The bandstand in the centre of the Carfax
Horsham is a market town in Sussex, on the upper reaches of the River Arun in the centre of the Weald. It lies 18½ miles north-west of Brighton and 26 miles north-east of the county town of Chichester. Nearby towns include Crawley to the north-east and Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill to the south-east.
Horsham has grown up around the Carfax, which is a meeting area place of five roads. To the south of the Carfax is the Causeway, a tranquil and little altered street lined with ancient houses which leads to the Norman parish church of St Mary (Church of England). Beyond the church is the River Arun
Prewett's Mill and the town's cricket field. A short walk along the banks of the Arun in a south-easterly direction is Chesworth Farm, an area of open public access.
To the north of the Carfax is a large park, known locally as Horsham Park, the remnant of what was formerly the Hurst Park Estate. The park has numerous football pitches, a wildlife pond and tennis courts. Various leisure facilities, including a modern swimming complex, have been built on land around the park.
To the east along Brighton Road is Iron Bridge named after the railway bridge that carries the railway from London to the South Coast. The area consists of mainly Victorian and Edwardian houses to the north of Brighton Road, whilst to the south there are areas of houses built between the wars or after the Second World War; this area is known as New Town.
Horsham stands at some 160 feet above sea level in the Low Weald, at the very western edge of the High Weald, with the Surrey Hills of the North Downs to the north and the Sussex Downs of the South Downs to the south. The River Arun rises from ghylls in the St Leonard's Forest area, to the east of Horsham, cuts through the south of the town then makes its way through Broadbridge Heath.It is joined by a number of streams flowing down from the northern rising around Rusper. Horsham lies within the Rape of Bramber.
The 'Horsham Point' - a mesolithic arrowhead - is sometimes claimed to mark the birth of distinctly British culture since it is the earliest known artefact that postdates the flooding of the English Channel, separating Europe from Britain.
The first mention of Horsham was in King Eadred's land charter of 947 AD. The town’s name is Anglo-Saxon, whether named from the trade in horses hereabouts or from the name of a local lord sharing a name with the famous Horsa, the Jutish King in Kent.
Despite its having been in existence for some 140 years at the time of the survey, Horsham is not mentioned in the Domesday Book either because it was never visited by inspectors, or was simply 'left out' of the final version. In the Middle Ages, Horsham was controlled by the powerful de Braose family. Horsham had two weekly markets and was noted locally for its annual fairs.
The Eversfield family rose to local prominence as ironmasters and landowners. They built Denne Park House, their seat. The family later represented Horsham in Parliament, and controlled the Eversfield Estate in St Leonards-on-Sea, where the seaside promenade is named for the family.
Despite a local iron industry and a prosperous brewing industry, Horsham remained primarily a market town serving the many farms in the area until the early 20th century, when other industry and residential development began to proliferate. One of the most important of these was the manufacture of bricks from the Wealden clay on which Horsham sits. Warnham and Wealden Brickworks still operate two miles north of Horsham and there are disused workings throughout the area, notably at Southwater which is now developed as an education centre and leisure park.
Horsham prospered during the Victorian era and early 20th century. The town, along with others, has been well documented photographically by Francis Frith. The pictures record many of the landmarks that are still in place today, although some, such the war memorial, Jubilee Fountain and Carfax Bandstand, have been moved.
The last of the brewers
Horsham remained a prominent brewery town until 2000, when the King and Barnes Brewery was closed on merger with Hall & Woodhouse, brewers of Dorset. King & Barnes was formed in 1906 from the merger of King & Sons, maltsters existing from 1850 and G H Barnes & Co., brewers whose origins date back to 1800. The brewery remained in the King family hands until the merger in 2000 when production ceased permanently. Their most famous brews included: Sussex Ale, Wealden Ale, Broadwood, Festive and the seasonal Old and Christmas Ales. The last member of the King family involved in the company still brews in Horsham as W J King & Co (Brewers) and supplies real ales to local pubs. There are two other small brewers currently operating in Horsham: Hepworth's is run by a former head brewer at King & Barnes, and Welton's, a company who were formed in Capel, Surrey, and have been in Horsham since 2004.
The town has grown steadily over recent years to a population of over 50,000. This has been facilitated by the completion of both an inner and outer town bypass. The location of any new growth is the subject of intense debate. Certainly, the town will fight hard to retain the 'strategic housing gap' between itself and its large neighbour Crawley. However, the latest plans by the local council include a large neighbourhood directly adjacent to Crawley, potentially devouring that gap.
