Horsham is a town with an exciting past, and its
present is also lively and stimulating. It started off
as a small Saxon settlement close to the once
navigable River Arun, and the key to its origins is
contained in its very name. Horsham is a Saxon word,
like so many place names in Sussex, and it means 'a
place of horses' or 'a horse settlement', and it was
named by its founders – probably no more than a
handful of people - around the sixth or early seventh
centuries, to describe the purpose it then served.
William de Braose, a leading supporter of William the
Conqueror, spearheaded the Norman occupation in this
part of West Sussex, and became lord of the manor.
is the de Braose family that we must thank for the
town's oldest building, the splendid church of St Mary
at the bottom of the Causeway.
The Causeway itself is a beautiful and calm tree-lined
street of medieval houses, the jewel in Horsham's
crown. It has been much photographed, and is famous
throughout the county. It links St Mary's with the Carfax, which is at the very heart of the town – once
a village green but now a meeting place and social
centre, largely paved over and the place for open air
cafes, bandstand music and street markets. The name is
unique in Sussex, but there is another in Oxford, and
it may be derived from the French for 'the
meeting of four ways'.
Horsham's most famous son is the Romantic poet Percy
Bysshe Shelley, who was born in the nearby village of
Warnham, and whose family had long been connected with
the area. There are Shelley memorials in the parish
chuch, and his grandfather lived close by in Denne
Over the centuries Horsham has grown considerably.
It is now a prosperous urban centre which always rates
highly on economic indicators, and is home to large
companies and small businesses alike.
It is about an
hour by train from London, and a popular location for
those seeking a pleasant environment in which to live,
away from the bustle of big city life. The wooded
stretches of the Weald and bracing walks along the
South Downs are all within easy reach. Gatwick airport
is also conveniently close by (but there is minimal
disturbance from aircraft) and is a place of
employment for many Horsham residents.
The town has a flourishing social scene, and there are
many societies to join, catering for a wide range of
interests. The choice is headed by the Horsham
Society, which enjoys a flourishing and expanding
membership, but there are many others, including two
drama groups and a range of sports clubs. Excellent
facilities are provided by both our swimming pool and arts centre, and Horsham is also the
administrative centre of the District, where Horsham
District Council is based.
But, as in much of the south-east, there is constant
pressure to build and swallow up whatever green space
is left, for the sake of more and more homes. The
Horsham story has, in recent years, been one of
continual expansion, and while this has brought many
benefits, we need to be on our guard. The challenge
for the future is to find some form of balance between
the competing demands of developers and those who wish
to maintain the character of the place they know and
love. The Horsham Society was founded in 1955 to watch
over the interests of the town, and this is a
responsibility that it continues to take very
seriously today. Its role is as important now as it
ever has been.