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Horsham is a market town with a population of 55,657 (2008) on the upper reaches of the River Arun in the centre of the Weald, West Sussex, in the historic County of Sussex, England. The town is 31 miles (50 km) south south-west of London, 18.5 miles (30 km) north-west of Brighton and 26 miles (42 km) 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. It is the administrative and market centre of Horsham District Council area.

The first historical record of Horsham is from AD 947. The name either originates from “Horse Ham”, meaning a place where horses were kept, or “Horsa’s Ham”, named for a Saxon warrior who was granted land in the area.

The town has historically been known for horse trading in early medieval times, iron and brick making up until the 20th century, and brewing more recently.

Horsham is the largest town in the Horsham District Council area. The second tier of local government is by West Sussex County Council, based in Chichester. In addition there are various Parish Councils.

The town is the centre of the parliamentary constituency of Horsham, recreated in 1983. Francis Maude has served as Member Horsham has an elevation of 50 metres (160 ft) above sea level, it is situated in the centre of the Weald 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 (streams) 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 has grown up around the Carfax (see landmarks), which is a meeting area place of four roads. To the south of the Carfax is the Causeway. This tranquil street consists of houses erected in the 17th, 18th and early 19th century and is lined with ancient London Plane trees. The Horsham Museum is situated at the northerly end opposite to the recently developed former headquarters of the R.S.P.C.A.. At the south end of the Causeway is the Church of England parish church of St. Mary: Norman in origin, rebuilt in the 13th century and restored in 1864-65 by the Gothic revival architect S.S. Teulon. The area immediately to the south of the parish church is known as Normandy. It was formerly an area of artisans cottages and an ancient well. Moving south for fifty metres and the River Arun is encountered. On the northern bank is Prewett’s Mill and on the south side is 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 and a purpose built gymnastic centre, 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 Victoria to Littlehampton. The area consists of mainly Victorian and Edwardian houses to the north of Brighton Road, whilst to the south there are areas of inter- and post-war housing. This area is known as the East Side.

Horsham is a market town formerly trading in cattle, sheep and corn. Its former industries include brewing, brickmaking, iron-smelting and printing. Nowadays the important industries are financial services, pharmaceuticals and technology. Horsham is also a commuter town serving London, Brighton and Crawley.

RSA Insurance Group, an insurance company, has its registered office in Horsham. The company first came to the town in 1965 as Sun Alliance, becoming the town’s biggest employer, at its peak it employed 2,500 people. Since the peak the company has steadily been reducing its workforce in the town. In 1992 Sun Alliance demolished its 1960s tower block, Stocklund House and built St Leonard’s House and St Mark’s Court. The latter requiring the demolition of St Mark’s Church except for the spire. Sun Alliance merged with Royal Insurance in 1996 to form Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group, then renamed RSA Insurance Group in 2008. Another employer in the town is Novartis a Swiss based multinational pharmaceutical company formerly called Ciba-Geigy before a 1996 merger. The site houses the firm’s gastro-intestinal research centre and respiratory research centre employing over 300 people. The RSPCA, an animal welfare charity, has a £16 million headquarters at Southwater near Horsham, built to replace its former headquarters in the centre of the town. Located in the center is also The Creative Assembly, Founded in 1987 and one of the UK’s premier videogame developers. Creator of the Total War strategy games, the studio has received numerous press, industry and consumer accolades, including BAFTA and the Develop Industry Excellence awards.

Horsham’s town centre has many national chain stores, and is suffering the loss of small and independent retailers. In 1992 the town centre was redesigned to greatly reduce the flow of traffic through the town’s main shopping streets. West Street was pedestrianised. Much of The Carfax was pedestrianised to create a town square. On the Northwest side of this square is Swan walk, a typical shopping centre. A further shopping area and public square, the Forum, opened in 2003 to the south of West Street. There is a partially covered shopping area Piries Place and a shopping street still open to traffic, East Street.

In the commercial centre of Horsham is an open square known as the Carfax. This area contains the Town’s Memorial to the dead of the two world wars, a substantial, well used bandstand and a Saturday market. The name Carfax is likely of Norman origin – a corruption of ‘Quatre Voies'(four faces) or ‘Carrefour’, a place where four roads meet. The Carfax was also formerly Known as “Scarfoulkes”, the derivation of which is uncertain. Two other places share the name in England: in Oxford, and in Winchester. The Carfax area of Pedestrianisation it provides a centre to the town and contains commercial shops and two public houses.

