Sheep are set to return to Chichester’s Market Cross

A rare black 2 week old Southdown lamb born at the Weald and Downland Museum
A rare black 2 week old Southdown lamb born at the Weald and Downland Museum

After almost 150 years, sheep will return to the historic Market Cross in Chichester for a one-off event.

A flock of Southdown sheep will be at the Market Cross on Saturday, April 6, as part of a week of wool-themed events at The Novium. Events will run from Saturday 6 to Sunday 14 April.

“The sight of sheep back at the Market Cross promises to be quite a spectacle,” said Eileen Lintill, Chichester District Council’s cabinet member for leisure, wellbeing and community services. “This has never been seen in any of our lifetimes and I would encourage local people to come along and see it.”

Sheep would have been among the animals sold in the city centre in the past. The last recorded instance of this was in May 1870, before the busy animal market was relocated to just south of Eastgate Square.

In 1314, Chichester was one of only 12 cities in England given a charter to trade wool, which has always been one of Chichester’s most thriving industries. Ebenezer Prior’s Woolstaplers, which once stood on the site of The Novium, was one of the city’s most influential employers. The traditional Southdown sheep returning to the city centre marks the city’s commercial origins.

The event is being run in conjunction with the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton, as part of its Sheep and Shepherding on the South Downs exhibition which runs at the museum from 7-11 April. South Downs Folk Singers and Ann Feloy and Sam Hare will also be performing by the Market Cross during the early afternoon.

The Novium will be hosting a variety of activities as part of its Week of Woolly Wonder including:

* Traditional wool spinning

* Yarn bombing

* Pompom Sheep, in support of HRH Prince Charles’ campaign for wool

* Stuff a sack time trial challenge; and

* Craft activities to create sheep masks and Bo Peep bonnets.

Other wool-related events and activities include:

* A film archives afternoon entitled Rural Life today (Friday, March 22) from 2-4pm at The Novium

* A talk entitled Chichester Woolstapling on Thursday, April 11, from 4-5.30pm at The Novium

* A walk entitled Market Traders on Saturday, April 13, from 11.30am to 1pm

* Craft activities

Cllr Lintill added: “The abundance of Southdown sheep led to a long and affluent wool industry in Chichester. We are delighted to be able to celebrate this piece of local history in this special week of events. We are also pleased to be teaming up with the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton during this week for an event.”

Pre-booking is required for the film archives afternoon, walk and talk. For more information on any of the events taking place during the week contact The Novium on 01243 775888, email at or visit