The last man to die of pressing was John Weekes of Horsham. He was charged with robbery and murder of a woman along with three accomplices, one of whom was a small boy used to squeeze inside the woman's house and open access for the other three. When police found stolen property in the possession of the men, they easily persuaded the boy into turning King's evidence.
Two of the other accomplices were convicted, but when John Weekes had his turn to plead, he refused to say anything. Once the judges brought in eight witnesses who swore Weekes could talk and was not dumb, they gave him time in the cells. When he refused further to say a single word, he was convicted of 'standing mute through malice' and condemned to ‘’paine fort et dure’’ until he should plead. Weekes was placed under three hundredweight boards, and the sixteen stone gaoler jumped on top of him. Local folklore continues the story, extending it to include the death of his executioner days later, sometimes in the same spot where the execution was carried out. Some think that he was a mute.
Public executions generally took place at a place called North Heath, now a suburb of Horsham. The road to the execution site was known for many years as Gibbet's Road but was later renamed Giblet's Road with an extension now called Giblet's Way.
At the west end of the town centre stands a controversial water sculpture known as the 'Rising Universe' fountain, more commonly known locally as 'The Shelley Fountain'. It was designed by Angela Connor, and erected to commemorate the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who was born at Field Place in Broadbridge Heath, near Warnham, not far from Horsham. The design is based on a fountain planned for the city of Cambridge which was rejected due to public protest. The ‘’County Times’’ wrote "Its appearance and quality as a public work of art has attracted widespread derision and distress. Just how long it will survive is the burning question of the moment.". At its opening the mayor of Lerici, Horsham's twin town where the poet drowned, described the memorial as "very brave". The fountain is designed to release a torrent of six and a half tons of water periodically, it is 45 feet across at its base, standing 28 ft high. It carries a plaque bearing one of his poems. The fountain was turned off in the spring of 2006 to save water. Despite recycling it used 180 gallons a day to cover evaporation and filtration losses. However, the council has made water saving efficiencies elsewhere and the fountain was turned on again on November 13, 2006, its tenth birthday but was turned off again after that Christmas. In May 2008 the fountain was turned off again due to the failure of its main hydraulic cylinder. On 19 January 2009 the fountain was fenced off for repairs.
The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is the oldest building in Horsham. It has been associated with the life and worship of the community and in continuous use for nearly eight centuries. It is located at the end of the Causeway, the oldest extant part of Horsham. It has a peal of ten bells. The present structure is largely of Mid Victorian design
The Old Town Hall in the Market Square is a much adapted and restructured building dating from c 1648 when it was referred to as a 'Market House'. In 1721 a new construction of Portland Stone was built containing a poultry and butter market. The building fell into disrepair and was substantially rebuilt around 1812.It was only as late as 1888 that it became the property of the local council. The building was again largely rebuilt and is essentially of late Victorian origin with a Norman facade preserving some aspects of the older buildings. It has been used as council offices and as a magistrates court in the proceeding years. The ground floor is still used as an occasional market place and the upper floors contain the Horsham Registry.
- Albery, W. (1947) A Millennium of Facts in the History of Horsham and Sussex. 947-1947., Horsham, Horsham Museum Society
- A Compendious History of Sussex, Vol. I, Mark Antony Lower, George P. Bacon, Lewes, 1870
- A Handbook for Travellers in Sussex and Kent, R.J. King, John Murray, London, 1858
- Eversfield Family of Denne Park, Horsham, Manorial Records and Deeds, 1430-1903, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, National Register of Archives, The National Archives, nationalarchives.gov.uk
- Moyes, Jojo (27 January 1997). "Hail to thee, blithe spirit (But not if you live in Middle England)". London: The Independent group. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/hail-to-thee-blithe-spirit-1285416.html. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
- Christie-Miller, Alex (12 June 2008). "Broken fountain will rise again". West Sussex County Times. http://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/news/Broken-fountain-will-rise-again.4178542.jp. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
- "Repairs to Horsham fountain". West Sussex County Times. 9 January 2009. http://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/news/Repairs-to-Horsham-fountain.4861180.jp. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
- History of St Mary's Church, Jane Bowen, (1997)