This assessment of Horsham’s architecture was written in 2008 and has been updated for 2014. The ‘ten years’ refers to 1998 – 2008. In it’s original format it was presented as four features but are now combined into one.
Horsham’s architectural mix has many buildings saved from the past but it is not afraid to look to the future and adopt modern building styles. A number of new concrete, steel and glass structures have gone up over the last ten years in sharp contrast to the predominance of Victorian architecture in the town. New buildings have also been erected that are sympathetic to the neighbouring buildings; borrowing their designs for influence. Old buildings have been retained and converted for modern use, sometimes controversially, for example the Old Town Hall in Market Square.
In wedding terms this might be described as ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’ and this sums up this four page feature
The old buildings of Horsham are scattered around this blog, use the search facility to find them.
This feature concentrates on the changes that have happened over the last ten years. Visitors to this site who have not been back to Horsham, perhaps since childhood, can look at the photos here (and elsewhere on this blog) and see that, in general, the town is doing a good job in maintaining the high standard of care that is expected of it. A few buildings have slipped through the net and appear out of place in the town but these are few and far between. In many respects these ‘bad’ buildings serve to illustrate what happens when the town, on rare occasions, gets it wrong.
In this context The Horsham Society established itself more than 50 years ago to look after the town’s ‘past, present and future’ and is active in many spheres when Horsham contemplates change. Its stated purpose is to ‘watch over the interests of the town, to guard its heritage, to promote good planning and design and to speak up when it believes decisions detrimental to Horsham are being considered’
Whilst not always agreeing with all of the Horsham Society’s views, the Horsham Photographer does actively support its good work. The society provides a focus for the campaign to maintain the cultural history of the town by lobbying the council directly and through the West Sussex County Times.
In recent years the town centre has been well supported by Visit Horsham, a comprehensive web site featuring every retail and service outlet. The town can be searched by map, street name, zone or trade sector. It integrates well with the community by linking out to associated sites.
The first look at Horsham’s evolution over the last ten years considers the new developments featuring glass, concrete and steel, not to mention some plastic!
The second part of this 2008 feature is looking at the modern buildings that have been erected in Horsham in the last ten years. The use of glass, steel, concrete and, in some instances, plastic have raised a few eyebrows amongst those concerned about the town’s architectural style. However, whilst we need to carefully guard this overall style, we must leave Horsham with something for the historians of the future to look back on.
It should be pointed out that the materials above are not new. The Romans used concrete and clear glass emerged as long ago as the 15thcentury – although not in the sheet size we see today. Iron, of course, pre-dates both of these but the new steel formulas allow much more adventurous designs to be considered. All of these materials have been used in the construction of now well established Swan Walk and Piries Place so should not be too shocking to the eye.
Perhaps one of the more unusual range of buildings are those that have been built on the site of the former King & Barnes brewery in Albion Way. With the closure of the brewery the land was sold and the brewery buildings replaced by apartments and offices. Critised by the Horsham Society for having ‘too many balconies’ but also being a ‘residential development [of] merit’, it is nonetheless a sought after location. The society also dislike the adjacent office block for having the appearance of an ‘oversize aquarium’. Perhaps a little harsh since the building does take its lines from the remaining King & Barnes property (its former retail outlet). The former King & Barnes retail outlet is unoccupied at the time of writing this feature and the ‘aquarium’ has just one office left to let.
The swimming pool, part of the Pavilions in the Park is the subject of a separate feature. It is a glass and wood structure built on the northern edge of the park in the same area as the former open air pool. There are no neighbouring properties within site so it has no need to seek to blend in. It is also reputed to be the first British building on this scale built with timber from a sustainable source. Some feel that the pool is trespassing onto the green of the park, given for Horsham’s enjoyment and pleasure by the Hurst family. However, it is a recreational feature that sits naturally in the park.
The new bus station has been built at the top of the Worthing Road near to the junction with the Bishopric and West Street. The iconic Blackhorse public house disappeared in the 1950’s but is remembered in the name of the service road to the pedestrianised West Street; Blackhorse Way. The bus station was opened on the 31st March 2003 at a cost of approximately £750,000. It was funded by Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd as part of the Blackhorse Way redevelopment project. As is clear from the photos, has walls of glass topped with a white plasic roof that resembles a paracetomol caplet. It is clean and functional with the glass walls discouraging acts of vandalism and assault; these crimes are rare in Horsham in any circumstance. The whole building has just undergone a second major external clean, especially noticable when the green growth on the roof was scrubbed away.
The new £3.9m Horsham YMCA was opened in January 2006, construction having started in April 2004. It was built on the former car park in Albion Way. It is a sweeping eye-shaped building that presents a long curved face to the outside world. Inside a glass atrium dominates the design. Aside from its YMCA activities it used to offer conference facilities but these proved impractical to sustain.
