An Overview of Chichester
The Cathedral City of Chichester (Noviomagus – meaning new field or new plain) lies on the plain between the South Downs and the sea. The city has been a crossroads since Roman times, with routes diverging north to Winchester and along the coast, both east and west. The present city of Chichester was built on the site of the capital of Cogidubnus, the King of the Regneses and an ally of the Romans. His palace at nearby Fishbourne is one of the major Roman villas excavated in Britain.
Soon after the Roman invasion in AD43, the Army occupied land at the head of Fishbourne harbour. With military precision, gravelled streets were constructed, with storehouses and jetties to house and distribute supplies, which were essential for Vespasion’s army as it marched wets to conquer Wessex. The site was almost certainly used as a base camp at this time, and with the dual advantage of a friendly native tribe and safe shelter in the natural harbour at Fishbourne, guaranteed for the Romans what every military leader has always desired; safe supply / support lines whilst remaining totally secure at the rear.
Chichester has always been militarily active. Overlooking Goodwood race course is the prehistoric early Iron Age hill fort called the Trundle. The extent of the Roman town can be seen by following the City Walls, resting on Roman foundations. To the Saxons it was known as Cisseceastre. When the Normans tidied up the organisation of the English Church, the Bishopric of Selsey was moved to Chichester in 1075. During the Middle Ages the commercial activity of the city merited several weekly markets and from 1295 – 1867 Chichester returned two members of parliament. It also had what was perhaps the oldest guild merchant in the country and was established as a wool staple by the early 14th Century.
Many finds from occupying forces have been discovered over the centuries. The most dramatic evidence comes from a discovery of numerous small items that were found in a garden at Little London just before the Second World War. These included a legionary belt-plate, a buckle, cuirass hook and many other small items. Further finds were unearthed during excavations in 1963.
ROYAL SUSSEX REGIMENT
Until becoming the home of the Royal Military police, the Regiment to have gained the most use from the Barracks was the Royal Sussex Regiment. Arthur Chichester, 3rd Earl of Donegal, who owned large estates in the north of Ireland, raised the Regiment in Belfast in 1701. They were one of a number of Protestant regiments formed around this time to meet the growing threat of Louis XIV of France, and to resist the spread of Roman Catholicism in Britain. He raised the Regiment at his own expense in return for which William III gave permission for uniforms to bear orange facings. The Regiment was first known as The Earl of Donegal’s Regiment, or The Belfast Regiment. However the official title was the 35th Regiment of Foot.
After the raising of a 2nd Battalion in 1799 and after various campaigns, the Regiment was given appellation “Royal” by William IV in honour of it’s achievements. It was retitled the 35th (Royal SUSSEX) Regiment of Foot and was allowed to replace all orange facings with blue of a Royal Regiment.
In August 1854 the Regiment embarked for India and took part in the Indian Mutiny in 1857. After the mutiny the Regiment became linked with the 107th (Bengal Infantry) Regiment, which was raised by East India Company in 1853. In 1861 it was transferred to British Service with all other European Regiments of the Company’s Private Army. Permanent Depots for Infantry Regiments of the line were set up throughout the country in 1873, and in that year the Barracks quite naturally became the Brigade Depot for the 35th and 107th. In 1881 the Regiments were reconstituted to form, respectively, 1st & 2nd Bns, Royal Sussex Regiment.
The Royal Sussex Regiment received the freedom of the city on 30 June 1951 and after a Drumhead Service marched through Chichester with fixed bayonets.
In 1958 Chichester Barracks was finally renamed Roussillon Barracks. The name was taken from the Royal Roussillon Regiment of France, which was overwhelmed by the 35th Regiment at Quebec in 1759 and whose white plume was later incorporated in the badge of the Royal Sussex Regt. A brass plaque with a short history of the Regiment and Barracks was unveiled in 1959 on the 200th anniversary of the battle of Quebec by the 16th Duke of Norfolk who had himself served in the 4th Bn.
This plaque was later situated in the Duty Room / Keep area and is now close to the Royal Sussex Cap Badge on the outside wall of the Keep.
