When Whyke was just a small village ...

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Whyke Residents Association was set up in Chichester in 1987 to prevent a road being driven through the city’s Cattle Market and to prevent a supermarket being built alongside it.

The fight was a successful one - and since then the association has gone on to battle on many other fronts, always with the aim of making the best of their neighbourhood.

But alongside concern for the present has always gone a respect for the past.

The two combined in the Millennium year with the publication of Aspects Of Whyke, a book which has just been republished in a 2011 edition.

The contents remain unaltered, the book still offering a history of Whyke from Roman times to the present century amid a wealth of detailed information about the growth of the area and the trades and the occupations of those who lived there.

As George Appleby, the association’s hon chairman, noted in his foreword to the 2000 edition: “A major motivation is the distinctiveness of the area. Not just that it is close to the city centre, pleasingly and variously built, has open spaces, trees and plenty of friendly residents; it has a history which gives it a character of its own.”

As Katherine Slay observed: “Until the mid 19th century, Whyke was a small Sussex village. The parish boundary adjoined that of St Pancras, on the south-eastern side of the city of Chichester. The community was mainly agricultural, with a population centred around St Mary’s church.

“The village was called Wiche in the Domesday Book of 1086. Since then, it has been referred to as either Rumboldswhyke, using a variety of different spellings. It is referred to as Rumboldswhyke on maps from the 18th century onwards.

“No one has yet come up with a definitive reason to explain why the village was called Rumboldswhyke. Whyke comes from the Old English word wic, meaning a settlement or farm. Rumbold is the name of a person who could either have been a farmer or one of several saints bearing that name.

“Legend states that the youngest of these lived for only three days, during which time he professed his Christian faith and preached a sermon on virtuous living to his (presumably rather surprised) parents.

“The size and character of the village probably altered very little over the centuries until the coming of the railway in 1846. Rapid commercial and housing expansion then followed.

“In 1893 Rumboldwhyke was incorporated as part of Chichester and was then once again known as Whyke. Little now remains of the original small village. Most people are probably unaware that it was once a village.”

Copies of Aspects of Whyke – Through the Ages are available for collection from Whyke Residents’ Association at the price of £5. More details from WRA on 784347 or 773002.

by Phil Hewitt