure and as a perpetual memorial to the fallen in the First World War. Both aspects will be marked in a ten-day programme, starting with a jazz and blues opening night party and culminating in a special drum head service.

Highlights include a parachute jump by RN Raiders, a re-enactment of the 1642 Siege of Chichester, a display of vintage Rolls Royces, a record-breaking attempt at the world’s biggest teddy bears’ picnic and vintage bowls and hockey and cricket matches.

Among the highlights will be the Priory Park Centenary Cricket Match between Sussex CCC and a special Duke of Richmond’s IX from 11.30am on Saturday, September 29. Evening events will include sky-watching with the South Downs Planetarium and also the world premiere of Chichester Community Theatre’s new play The Hawkhurst Gang by Chichester playwright Greg Mosse in the Guildhall.

Chairman of the Friends of Priory Park Richard Plowman, is delighted at the programme that has come together – a programme which importantly also underlines the value of parks in our society.

“All over our country now parks are under threat, and yet parks are vastly beneficial in terms of well-being. But we all know how cash-strapped local authorities are, and local authorities don’t have to provide parks as one of their legal requirements. If you look at what is happening in Northamptonshire, they are ditching their parks which is such a big shame.

“We think we should be doing all we can to keep our parks and to value them. Priory Park is a rather special place right in the centre of the city. It has got a huge history from the Romans right the way through to the modern day, and we thought it was appropriate to celebrate it in a big way and also get the community to re-engage with it, with what we think of as the village green of Chichester!

“We have tried to put on events that relate back to the events that happened here. The park was very important during the Civil War. The Royalists were based there and it was attacked several times, so we are bringing along the Sealed Knot who will re-enact the siege.

“And of course, we also have the Guildhall which was a town hall. We brought back mayor-making to it this year for the first time since 1834. But it was also used as a court room. One of the most famous trials there was William Blake, but it was also the place for the trial of the Hawkhurst Gang, and we have got a special play by Greg Mosse which will re-enact that trial in the actual building it happened in.”

The festival will conclude on Sunday, September 30 with a poignant tribute to the 350 men of Chichester who gave their lives in the First World War. A drum head service will take place in the morning including the 100 choir, conducted by Emily Barden, and a waterfall of poppies, made by local schoolchildren, down the Park’s mound.

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