Nostalgia: Princess visits Chichester

The princess on her tour of inspection accompanied by county fire officer Robert Blackburn and Christopher Buckle, chairman of the county council
The princess on her tour of inspection accompanied by county fire officer Robert Blackburn and Christopher Buckle, chairman of the county council

THE OBSERVER series reported on a royal visit 25 years ago this week.

Princess Alexandra made what was described as an ‘informal’ visit to West Sussex in May, 1983, and the paper wrote on May 5, 1983: “She fell behind schedule on several of her calls as she broke from 
the pre-arranged programme 
to chat.”

The Chichester Observer reported first she called at county fire brigade headquarters.

The paper wrote the headquarters were ‘sparklingly prepared with all the spit and polish of a Guards camp’ and there was even a guard of honour.

It added: “In the new computer-fitted control room she was reminded of the real workaday life of the service — an emergency call sounded an alarm call and she watched on a word processing screen as Mrs Sharon Goodger, of Worcester Road, Chichester, routed two fire engines to Swan Walk, Horsham, where an automatic fire alarm had gone off.”

At the headquarters, the princess met many of the people who worked there and local dignitaries, including chairman of the county council Christopher Buckle and county fire officer Robert Blackburn.

After lunch at the headquarters, the princess then opened the then-new mothers’ unit at St Richard’s Hospital.

The suite was to allow parents of seriously-ill children to stay overnight.

Meanwhile, 50 years ago, the Midhurst and Petworth Times reported on May 3, 1963, that Petworth painter Sir Colville Barclay had put forward an alternative route for a power line which was the subject of a planning inquiry.

The 400,000-volt power line, with its 180ft pylons, was set to go through the Midhurst district.

It had been claimed the area was threatened by the proposed pylons and the painter suggested it should be re-routed across the south coast plain and pass between Chichester and the South Downs.

At the time of the suggestion the pylon was already the subject of a five-week-long planning inquiry and it was thought Sir Colville’s suggestion could mean a further inquiry would need to be held.

He said the Central Electricity Generating Board had been ‘obliged to show some respect for Constable’s country when they erected a power line in East Anglia’.

“They should show the same respect for Turner’s country,” he said.

Finally, ten years ago, the Chichester Observer was reporting on the ‘excitement, romance and magic of Venice’ which had come to the city’s streets.

A huge carnival procession, around 200m long, passed from the festival theatre into the city to mark the start of the Chichester Festival Theatre’s summer season.

“It was very colourful, very large and of an extremely professional standard,” said Richard Huntrods, the theatre’s head of sales and marketing.

“It helped give a real lift to what has been an extremely successful opening to the season.

“Everyone here is genuinely ecstatic at the way things 
have gone.

“It’s all about the theatre being a really strong part of the community.”

The Venetian theme of the carnival reflected the theatre’s two summer performances: The Merchant of Venice and The Gondoliers.