When it comes to the south coast, Brighton hogs the headlines but just 30 miles west is a pretty cathedral city with bags of Georgiana, masses to do, and countryside and the sea within easy reach.
Chichester is a West Sussex beauty. The cobbled town centre and Georgian squares have a Mayfair look. There are independent shops, pubs galore, wine bars, restaurants, and the city is sandwiched between South Downs National Park to the north and West Wittering beach to the south.
The annual Chichester Festival is one of the UK’s great theatre events. The Chichester Festival Theatre itself has had a terrific makeover, and the Pallant House Gallery has an excellent programme of art exhibitions. Chichester Cinema runs an annual film festival and the Goodwood Estate is four miles away for horse racing, motor racing and golf, all in a setting of great style masterminded by the Earl of March.
Local schools are slightly mixed but there are some very strong options. Bishop Luffa CofE School and St Richard’s Catholic Primary are both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.
However, traffic congestion is awful in the town. The Government has promised improvements to the Chichester Bypass, but as yet no date has been set to start this badly needed work. And the train journey to London is not quick. Services to London Bridge, Waterloo and Victoria take about an hour and a half, while an annual season ticket costs £4,308. Commuters, however, seem content to put up with it, especially if they sail at weekends.
£660,000: a three-bedroom townhouse with balcony and picturesque courtyard, located within the city walls just off South Pallant
Best for city living: The Pallant and Little London
These two enclaves within Chichester’s ancient city walls are the smartest addresses — Chichester’s answer to prime central London. Both have a fantastic central location and are almost exclusively filled with mouthwatering Georgian houses.
The Pallant, just east of Chichester Cathedral, is a small network of streets that was originally known as “palantine”. This means “of the palace” and harks back to the area’s former ownership by the palace of the Archbishop of Chichester. Little London, the area around Priory Park in the city centre, got its name after Queen Elizabeth I visited and spoke of its similarity to the capital.
Living in the Pallant or Little London does not come cheap. A two-bedroom cottage would cost £400,000 to £600,000, and a grand townhouse with six bedrooms, a garden, and off-street parking could set you back £3 million. Buyers here are mixture of families, downsizers, commuters and second-home owners from London and the home counties.
For commuter families on a budget: south Chichester
The streets beyond the city walls offer space and an easy journey to the station and schools. Value for money is the key appeal in south Chichester. A two-bedroom Victorian terrace house costs about £260,000, a three-bedroom Thirties semi is about £350,000, or a fine four-bedroom Victorian villa would go for £500,000.
Local facilities are thin, with just a scattering of pubs and corner shops, but it’s only half a mile to the centre, the station is a 10- to 15-minute walk away and most schools are to the south and east of the city centre. Fishermen love Whyke Lake for carp fishing, while the sandy beach at West Wittering is a 20-minute drive.
Guide price £850,000: a three-bedroom cottage in Bosham Hoe, Bosham. Call 01243 850448
Best for yachties: Bosham and Itchenor
These two exceptionally pretty villages are on opposite sides of Chichester Harbour, and each has a lovely range of homes — from fishermen’s cottages on the harbourside through to millionaires’ mansions with private moorings.
Each has a couple of pubs, a handful of shops, and, most crucially, sailing clubs with a busy programme of events both on the water and social which attract keen sailors from around the UK. William Baigent, associate director at Jackson-Stops & Staff, says Itchenor is the slightly grander of the two villages. Certainly modern mansions are springing up on Spinney Lane with about 6,000sq ft of floorspace and £4 million to £5 million price tags. “It’s all very Surrey-esque,” says Baigent.
Alternatively, an 18th-century harbourside cottage with three to four bedrooms would cost about £900,000, or a modern two- to three-bedroom house in the village would be about £500,000. Bosham, the larger village, is a little less expensive. A harbourside fisherman’s cottage would cost between £700,000 and £800,000. There are also four-bedroom Thirties semi-detached houses in the village from £500,000. A harbourside trophy house with mooring and six bedrooms will set you back about £3 million.
Prices in these villages have risen by a fairly modest four to five per cent in the last 12 months. Baigent feels the market is likely to stagnate until after next year’s general election, as buyers wait to hear of any new mansion tax.