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The Heritage of Horsham District in 100 Objects

A land of castles, lakes and a dragon demands an amazing book to tell its story. And that is what has been crafted. Using over 230 photographs and 100,000 words, ‘The Heritage of Horsham District in 100 objects’ explores and celebrates the land that lies between Gatwick and Brighton. Using 100 objects as signposts, the book by Horsham Museum Curator Jeremy Knight and edited by Michael Burt, Chairman of the Horsham District Heritage Forum, draws on objects put forward by the Forum to tell a 100 million year old story through 13 themes, and so creates a real eye opener.
Very few towns in the world have a dinosaur named after it, but Horsham does, the Horshamosaurus, so that became object 1 in the list of 100. But then the story explored the telling of the other dinosaur finds in the District, including the Great Horsham Iguanodon,(no 2) the inspiration for the Crystal Palace/Sydenham Park Victorian creation. However, the biggest surprise was the discovery made by the Horsham Archaeological Group of a Mural Crown Pot, (no 8) not well known in the world of Roman archaeology, but an amazing pot that combines both Roman architectural prowess and religious beliefs. This complements the Wiggonholt water cistern or water tank (no 9) bearing the Christian symbol, now on display at Parham House, which itself is one of the 100 objects.
One decision made early on was that the objects did not have to be small, portable affairs, but could be man-made structures. Therefore, the Wey and Arun canal that pops in and out of the District features as no 17 in the 100 objects. The creation of a waterway from London to Portsmouth to avoid the French fleet during the Napoleonic Wars made a fascinating story and the fact that, today, the heritage item has been “re-purposed” as a leisure resource, provides an added dimension. The canal did not feature in the Transport chapter, but in Warfare along with the cannons (no 16) that were the gateposts to the Napoleonic military depot in Horsham. Obviously in a land of castles, lakes and a dragon, the castles of Knepp (14) and Bramber (13) are included, Bramber being the most prominent, Knepp, because of its military history, the stone (part of which was used to build the A24) which is another interesting story.
Some stories are poignant, covering themes which resonate with the world today; such as the posters for the abolition of slavery (33), over 200 years old and yet still a contemporary issue; back then as an emotive a subject as Brexit is today. Last year, the nation marked Women’s Suffrage, which was celebrated in Henfield with two mosaics; they feature in the book at number 36 along with the barely known stories of Henfield ladies’ involvement in the movement, a story that involved an American actress who settled in Henfield and entertained noted guests, as shown in the Backsettown Visitor book ( 37).
The book, published by Horsham Museum as part of the Horsham District Council’s Year of Culture, also covers themes such as Work, from the Wealden iron firebacks (no 63) which act as a signpost to tell the heritage of the iron industry, to a poster for Walter Wood’s mower (67), a paper record of an important local industry, whilst the Patriot Engineers, a Horsham based company, established only for the duration of WWII is recorded through a commemorative brochure (68).
As opposed to work, the chapter on Play includes cricket, the sport of the District, with over a 300 year old legacy from the earliest known local match recorded in 1719 at Henfield; the story of cricket is highlighted by an unusual shop sign, a set of cricket stumps (82). Its ancestor, stoolball is illustrated with a rare postcard (83) of an early 20th century match at Cowfold, and football a photograph of an amateur side, Carfax United from 1902-3 (84). The sport that died out, bull baiting, which in Horsham went out of fashion in 1813 is recounted using the bull ring (87).
Agriculture has always been a feature of the District’s life. Therefore, from Bramber, the book includes a charming portrait of George Bailey (61), whose life story stands for the life of the shepherd and farmworker. From Cowfold  Capons Farm ( 55) is used to illustrate the yeoman farmer, while the Tithe Barn from Sullington Manor (57) illustrates another aspect of agricultural and farming life.
The Heritage of Horsham District in 100 Objects is a culmination of over 30 years working with the District’s heritage. It is a fascinating account and will hopefully encourage people to discover more about the area they live or work in. The book is available now from local bookshops and from Horsham Museum & Art Gallery priced £19.99. Horsham Museum is open Monday-Saturday 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.
Photo credit: Toby Philips

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