Horsham's 1938 station before the remodelling in 2012/13

Horsham’s 1938 station before the remodelling in 2012/13

Horsham entered the railway age in 1848 when it became the terminus for the line from Three Bridges. However, the line was opened without ceremony on Monday, 19th February but the arrival of the railway signalled an increase in prosperity for the town.

The first plans for the railway were discussed as early as 1834 when Horsham was suggested as a station on the London to Brighton route via Dorking and Shoreham. The Pioneer hotel was built in preparation but ended up a good distance from the final location of the station. The building is still standing today in Brighton Road, opposite Elm Grove. Greedy landowners demanding too high a price prevented the first plan from coming to fruition. Instead the London to Brighton railway took the more direct route through Three Bridges; Horsham had to join the race for the London to Portsmouth route instead.

"Pioneer Hotel" awaiting the station that went eleswhere
“Pioneer Hotel” awaiting the station that went elsewhere

In 1844 a petition was signed by over 500 residents in support of a railway; subsequently plans were drawn up for the Three Bridges to Horsham branch. Parliament held a Committee of Enquiry before deciding the route that the line would take. A bill was put before the house of Commons on June 6th, 1845 and passed without opposition on July 21st of the same year.

The first railway station, according to Henry Burstow, was a ‘little plain wooden structure’ and was situated between the current station and the Station Hotel, slightly to the east of the roundabout. It was a simple building as illustrated by Thomas Mann. When the first train arrived it was greeted by a large crowd. Free tickets were issued for the first trip in the mixture of open and roofed carriages. Sand was put on the tracks to ensure grip after the first attempt to leave Horsham failed.

Tickets for the two hour journey to London cost 4/6d [2007:£17.02] compared to £10.90 for an off peak journey in 2008 and £20.60 in 2014.

In 1851 the goods yard was opened, the roundhouse following 20 years later in 1871. The goods yard remained in service until the 1960s when Dr Beeching cut much of the rail network. The land now forms the industrial estate. The remains of the roundhouse were discovered during building works in Viking House, Foundry Lane occupied at the time by Applied Materials and, in 2014, by Ceres Power.

In 1857 plans were afoot to extend the line beyond Horsham. The Mid-Sussex Railway Act set out to extend the line to Pulborough and Petworth. The station was moved to its current location and the adjacent road bridge built ready for the line opening in 1859.

The continuation of the line created Horsham’s iron bridge and cut through the site of the third gaol, which had only recently been replaced by Park Square, now Park Terrace East and West, the land being sold by Henry Michell for £1000 [2007:£73,922.47]. The railway line approach was raised by 9 feet and the London to Brighton Road lowered by 8 feet to create the iron bridge’s 35 foot span and 15 foot headroom.

In 1858 the station was rebuilt, this time more substantially as can be seen in the picture, on the site of the current station. By 1861 the railway network linked Horsham to Shoreham and in the following year the line through Dorking and Leatherhead to London Victoria was completed. By 1865 to Guildford was connected by rail to Horsham.

This marked the peak of the railway age for Horsham and it continued until the aforementioned Beeching cuts. In 1965 the Horsham to Guildford line was closed and it now forms part of the Downs Link; a major cycle link between Guildford and Shoreham.

The third and current station was built in 1938 and coincided with the electrification of the line. It was listed on September 2nd 1996 and features (without a picture) on English Heritage’s Images of England site. Further pictures of the station together with the description and including the signal box, appear on the Horsham Photographer’s listed building feature. Ian Nairn was less than impressed with this latest version describing it as:

….Opposite, two smaller pretty cottages giving an illusory air of a village green, dispelled by the roundabout and the really horrible front (1938) of the STATION opposite.



An account of the 1972 train crash at Horsham Station is also on this blog.

A 2014 version of this photo is on the 2014 photo feature.

Town Guide 1962:

Horsham is served by the Southern Region of British Railways with four alternative routes from Waterloo, London Bridge and Victoria. There is an excellent and frequent service of electric trains, the average journey time being a little over an hour; but certain fast business trains complete the run in about fifty minutes.

These same services continue through the junction at Horsham to South Coast resorts and on to Portsmouth. Connections can also be made via Guildford, Redhill and Three Bridges for many inland towns.