Here's what it’s like to live in Horsham
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With great connections, summer festivals and a whole of lot of history, living in this West Sussex town is hard to beat
Nestled on the River Arun, the town of Horsham has the best of rural life and good connections, lying at the junction of a number of major routes.
Residents can reach London on the A24 in an hour-and-a-half and can head to Crawley by the A264, to the east by the M23 and to the west by A29.
Horsham Railway Station, operates two trains per hour on the Sutton and Mole Valley Line to London Victoria via Dorking in 51 minutes and two trains per hour to London Bridge via Gatwick Airport in just over an hour. The train station also has services to Southampton Central, Portsmouth Harbour and Bognor Regis. Local bus services are provided by Metrobus, Stagecoach Group, Arriva Southern Counties and Compass Travel. Gatwick Airport is the nearest airport, less than 20 minutes away by train and car.
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The name of Horsham is thought to have been derived either from the Anglo-Saxon of “horse village” or “Horsa's village” after a Saxon warrior who was given land in the area. This links with evidence that the area was known for horse trading in the medieval period. The first historical record of the area comes from AD 947 but most information stems from its reputation during the medieval period when it was most known for its agricultural produce and many of its residents made their livelihood through farming. It was also well-known around Sussex for its annual Horsham fair.
This broadened in the 16th century when the area became known for its industries of tanning leather and brewing, which continued into the late 19th century. It was also recognised for its local iron industry, which continued into the 17th century.
The area became an important one in the late 18th century with the building of barracks in the 1790s, moving 1,500 men into the town but this later declined in the early 19th century when the barracks were closed.
In the early 20th century, thanks to increasing rail links and road transport, it also became an important district for local shopping and grew more popular with tourists. It was then in 1939 that it first became a popular place to live for those commuting into London.
There are a number of buildings of historical significance in the area, such as the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, which is the oldest building in the town and has been in continuous use for almost eight centuries. Horsham Museum is housed in a medieval house on The Causeway.
Annual festivals and events
Summer in Horsham Park is awash with music thanks to its Summer Sounds events which run from May to August. This features free concerts in the park every Sunday at 2.30pm with everything from jazz to pop and classical to musicals.
The annual Fake Festival is also back in 2019 on 29 June, paying tribute to some of music's greatest artists with tribute bands. Expect professional imitators of rock legends David Bowie, Kings of Leon, The Stone Roses, The Rolling Stones and Queen.
Horsham Garden Music Festival takes place over two weekends in July as a free summer music event featuring local musicians in a number of themed concerts. At the end of August in 2019, Enchanted Horsham takes place. Billed as an illuminated summer wonderland, Horsham Park is transformed into a wonderland of dragons, mermaids, unicorns and magic with live music, circus shows and street theatre over the bank holiday weekend.
2019 is also the Horsham District Year of Culture, which will see a number of cultural events held all across the district.
One of the highlights of the town is Horsham Park, which provides residents with 24 hectares of open space, a tranquil Sensory Garden and Human Nature Garden. The abundance of green space also means that sport is thriving with sports clubs including Horsham Cricket Club, Horsham Football Club and Horsham RUFC, the town's Rugby Union team. What's more at the edge of Horsham Park is The Pavilions in the Park leisure centre and the town has also recently opened a brand new £12.3m sports centre called The Bridge Leisure Centre at Broadbridge Heath.
The town's cultural centre is The Capitol Theatre, which houses an auditorium, two cinema screens, a studio and a gallery. Other cultural hotspots include the Horsham Museum on the Causeway, which provides local history through exhibitions across its 26 galleries.
Residents can enjoy the countryside with a short journey out to Knepp Castle, which hosts safari tours celebrating local wildlife or they can walk along the Horsham Riverside Walk to explore the town's waterways.
Shopping is provided by the Swan Walk shopping centre in the town centre, which has popular high street favourites H&M, The Body Shop, Sports Direct and Marks & Spencer. A number of local and independent shops can also be found in the surrounding pedestrianised streets in the town centre.
The town is served by Horsham Community Hospital, as well as having its own courts, ambulance station, fire station and police station.
Meet the neighbours
Horsham boasts a long line of important historical figures among its former residents including one of King Henry VIII's wives Catherine Howard and the former principal of King's College London, Hugh James Rose. Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in nearby Warnham, and Horsham town centre once housed a commemorative fountain dedicated to him until it was taken down in 2006 due to excessive running costs.
In more recent years, fans of Doctor Who will also be interested to know that Raymond Cusick who designed the iconic Daleks lived in Horsham. Holly Willoughby and Harry Enfield also went to school at The College of Richard Collyer on Hurst Road in Horsham.
Horsham is covered by Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council. Conservative politician Jeremy Quin has been the MP for the constituency since 2015 and he current holds the position of Government Whip, Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury.
“The town has such a rich history, and so does the district, but it gets missed over because people go from London down to the coast,” says curator of the Horsham Museum Jeremy Knight. “There's a great deal of richness in the hinterland between the two which we try to explore through the museum's exhibitions and publications.” Jeremy has been curator of Horsham Museum for more than 30 years as well as writing several books tracing the history of the area. He is responsible for the museum's 24 exhibitions each year. This month alone you can see The Beautiful Game, Picturing the District, Brangwyn in Horsham and The Written Word: A Literary Life of Horsham District. The museum works with community groups, local care homes and schools, as well as looking after 100,000 objects, with two full-time staff and 65 volunteers.
Jeremy is an advocate for the charms of Horsham. “It's full of hidden surprises,” he says. “It's a very warm and inviting place to walk around. A lot of people who come here say they feel incredibly safe as its unthreatening.”
Horsham Museum is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and admission is free.
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