ANXIOUS residents turned out in force at the weekend to voice their concern at the potential removal of a piece of Chichester’s history.
The well-known Smugglers’ Stone, in Broyle Road, marks the place where a gang were hanged on the gallows field for murder and theft in 1749.
The stone looks set to be moved as part of the construction of a 72-bed care home.
Historian and author Alan Green was one of the people who gathered and said Chichester District Council had ‘ignored’ advice of the Chichester conservation area advisory committee to ensure the stone and a nearby obelisk in Wellington Road remained on the site.
“One of the things we picked up on were these very important monuments,” he said.
Permission was granted last year for the home, in which the monuments’ removal was detailed, however it has caught many people unawares.
Nearby Wellington Road resident Jill Robinson was angry at the stones’ removal and also at the general development work going on in the area.
“This is meant to be a leafy, green part of Chichester and the nicest part of Chichester and they’re doing their best to make it look like a ghetto.”
She said people thought monuments like the stone would remain where they were forever. “You just don’t see why they’re moving it,” she added.
Mr Green said the hope was the stone and obelisk would remain publicly accessible.
“It’s the fact they don’t say where it’s going, which is very worrying,” said Mr Green. “It’s not got protection. It’s not listed.”
He said it was important the public could still access the stone and the obelisk.
According to another local historian, Ken Green, the obelisk was erected in 1745, with the Smugglers’ Stone in 1749.
The stone was created with the names and crimes of the six smugglers, who according to Mr Green committed some ‘fairly atrocious crimes’.
“That stone was set up there naming them and detailing their crimes near to the site of the gallows,” he said.
The stone was originally in the centre of the field, but was moved to the edge of Broyle Road when the barracks expanded around 1845.
THE chief executive of the company behind the care home said the stones could make way for a new cycle path.
Mark Aitchison, of Colten Care, said: “We have no issue with both the Smugglers’ Stone and the obelisk being left where they are, or alternatively being moved elsewhere on the wider Rousillon Barracks site for continued public access.”
He added: “The reason the Smugglers’ Stone may be set back a few feet or relocated nearby is to make way for a cycle path which the council requires as a planning condition. The path lies outside the development site of our care home.”
He said the company was complying with all planning requirements and remained happy to engage with residents.
He added: “We are aware that the planning documents make reference to potential ‘relocation’, but if the Smugglers’ Stone does have to move because of the path, the new spot will be subject to discussions between the council and ZeroC, the main site developer.”
Loss of trees
THERE was outrage in recent weeks after dozens of leylandii trees were removed bordering the development of the care home.
However, Colten Care chief executive Mark Aitchison said the company intended to replant a number of lime trees where the previous trees were cut down.
He said: “While people will have noticed that a line of leylandii trees has been removed, we would like to take this opportunity to reassure neighbours that these will be replaced by semi-mature lime trees as part of our landscaping work.”
The work started earlier this month and at one point the police were called after one resident ran out to try to stop the work from going ahead.
Action group created
THE 72-bed care home was granted planning permission last year.
However, the removal of the trees earlier this month and now the imminent removal of the Smugglers’ Stone and obelisk have led some residents to launch an action group.
The Broyle Road Action Group (BRAG) is aiming to ensure the stone remains in its current position.
Residents have called for a meeting with Chichester District Council planners to discuss aspects of the Roussillon Barracks development and assess whether the stone and obelisk can remain in their current locations.