After many Battalions were formed, reformed and disbanded, the Royal Sussex left the Barracks in 1960 on the formation of the Home Counties Brigade Central Depot in Canterbury, leaving behind their Regimental Colonel and Headquarters of the Royal Sussex Association. The Royal Sussex became part of the newly formed Queen’s Regiment on 31 Dec 1966. As part of this new Queen’s Division, they were joined by The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment, The Queen’ Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment and The Middlesex Regiment. However their fine traditions carried on with 3rd Bn Queen’s Regiment and the Royal Sussex Regimental Association. The Queen’s Division at this time consisted of 10 Bns (3 RRF, 3 queen’s & 4 R Anglian Bns). With options for change and drawdown the Queen’s Regiment itself merged with the Royal Hampshire Regiment in 1994 to form The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. Traditions and Regimental history will continue.
The Barracks are strategically situated on a piece of high ground to the north of the city and in 1642 Gen Sir William Waller used this same ground to form his troops prior to the siege of Chichester. It was also on this site that executions were carried out at the Gallows. It would appear that one of the last and most remembered executions were of the “Hawkhurst Hang”. This gang of nine smugglers and murderers were executed in January 1749 and Richard Mills, the elder and Richard Mills, the younger were buried at the side of the gallows on the Broil. Two of the remaining seven, William Carter and Henry Sheerman, were displayed in chains along the Portsmouth Road, and the other five were displayed along several routes to act as a deterrent to any future would be offenders.
Various records show that the Barracks were built over a period between 1795 and 1813 at a cost of £76,167, on land that was purchased from the Bishop of Chichester. It lies in the parish of St Peter the Great and from marriage registers of St Peters up to 1794, it shows that the military were on site from the mid 1700s. In 1767 the marriage took place of a drummer in Lord London’s Regiment and also of a trumpeter in Lord Albermarle’s Regiment. In 1768, three weddings took place by members of 70th foot, General Cholmondely’s Regiment and 3rd Regiment of Dragoons. The Barrack accommodation at this time was tents.
The Barracks were intended for use by a major unit of the British Army and it is understood that French POWs were initially employed on the construction of some of the first wooden huts in 1803. In the same year the Hampshire Telegraph took an interest in the build and the following extracts confirm the building phase:
21 Feb Barracks occupied only by Barracks Master and family (small structure).
1 Aug 100 men building new Cavalry Barracks on the Broil.
5 Sep Work proceeding rapidly to accommodate 1500 men.
21 Nov Nearly finished.
The Royal Monmouth Militia were stationed in the Barracks 1805 – 08 and the 2nd Bn Sussex Regiment stayed here in 1808 and again in 1813, between disembarking at Portsmouth from Guernsey and embarking at Deal for Holland. Various cavalry and infantry units occupied the Barracks during the next fifty years and it also served as a base for the Royal Sussex Light Infantry Militia. It is known that the 5th Dragoon Guards were stationed here in 1831 and that the Scots Greys followed them. From a register of Baptisms there is evidence that the 96th of foot, later 2nd Bn Manchester Regiment were also here in 1861. In 1870 it was established as a Discharge Depot and in 1873 became the Brigade Depot for the Royal Sussex Regiment which is explained elsewhere in this document.
In 1875 the main build took place which included several brick buildings and numerous more wooden huts to serve as accommodation and offices. It was also at this time that the main parade ground was laid with grass and from then on known as The Green. The only remaining buildings from this period are the famous Keep and RHQ area and the RMP Chapel, which was originally built as a schoolhouse. Parts of the original Barrack wall still survive. The remnants of the original stables were removed in 1994. On looking at the map of Barracks in 1875, all readers will no doubt be pleased to know that the public house, which used to exist opposite the entrance, was originally called the “Inkerman Tavern”. In 1925, Mr George Tippen, (then 88yrs old) a Tinsmith from St Paul’s Road, who was a well known citizen and very active for his age, reminisced on his childhood around the Barracks:
“Great alterations have been made to the Barracks since I was a boy. Before the present wall was built around, a heavy open fence, always kept well tarred to prevent climbing enclosed them. I remember the great improvements made to the huts from time to time for the comfort of the men, and the building of the new entrance gateway, and the new buildings of the flag staff tower.”
