Chichester seems to be something of a magnet for developers and multiple chains who, when branding their new acquisitions, blatantly ignore the history and geography of the place.
One would imagine that these bodies would get their marketing departments to carry out some research before coming up with new names, but seemingly not: catchy names and corporate image are obviously more important than pertinence.
The developers of Graylingwell wanted to rename the site Livingwell, which would have removed this historic name from the map, whilst on the barracks site a new care home was to have been called Lavant Hall, oblivious to the fact that it is neither in Lavant nor on the banks of the River Lavant, or the confusion it would cause with the village hall in Lavant.
In both cases, the good people of Chichester resented the injustice, rose up and caused the creatives to think again. Thus the name Graylingwell lives on and the care home is now Wellington Grange. It may not be a grange but at least it commemorates the former Wellington public house opposite.
A few weeks back The Globe in Southgate emerged from an extensive makeover by its new owners as The Foundry. Included amongst the abundant wobbly signwriting on its (so harmonious) battleship-grey frontage is the date 1799, writ large over the front door. Understandably this has caused many to think that this reflects the date the Globe was built, but it doesn’t – it is the actually date that the Greene King Brewery, which now owns the pub, was founded. This is an example of corporate image getting in the way of historicity; The Globe was actually built some 50 years later. To make matters worse, the emblem of an anvil has been used in the signage demonstrating lamentable ignorance of what a foundry actually does.
Last week another outrage was perpetrated in the renaming of the Ship Hotel The Chichester Harbour Hotel in a rebranding exercise by its new owners, Harbour Hotels, who are based in Christchurch in Dorset. Unlike the name Globe, that of The Ship is of particular significance to Chichester. When the building became an hotel in 1939, that name was chosen to reflect the fact that it had been built as the home of Admiral Sir George Murray, Captain of the Fleet to Nelson, who lived in it from 1806 until his death in 1819. As well as his national importance and exalted rank (Vice Admiral of the Red) George Murray was a distinguished Cicestrian who was elected mayor in 1815.
The Ship has had many owners and some have wisely used this nautical connection as a vaunted selling point; indeed the immediate past owner relaunched the restaurant as Murrays and even featured the Good Admiral on the label of the house wine. This is the sort of mindedness that keeps the city’s rich history alive, but we learn from the article in the Chichester Observer (March 17) the restaurant is to be renamed The Jetty – just the sort of mindlessness that kills it.
This renaming of The Ship has simply been carried out in the name of corporate image since all the group’s hotels are called the ‘Something’ Harbour, but renaming it The Chichester Harbour Hotel not only shows crass disregard for the city’s history, it is, like Lavant Hall, geographically inappropriate. The Harbour Hotels webpage invites those booking its hotels to “wake up to panoramic views across the water... and drift away into coastal serenity with a Harbour Hotel stay’ thus guests will arrive in the middle of Chichester expecting a view across the AONB of Chichester Harbour, blissfully unaware that said harbour is actually two miles away. The sea will not be spied from the topmost attic window even with the aid of a telescope. Perhaps Harbour Hotels could strike a deal with the Dean and Chapter to build a breakfast annexe on the top of the bell tower – you’d certainly get panoramic sea views from up there but walking to it in the rain and climbing 125 steps before breakfast might not prove universally popular.
Alternatively, they could just reinstate the old name...
Alan H J Green