Old walls, new walls and lunch via helicopter

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For anyone with even the slightest interest in Roman history, a trip to Chichester has always been a must.

And if those visitors spot a hole being dug in the city centre, its worth stopping for a look as you never know what the picks and shovels will reveal.

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Take our main photo of North Street.

The picture was taken in 1979 and shows what was described as “a fine example of a Roman wall” – which was not what the workmen expected to be looking at when they dug the hole.

They were in the process of laying news drains but they were given the chance to lean on their shovels for a while as the find was documented.

Given the city’s history, these finds should probably be expected, especially as some of the best Roman buildings uncovered have been to the north of the Market Cross.

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In February 1979, Nicholas Gould wrote a fascinating piece for the Observer, detailing some of the building which would have graced the streets of Roman Chichester.

Known as Noviomagus Reginorum, the settlement was the heart of a kingdom ruled for 40 years by a man named Cogidubnus, whose kingdo, stretched across East and West Sussex and probably into central Surrey.

As for the buildings of Chichester, Mr Gould wrote: “In the centre was the forum, a gravelled main square used for markets and business of all kinds, stretching from North Street to well beyond Chapel Street, and from West Street two-thirds of the way up Crane Street.

“On one side of it would have stood the basilica – town hall, law courts and government offices in one. This may have been on the Dolphin and Anchor site, or possibly to the south of West Street. In the block from the forum to Tower Street and beyond stood the public baths, one of the great centres of Roman town life.

“North-east of the forum was the temple of Neptune and Minerva, mentioned on the famous Cogidubnus Stone, which can be seen on the wall of the Council House, in North Street.”

Leaving a very old wall and looking at what was a very new one, 1979 saw work being carried out on a £300,000 to pave and landscape the pedestrian precinct.

The work was expected to take up to two years and, unlike the drain diggers, the men pictured in North Street by St Peter’s Road, did not turn up any Roman relics.

Our final photo shows one man’s rather unusual way of dropping in for lunch. His name was Keith Lloyd-Jenkins and he landed his Bell 4YG 3BI helicopter on the lawn at the Southdowns Country House Hotel.

This was Keith’s second such visit and the staff at the hotel were pleased to see him. One told the Observer: “He just rings up and asks if it is all right to land on the lawn, and we keep the dogs in.”

Hotel manager Bernard Bond wondered whether more customers would follow Keith example, declaring: “We will have to take out the croquet hoops if they land here in the summer.”

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