What it’s like to live in Horsham
PUBLISHED: 10:26 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:57 04 April 2017
Last year the Halifax Quality of Life Survey ranked Horsham the 19th best place to live in the UK. Duncan Hall finds out why
Horsham is east of the A24 Worthing to London road and south of the A264. The town centre is situated on the crossroads of the A281 and B2237. It has its own railway station, with regular services to London Victoria, London Bridge, Bognor, Southampton and Portsmouth, and a further station at Littlehaven to the north. Horsham has a range of bus services run by Compass, Stagecoach, Metrobus, Sussex Coaches, Arriva Kent and Surrey and Handcross District Community Buses with routes to Brighton, Dorking, Handcross, Guildford, Storrington, Petworth, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Crawley and Gatwick Airport.
Horsham is first mentioned in records in 947 as part of Washington manor. Its name may have meant “horse meadow”. It was named a borough in 1235, although its population remained small until the 19th century – with the parish almost doubling from 5,947 people in 1851 to 11,063 in 1891. This growth was assisted by the arrival of the railway.
By the 1920s it was an important local shopping area. Gradually it became something of a commuter town, although it was gradually overtaken by nearby Crawley in the 1980s.
The biggest changes to Horsham came in the 1970s when a dual carriageway inner ring road removed traffic from the centre, leading to the creation of a new pedestrian shopping area. A £250m town centre redevelopment was opened by the Queen in 2003. It was named as the top boom town in the UK in 1990, the second best place to live in the UK by a 2006 Channel Four programme (only losing out to Winchester) and the local authority district has been a regular in the top 20 annual Halifax Quality of Life Survey – scoring the highest of anywhere in Sussex in 2012, 2015 and 2016. The index looks at indicators in the labour and housing markets, environment, education, health, personal wellbeing and leisure.
It contrasts with Horsham’s reputation in the 19th and early 20th century as a place with a strong radical and republican tradition. The town’s violent support of the 1830 Labourers’ Revolt earned it the description from a local magistrate as a “hotbed of sedition”.
Annual festivals and events
Classic cars and Italian culture will be back in Horsham Town Centre over Easter from Good Friday for the annual free Piazza Italia event.
Horsham Fake Festival returns to the Holbrook Club Grounds on Saturday 3 June, on the bill are tributes to stadium fillers Coldplay, The Killers and Kings of Leon supported by local bands. Gates open at 12.30pm, tickets from £17.50/£9.
Horsham Garden Music Festival, which showcases local music acts, is in Horsham Park’s Human Nature Garden in July for two weekends and the free family summer event Sparks In The Park will offer fairground rides, giant games, arts and crafts and live music on a date yet to be announced.
In September look out for the Horsham Food and Drink Festival and Horsham Beer Festival. Last year also saw the not-for-profit Horsham Circle of Life Festival take over the town in May for a week celebrating life and community although at the time of writing no 2017 date had been announced.
With a programme encompassing theatre, arts, cinema and live music The Capitol Theatre in North Street is Horsham’s centre of culture. Big shows to come later this year include a live stage version of David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny, a new musical version of The Railway Children, thriller The Sound Of Murder, Christmas pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk plus visits by vocal group Blake, Leo Sayer, Ruby Wax and Michael Parkinson. It also plays host to Horsham Symphony Orchestra who launch their 2017 season on Saturday 25 March and amateur theatre group HAODS who perform Made In Dagenham from 4 to 8 April.
Horsham Museum in Causeway is open from Monday to Saturday and free to enter. Alongside permanent exhibitions of costumes, local history, toys and a gallery dedicated to Percy Bysshe Shelley are regular visiting displays.
The Swan Walk shopping centre is home to chain stores including Boots, H&M, Marks and Spencer, Superdrug, Wilko and WH Smiths, as well as local heroes Cocoa Loco and Gobsmack Comics. The pedestrianised town centre hosts a market every Saturday in the Bishopric. Big name shops in the town include John Lewis, Sainsburys and Waitrose.
Horsham Park hosts free Sunday afternoon concerts on the Park Podium from May to August. Pavilions In The Park provides a swimming pool, gym and soft play area, as well as hosting a series of workout classes. Horsham Superbowl, in Albion Way, has both ten-pin bowling and a Laser Quest arena. The town also has its own library, post office, several doctors surgeries and hospital in Hurst Road, specialising in neurology and older people’s services.
Meet the neighbours
The Romantic poet Shelley was born at nearby Warnham. A fountain in his honour can be found in the town centre. DJ Carl Cox once lived in Horsham. Harry Enfield and Holly Willoughby both went to school at Collyers Sixth Form College.
Horsham is the home of both Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council’s County Hall North which are both based in Parkside.
It has been served by the Conservative MP Jeremy Quin since 2015, who took over the seat from long-time incumbent Francis Maude, now Lord Maude of Horsham.
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