For Horsham residents their historic Unitarian Church could be described as ‘hidden in plain sight’ – clearly visible to all who pass the town’s bus station or library, but giving the appearance of a private house behind its colourful front garden.
That situation will change on the 21st of this month. Contributing to Horsham’s Year of Culture, and as part of the UK’s National ‘Open Days’ Programme, the church is throwing open its doors to anyone who wishes to view its interior and learn of its history since foundation in 1721.
“With this Open Day we aim to end references to our church as Horsham’s best kept secret” explained Church Chairman Patrick Wynne-Jones, “Few people realise that in 1721 it was against the law to be outside the established Church of England. That’s why the church was deliberately built to look like a private house and not a place of worship.”
Between 10.00am and 4.00pm on Saturday 21 September ‘Open Day’, visitors will be offered a guided tour, will be able to examine documents from the past and view a projected display of key moments in the building’s history – including the function of its church hall as town library during the war years.
Mr Wynne-Jones continued: “Naturally we also hope to dispel some of the strange ideas about Unitarians. Talking with friends, I have been astonished by their failure to realise that its nature is strongly Christian, but non-denominational and respecting the insights of other religions and of life experience, rather than set down dogma. I’m fairly taken aback when I hear it misnamed as ‘Utilitarian’ – though that does at least imply a degree of practicality – but I simply had to intervene on the occasion when I heard it referred to as ‘Unitalian’”.
The church’s Open Day coincides with Horsham’s ‘Climate Emergency’ exhibition in the church’s extensive rear garden, which District Post readers will have seen announced in our 30 August issue. Visitors on 21 September will, therefore, have the double opportunity of the church viewing and of access to that significant exhibition, at which all local environmental groups will be represented.