CELEBRATIONS began on Saturday to commemorate Priory Park’s 100th birthday.
The 11th Duke of Richmond attended the opening ceremony and was joined by the Mayor, Cllr Martyn Bell, and Chichester District Council chairman Elizabeth Hamilton.
In his speech, Cllr Bell said: “It’s a great honour for me to be here, as mayor on this occasion, and it brings, to my mind, my predecessor, 100 years ago, who was the mayor of Chichester, Sir Archibald Garland, who accepted, on behalf of the people of Chichester, the marvellous and very fitting gift of the park from the 7th Duke of Richmond.
“I think its marvellous that the 11th Duke is now here, 100 years on. I have personal memories, as has the mayoress of the park. Coming up to 20 years ago, we had our wedding photos taken outside the Guildhall, given that the registry office used to be in North Street in those days.
“Out son was at the Probendle school branch at Northgate House in North Street and he was always over here playing and I have just returned, two weeks ago from a Royal Sussex Regimental Association ceremony in Prie, Northern France when we commemorated those who gave their lives, for this country, in the First World War. It’s a reminder of why we are here, and why the park was gifted by the Duke to the people of Chichester as a memorial park.”
The 11th Duke of Richmond said: “It’s lovely to see you all here, thanks for coming on this rather dull day.
“I am very honoured to be the patron of Priory Park 100 and I think it’s a great thing to be celebrated. It’s going to be a great couple of weeks. We are looking forward to the cricket match which my son is captain in a team. They are rather better at cricket than their father.
“My father, of course, was passionate about his cricket and so it will be fabulous to have them here playing in this historic park. This park was my great, great grandfather’s, who gave this park 100 years today, literally, to the city of Chichester in memory of the fallen in the First World War. So it is a special feeling and very special for me to be here, today to celebrate this great moment.”
The Duke and Mayor then jointly cut a special cake made by Carol Sharp, of the Exclusive Cakes and Vintage Team room, in North Street, Chichester.
At 11.30am, a “special hands around the park” took place, where Friends of Priory Park chairman Richard Plowman took on his other role as Chichester’s Town Crier to lead many of the societies and organisations in Chichester all around the park until the front of the procession joined up with the back. At that point, everyone held hands to show how important parks, and especially Priory Park, are for people’s wellbeing.
Inside the Guildhall there was an Art in Action with many local artists and craftsman demonstrating their work and in the afternoon a parachute jump took place by the Royal Navy “Raiders”.
A poppy cascade on the mound in the park was on show, organised by the Rotary Club who sent 1,200 poppies to schools across Chichester district.
Lynne Brechin, from the Rotary Club, said: “We sent packs with instructions and foam shapes of the poppies to school for the children to cut out and make.
“Each child can then come here and pick a spot to attach their poppy to. Some of them have been very creative and added sparkles. This will then be lifted up and hang over the mound to reveal the cascade of poppies.”
Mr Plowman said: “Priory Park 100 got off to a very good start with the pre- launch party with Johnny Marrs and the cutting of the first 100th birthday cake. Hanging over the weekend was the most horrendous weather and storms and I felt sorry as the Velo cycle race was cancelled and the council took the same view and cancelled the craft market in the city centre. There was no parachute jump and the music of Saturday night was great but the rain lashed at the spectators.
“Sunday morning was even worse but we held our nerve as the Sealed Knot began to turn up and we were rewarded with a great display.