Celebrations took place on Saturday morning as the city’s Canal Trust officially opened their new heritage centre.
On Saturday, September 21, Chichester Canal’s refurbished Heritage Centre was formally opened by the Mayor of Chichester, Cllr Richard Plowman, with a backdrop of paddle-boarders and model boats from the Chichester Boat Club.
The event was celebrated by a friendly crowd of invited guests including West Sussex County Council chairman Janet Duncton, Chichester District Council chairman Elizabeth Hamilton and vice-chairman Clare Apel, Chichester Business Improvement District (BID) chairman Colin Hicks, canal members and volunteers.
Cllr Plowman said: “We couldn’t ask for a better day. When I was a trustee here, many years ago, we have one Portakabin and we patched it up every year.
“And now, getting the heritage building is just tremendous and it’s all down to all the volunteers. It’s absolutely wonderful.”
Catherine Cannon, joint vice-chairman of Chichester Ship Canal Trust, welcomed the crowd and thanked those who had made the refurbishment possible.
She highlighted the importance of the heritage centre as a record of the almost 200-year history of Chichester canal, and the aim that it will be a reference point for visitors, lectures and school parties.
She said: “This is really a record of our history almost 200 years – we couldn’t begin to get it all in! It’s a space to really share the relevance of the canal to the visitors who come and enjoy what we have here.
“The new displays have really added to the attractions that we are able to offer here at the canal for so many people.”
Sue Dixon, trustee at the canal, spoke about how the design and build of the heritage centre was supported and realised by Chichester’s local community.
She said: “We found ourselves with five questions to answer. How can we make an area that immediately attracts visitors? How can we ensure that it keeps up with the times? How can we change the displays so there is always something new? How can we up date the information and add to it? And lastly, what do the 21st century generation want from a heritage centre?
“My vision is that the heritage centre will become an information hub for the canal as well as being a venue to attract casual visitors, small parties and adult groups to learn about the wonderful attraction that we have here.
“The heritage centre has been built by the community for the community.”
Chichester College incorporated both the design aspect and elements of the construction into course modules which gave students hands-on experience in both expressing their vision of the heritage centre and a hand in building it.
Aspects of the construction were also undertaken by Building Heroes, an organisation that gives ex-service personnel the opportunity to hone skills for future career changes.
Artist, Jazmine Saunders, who was present at the formal opening, worked closely with canal volunteers to create a colourful mural reflecting the natural beauty of Chichester Canal depicting the canal wildlife. She said: “It’s designed to draw you in as you try to find all the different animals.”
The trust is delighted that the heritage centre, which will be open now until late-November, has already been well supported.
Cllr Janet Duncton added: “This is a marvellous facility and does a lot for Chichester and its heritage. It’s a marvellous effort and I support this and wish them every luck for the future. It’s really, really good.”
With the weather now drawing in, it’s the perfect time to pop in to have a look around before enjoying a boat trip or having a quiet coffee in the cafe.
For more information on the canal, visit: chichestercanal.org.uk