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 ft 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. It was reopened without the fountain functioning. The fountain was due to be repaired at the start of March 2011 at a cost of more than £30,000. As of November 2011 the fountain is functioning fully.

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 in Normandy, the oldest extant part of Horsham. It has a peal of ten bells. The present structure is largely of Mid Victorian design.

The 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 Horsham 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, and more recently housed the Horsham Registry Office on the upper floor. The ground floor was still used as an occasional market place until the Town Hall was closed by the Council to be let as a restaurant.

Horsham lies at the junction of three routes:

  • the A24 north to south route from London and Dorking to Worthing
  • the A264/A29 north east to south west route from Crawley to Chichester
  • the A281 north west to south east route from Guildford to Brighton.

The town has one main railway station, Horsham railway station, on the Arun Valley Line from Chichester to Crawley, Gatwick and London Victoria. Normally trains on this line depart from Bognor Regis and alternately from Portsmouth or Southampton Central and are joined at Horsham. Likewise southbound (“down”) trains divide here. Other services (“stopping” during the off-peak period) leave Horsham for London Bridge. Sutton & Mole Valley line services go north to Dorking, Epsom, Sutton and London Victoria. There is also Littlehaven Station (previously named Littlehaven Halt), in the north east of the town on the Crawley line. There is also Christ’s Hospital railway station serving the west of Horsham.

Horsham is 20 km (12 mi) from Gatwick Airport and 65 km (40 mi) from London Heathrow Airport.

The West Sussex County Times is a paid-for newspaper that has served the town since 1869. Horsham Park immediately to the north of central Horsham is 24 hectares of open space for the use of the people of Horsham. It contains an 18th century country house used in part by the Horsham District Council and contains formal gardens and a maze. At the eastern side is The Pavilions In The Park leisure centre with a gym and a 25m swimming pool run by a private company for Horsham District Council. A BMX and Skate park is located on the Hurst Road side of Horsham Park. The remaining space is used extensively for leisure pursuits such as tennis, football and rugby.

Horsham Museum is located on the picturesque Causeway in a half timbered medieval house. It has local history objects displayed in twenty-six galleries. Situated on North Street is ‘The Capitol’, the venue (formally Horsham Arts Centre) features a theatre, 2 full-time cinema screens, a studio and gallery. On Lower Tanbridge Way is two storey modernised library run by West Sussex Libraries.

The first illustrated history of Horsham was written in 1836 by Howard Dudley at the age of 16. It includes descriptions of St Mary’s Church and other buildings along with lithographs and wood-cut images of the town. The book entitled The History and Antiquities of Horsham has been reproduced in full to enable research on line.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had the fictitious Openshaw family, in the Sherlock Holmes story The Five Orange Pips, residing in the town. Douglas Maddon’s book The English Department’s Whores, is a thinly-veiled satire of life in Horsham.

In October 2006, Horsham was pronounced the second best place to live in the UK, coming ahead of places such as Epsom and Tunbridge Wells and only beaten by Winchester. This was claimed by a Channel 4 show, The 10 best and worst places to live in the UK.

The programme mentioned that:

  • Horsham was in the top 15% for low crime;
  • about 70% of students gained 5 A* _ C grades at GCSE;
  • over 85% of the workforce is economically active;
  • Horsham has a high life expectancy of 76 years for men and 83 for women;
  • there are no official homeless people living in Horsham.

In 2007, a Reader’s Digest poll put Horsham as the 25th best place in mainland Britain to bring up a family.

On 27 September 2007, Horsham was awarded as the overall winner of Britain in Bloom in the Large town / small city category in the whole of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with a Gold Award. It also has the honour of being presented with the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Bloomin’ Wild’ award which reflected the theme for year’s national judging.

Horsham is placed number 27 in the book Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places To Live In The UK. The satirical book describes Horsham as “a No Fun Zone run by old conservatives for old conservatives.” This award was given because of the Horsham Council refused to build a Night Club in the town, then carried on to say said that “the weekly disco at the Roffey youth centre would be enough”.

Horsham District twinnings: St Maixent L’Ecole, France; Lage, Germany. Horsham Town twinnings: Lerici, Italy; Horsham, Victoria, Australia.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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