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Dolphin & Anchor Hotel

by Pat Saunders

By Pat Saunders, Volunteer at The Novium Museum

The landmark Dolphin and Anchor building occupies a long footprint in West Street from the corner of Chapel Street. Its Dolphin and Anchor emblems are still visible on the buildings parapets. The building is now occupied by several different retailers; however it was once home to The Dolphin and Anchor Hotel. Having started as two separate establishments, The Dolphin and The Anchor, they merged in 1910 and the joint name was adopted. It remained a hotel until 1996 when it was sold.

Records for The Dolphin date back to the middle of the 17th century to around 1660. In 1670 it was recorded as containing 23 hearths. To put this in perspective the Bishop's Palace had an equivalent amount of hearths, showing the grandeur of The Dolphin. The Anchor, first recorded in 1662, was later described as a new build in 1768.

The Dolphin and The Anchor have been the centre of much activity throughout their separate and merged histories. The Dolphin has been a celebrated posting-house, a house or inn where horses were kept for riders.

The Dolphin also had connections with two unfortunate people who died there rather tragically. The first was Richard Pulter, a chaise driver, who hanged himself in the hayloft above the stables at the back of the inn. The second was Charles Triggs who, at the age of 27, became the new landlord in 1813. Sadly after only 12 hours in charge, he dropped dead in his own bar after a party to welcome him. Another chaise driver at The Dolphin was Reuban Benham, great grandfather of the author H G Wells. He had a misfortunate accident one dark stormy night when he drove a postal chaise into a wharf at Midhurst instead of over the bridge.

In 1838 the Dolphin was taken over by Mr and Mrs William Ballard. They were in charge when a bare-knuckle fist fight took place between poet and novelist George Meredith and Sussex County cricketer H M Hyndman, with Meredith the winner in a contest described as 'rough and tumble'. Mrs Ballard was the sister of Dr Osborn, president of the Wesleyan Conference, and they helped to establish the Wesleyan chapel in Chichester. Up to her death she travelled about the city in a sedan chair, the last person to do so.

In 1904 the Dolphin was reported to be the headquarters of the Automobile Association (AA). There had always been great rivalry between the Dolphin and the Anchor for the coaching trade between London and Chichester. 1996 saw the tenth anniversary for Tim Scarghill and his wife Coleen as managers and at the closure they held a 'wake' with their friends at the hotel.