Beautifully known as the ‘green lung’ of Chichester, whether you’re walking, cycling or paddle boarding along the Canal today, the ancient history is palpable in the air. Although today it’s mostly used for paddle boarding, kayaks and boat tours, I wanted to investigate exactly what the canal was used for in the past.
The demand for linking Chichester with the sea goes back to 1585, when an act of parliament was passed allowing so. Further plans were made in the early 19th century and more proposals being made through the early 1800’s, but none of these came to fruition and the first link to the sea was via a branch of the Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, opening in 1823. In 1817 it was decided that only the section between Chichester and Chichester Harbour would be built large enough to carry boats of 100 tons.
In the year construction of the canal basin began, a hoard of 300 Denarii were found: small silver coins first minted around 211 BC during the Second Punic War. Just think, while you’re paddle boarding over the serene water there may be treasure beneath you! It has been reported that gold bullion from Portsmouth travelling to the Bank of England was one of the regular cargoes carried on the Canal, carrying armed guards on the barges.
So Chichester Canal, formerly Portsmouth and Arundel Canal, stretched 12 miles from Ford on the River Arun to Salterns. It also acted as a short cut from Langstone Harbour to the harbour at Portsmouth, connected by a 23 mile dredged barge way through the existing natural harbours and channels between them. However, as time passed the decision to make only the sections between Chichester and Chichester Harbour large enough to carry large ships proved foolish as the need for an inland route diminished due to larger ships, meaning coastal paths were both safer and cheaper.
Be sure to check our next blog where we will be looking at specifically the Hunston pontoon area to the canal basin in Chichester!