First Floor Galleries
This gallery is used for temporary displays but also features a collection of Horsham long case, or ‘grandfather,’ clocks, pottery, needlecraft and pictures. A special feature is the exhibition of contemporary ceramics created by local potters and artists, many of which are nationally known.
Works from the Museum’s art collection are displayed in the stairwell and landing, featuring several portraits of past local worthies.
The Curators’ Library of over 2,000 books covers many of the items featured in the Museum’s collections along with a valuable section of local history books. These can be consulted on request. The room also features some small displays, including the allegorical painting ‘Wither’ (1925), painted early in the career of the noted painter and sculptor Edward Bainbridge Copnall (1903–1973). Copnall had a studio on North Street in the 1920s, where he painted people from around the district and held several exhibitions of his paintings.
Horsham can trace its origins to a land charter of AD 947 and has seen a number of developments in the thousand years since. The displays trace how Horsham came by its name in Saxon times to the town centre redevelopments of the 1980s and 1990s. The medieval case features a collection of medieval pots known as the ‘Horsham Hoard,’ found in the 1860s by Thomas Honywood. Finds from the private excavation of Sedgwick Castle can also be seen. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century cases there are guns and watches made by local craftsmen, a doll that was found under the floor boards of a local shop and the ‘Peal Book,’ recording the peals rung by Horsham bell ringers. In the twentieth century case there are the collecting tins used for fund raising for the town’s War Memorial and the cottage hospital, as well as shell fragments from WWII bombs that fell on the town. A small case has been devoted to Alfred Shrubb, the Slinfold born world record holder for running, who was also a Horsham tobacconist.
Flints and Fossils
There are three themes to this gallery, all interlinked. Horsham was at the cutting edge of Victorian science as two local men, George Bax Holmes and Thomas Honywood transformed the idea of the past. Bax Holmes discovered and collected dinosaur fossils, including the remains of the Great Horsham Iguanodon at St. Mark’s, while Honywood discovered of the material remains of Mesolithic man (from the period after the last ice age, some 8 to 10,000 years ago). The story of Horsham is brought up to date with the model of the proposed town centre redevelopment of the 1980 and 1990s, which focused on the area of St. Mark’s.
Cabinet of Curiosities
Cabinets of Curiosity were the forerunners of museums. They were the personal collections of wealthy owners and were assembled to evoke a sense of curiosity and wonder. In their own way they offered means to categorise and understand the world. They eventually developed into museums as we know them today.
Among the items on display there is a narwhal horn, at one time thought to have been a unicorn horn; Roman and Egyptian objects, many of which would have been familiar from classical writings; finds from Latin America as well as natural curiosities, much of which would have been unfamiliar to people of the sixteenth century.
This small space is in the oldest part of the Museum, dating back to the 1420s. The landing features items brought back from overseas by Charles and Emma Henderson, who travelled to the Far East in the 1880s and 1890s. They returned with many unusual items to decorate their home at Sedgwick Park, near Nuthurst, Horsham. These include a large earthenware vase and a bronze kylin, or ‘Dog of Fo,’ from China that eventually joined many other ethnographical items in the Museum’s collection. There is also a superbly carved Indian temple.
Also on display there are weapons and shields from Africa. Such objects are not necessarily associated with Sussex, but have a Horsham connection through the many people from the District who have travelled the globe bringing back souvenirs from other cultures.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet and well known political radical, was born at Field Place, Warnham, in 1792. During his short life he wrote some of the most powerful poetry in the English language and promoted radical causes, such as political and religious reform, equality between the sexes and vegetarianism. Today he is admired throughout the world for his works. He drowned in 1822 off the Italian coast in his own sailing boat, the ‘Don Juan,’ while returning from a sailing trip during a violent summer storm, a month short of his 30th birthday. There are very few surviving Shelley relics and what there is has been donated to major national collections. Horsham Museum has built up a solid collection of first and early editions of Shelley’s works and those of his circle. On display is a very rare bronze bust of Shelley, as well as a model of the ‘Ajax,’ which saw action in the Battle of Trafalgar captained by Shelley’s uncle, Captain John Pilfold.
This bright and lively gallery focuses on childhood and the toys that filled it, ranging from a medieval toy pot to modern day favourites such as the Telly Tubbies. On show there is a complete Edwardian dolls’ house, a moving model railway engine and displays showing toys and objects from several generations of children from the early 1900s to the 1990s. There is also a bookcase with examples of children’s literature spanning 200 years and a giant ‘A-Z of Childhood’ containing a wealth of interesting facts.
Items from the Museum’s extensive costume collection of over 3000 garments are displayed in the Costume Gallery and Costume Accessories Gallery at the rear of the first floor. Themed temporary exhibitions and a ‘Costume of the Month’ display feature a revolving selection of clothing, while the Costume Accessories gallery is more of a store. Using original 1950s Swedish shop fittings, the small drawers from ladies’ outfitters have been turned into display drawers, including shoes from 1670 to 2000, hats, hat pins, costume jewellery, ethnographic jewellery, chatelaines, purses and handbags. A small cabinet displays a selection of buttons whilst a large graphic panel explains how to look after your prized possessions.