Shortly before the Great War the officers kept a pack of beagles for two years and 1930-35 they also ran drag hunts. In the mid 1930’s another extensive rebuild took place, with many wooden huts being removed. Fourteen Married Quarters were built in the north end of the Barracks and named Otway Road. Shortly afterwards four Officers Married Quarters were built in front of these and named Richmond Road, adjacent to the green. A bungalow at No 1 Young Street was built and has traditionally housed the senior Warrant Officer in the barracks. It is understood that most of the roads within the wall were named after Generals who were associated with the Royal Sussex. The Headquarters building and gymnasium were also built at the same time and the last building to be completed in 1939 was Sandhurst accommodation block. A typical building on all military camps at this time, which for other ranks facilitated the luxury of accommodation, ablutions and feeding arrangements all under one roof.
No more major builds took place until after 1960 when the Royal Sussex Regiment moved to Canterbury and the Royal Military Police were preparing to leave Inkerman Barracks, Woking for their new home here in Chichester. An extensive build able to fully accommodate the Corps of Royal Military Police took place between 1960-64, which included the Officer’s Mess, Sergeant’s Mess, NAAFI, Classrooms, Training Wings (formerly Initial Training Wing), QMs and associated Stores, RHQ Offices, NBC Chamber, 30m Range, MT, Medical Centre and Armoury. To compliment this further, more married quarters for Officers and Soldiers were built around the already existing ones. These consisted of some six houses on Dempsey Road, three houses on Cassels Road and twenty one flats in Mytchett House for other ranks along with four houses on the Broadway for Officers. In addition, playparks and garages were built for the family’s convenience.
ROYAL MILITARY POLICE
Roussillon Barracks was ready for RMP occupation and one of the first officers to enter with his advance party in 1964 was Lieutenant Norman Allen RMP. The main body marched from Woking to Chichester, which was quite common practice. The first QM was Lt RAJ Tyler MBE who held office 1962-65, thereby seeing out the old and bringing in the new Barracks. Capt Harry Burden MBE took over as QM in 1965.
The Depot & Headquarters RMP was now fully established and courses / squads started passing through the famous entrance.
Her Majesty the Queen has visited the Barracks on several occasions and like our forebear’s we were given the Freedom of the City on 7 January 1981 thereby carrying on tradition. The relationship with the citizens of Chichester has always been excellent and in 1977 the Chichester Marches were started, to commemorate the centenary of the Corps of Royal Military Police. This was a joint venture with the local population and until 1993 up to 4000 military and civilians would turn up annually every August to complete up to 40kms across the South Downs. Sadly with constraints this annual event had to stop and will not take place again for the foreseeable future. Many events have occurred during our thirty-year stay and one worth a mention is the Falklands War in 1982. Commander Alfredo Astiz of the Argentine Forces was a guest of the Officers Mess, as a Prisoner of War between 5 – June 1982. He was the only POW in Britain since 1945 and due to the security and media interest he was kept in the keep. This meant that an area had to be sealed off. It had full facilities including TV and radio. The Commander was watched constantly on close circuit TV and was the responsibility of the Military Provost Staff Corps Major and staff. All permanent staff at the Depot had to assist for the short duration and all took turns with their duty guard.
Apart from minor adjustments no major rebuilds took place until 1989 when the Inkerman and Kensington Junior Rank accommodation blocks were built as well as Stanhope block classroom facilities. The gymnasium has been extended again and more recently new office blocks have also been built, which proudly includes Burden House, which is occupied by the Television & Imaging Section of the Technical Support unit.
One piece of history, which remains close to all the hearts of serving and ex Military Policemen, was the Mounted Troop disbandment parade that took place on Sunday 5 March 1995. This consisted of a march through the city followed by an emotional farewell ceremony and drumhead service in the barracks. The parade was led by Lieutenant Colonel JAJ Nelson RMP, who marched the Mounted Troop off the square for the last time, to the sound of Auld Lang Syne and a rapturous applause.