The third part of the 2008 feature looks at the buildings that have been ‘borrowed’ or adapted in Horsham over the last ten years. Rather than tear down old buildings and replace them with new ones one trend has been to adapt them. Of course this is environmentally sound and the changed use of the building brings new life to it. There are examples all over the town and this section will highlight but a few.
The Town or Provender Mill has its own feature posting. It is an example of a working building that has changed in usage more than once. From its origins as a water powered mill and animal food store it was converted to a large family home before becoming derilict in 1975. Later, in 1990, it was converted to offices with the interior regretfully retaining no original features. At the time of writing (March 2008) the mill is for sale for £1m with a view to convert it to four residential units, one on each floor with a new four bedroom house at the end of the car park ( 2014 – still not built. On viewing the property it was clear that it was not suitable for domestic dwelling as none of the floors were conventionally aligned with the windows.
Horsham Court changed hands in March 2008 for £2.4m and will retain its usage as ‘start-up’ with small but scalable office units, some with retail frontage. The Horsham Photographer knows nothing of its Victorian origins and would be pleased to here of any information.
Horsham’s Capitol theatre opened as the Union Cinema on June 13, 1936 and was at one time going by the name of the Ritz. The current was name taken from the theatre that was where Boots and M&S are now – within Swan Walk. Whilst most of the exterior remains as the original it now has a glass frontage enclosing the foyer which has a cafe and box office; this section added in 2003. The original art deco features are intact except for one arched window which has been converted to a doorway. This gives access to a large balcony overlooking the new foyer. In the main theatre many of the interior features have been preserved. A large extension on the twon side houses the services, bar and studio. (2014 note; the access to the balcony has been cordoned off).
Perhaps the most controversial conversion, especially at the time of writing, is that of the (old) Town Hall. Whilst it would seem that most public opinion wanted the hall to remain as a public venue the council has opted to allow conversion to a restaurant. Time will tell whether this will be successful or not. (2014 note – it is now Bill’s Restaurant).
Tanbridge House is also the subject of a separate feature. It was once a family home then a school and has now reverted back to residential use. The developers applied to demolish and replace it with a block of flats. Amid protests from previous occupants in the education world the application was rejected in favour of conversion to apartments. The toilet block and stables / music rooms were also converted. Neighbouring blocks of flats reflect some of the neo-Elizabethan styling of the main house.
The Manor of Hewells, built by Nathaniel Tredcroft in 1704, is a Queen Anne style property in the Causeway. It became a school from 1920 until 1970. In 1973 the RSPCA acquired for their headquarters and remained there until c2003. The modern wings were removed and sympathetically styled apartment blocks built into what would be the back garden. Look closely into the eaves and you will see cleverly concealed bird boxes. The high winds in the winter of 2013 / 2014 brought down some large trees on the front so the building is more visible now.
The final chapter in this four part feature looks at ‘something blue’ where, in the view of the Horsham Photographer, the town planners went wrong.
The fourth and final part of the 2008 feature is looking at the buildings that have not been so successfully integrated into Horsham over the last ten years.
In a town as diverse as Horsham it is always going to be difficult to blend new styles with the existing heritage. For the most part, as this feature highlights, Horsham is successful. Sometimes it is not and this section brings you those properties, in the view the Horsham Photographer, that do not blend in. That is not to suggest that they are not good buildings in their own right, more that they look out of place when put in the context of their neighbours. This is, of course, a subjective view and you may disagree with the choices made.
A testament to the town planners and The Horsham Society is that the Horsham Photographer had great difficulty finding any properties erected in the last ten years that were worthy of negative comment. There are some older properties that are outside the scope of this article.
Horsham is well served with an excellent architectural heritage, especially when compared to some of its neighbours. The Horsham Photographer encourages you to look above the shop fronts to enjoy the workmanship from previous eras; don’t be tempted to do the same when in the Crawley shopping precinct!
Perhaps the biggest example of a clash is the Dulcima House flats above the Halifax in the Carfax. The top cladding in a striking blue it blends well with a clear summer sky but very little else. Perhaps it is the beige/yellow cladding on the main face that makes it look out of place. Perhaps we should be asking how it will look in 100 years time. Will the cladding have deteriorated and been replaced, will the building have been demolished or will the Horsham Society be fighting to save ‘this fine example of early 21st century craftsmanship?’. (2014 note: this has been replaced with a finish more in keeping with the Carfax, see photo below.
Another building that has removed itself from this category is the office block in Worthing Road, opposite the Argos store. It has redeemed itself by being reclad in a colour that blends with the sky. Even the ‘car prison’ at the ground floor does not look out of place. (2014 note; now the hotel chain Travelodge, see photo in Something New section above with the re-cladding of the building below).
The three residential properties that have been put up in the vicarage gardens at the foot of the Causeway do little to add to the considerable architectural heritage of the road. It would seem that in 2007, the time of building them, £750,000 does not always buy you some style.
As a closing comment it is worth noting that some of the buildings removed from Horsham over the years have been rebuilt at the nearby Weald & Downland Open Air Museum.
Other redevelopments are captured photographically below: