As Chichester has been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Festival Theatre this year, I thought you might be interested to hear of a proposal to build a theatre very close to the Festival theatre site, 113 years ago.
The document in question is an auction notice headed ‘To Capitalists, Land Syndicates, Improvement Companies, Builders and Others – Sale of Accommodation or Building Land – comprising nearly 9 acres situate at or near Northgate, Chichester.
To be sold by auction on Tuesday July 11, 1899, in London by Hogben Bros, Auctioneers, Chichester’.
The land, it says, was at that time being used as a nursery garden with Forcing Houses, the greater part being enclosed by high walls.
Accompanying the Auction Notice is a handwritten ‘General Memoranda and Remarks’ with proposals for two possible schemes:-
1. As a Building Estate.
2. As Recreation and Sports Ground comprising:-
a. The Reading and Club Room.
b. The Theatre and Concert Hall.
c. The Tennis Ground.
d. The combination Cricket and Football Ground surrounded by a Cycling Track.
e. The building plots, Paddock and Garden.
f. The Grand Stand containing ample accommodation for several thousand spectators surmounting a covered promenade, with Band Stand forming a frontage of upwards of 20 excellent shops.
The memoranda continues: “The ground thus laid out would form a great attraction not only in fine weather but on wet afternoons and evenings... and provide a recreation for the working classes which would keep them from public houses and the more youthful members from frequenting the corners of the streets as their only source of amusement... and that every opportunity for rational enjoyment should be afforded to a numerous class who are excluded from the privileges afforded by such exclusive associations as the Chichester Priory Park Society whose grounds are the resort of a favoured body of subscribers and are open to the public only on rare occasions and at a tariff which is prohibitive to the working classes”.