Martin Read – Community Reporter
Horsham is extraordinarily fortunate to have the Drill Hall in Denne Road, host venue to many interesting community activities. The Drill Hall was built for the local Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1927 and after the Territorial Army moved out, Horsham District Council became custodians and landlords of the building. The hall has always been used for a wide range of social activities – in the 1930s the Hollywood Circus put on a show featuring 40 artists and, incredibly, 1500 people attended an Empire Day celebration, clearly well before today’s health and safety considerations. And, photographs in the building show a very popular old time hunt ball, and an equally packed dinner for staff of a local company. There were much enjoyed dances, too, taking advantage of the sprung wooden floor. More recently the battle of the bands attracted a 500 strong audience.
The main hall is used for conferences, election hustings, awards ceremonies, church, political and campaign meetings, social dances and rehearsals, charity and disability events, community shows, concerts, dance competitions, Sussex Artists’ exhibitions, Guides, Scouts and club functions, beer festivals and a wealth of other activities including Microbiz jobs and skills fairs and wellbeing, environmental and safety courses and seminars. Wedding, christening, family and retirement parties also greatly appreciate the spacious, well appointed, licensed venue. While Tuesday’s ballroom and Latin classes and Wednesday’s social dance evenings and Sussex Model Club gatherings are regular mainstays, along with monthly modern jive sessions, there is much more to be discovered and enjoyed. The substantial Drill Hall building contains a variety of smaller meeting rooms suitable for office use and a surprisingly varied list of activities, including English and French lessons and evening classes, tutor Alison Moore saying: “It’s a brilliant venue with plenty of room – one of the best facilities I’ve taught in for a long time.” There is also an artist studio and a bespoke recording studio for the local weekly talking newspaper for those with sight impairment.
The iconic, versatile Drill Hall has a few wrinkles, only to be expected in a character-filled but stately vintage lady, but the district’s residents are indeed lucky to be able to benefit from the town’s outstanding community venue.