This epic post with 44 images was first published in 2009 and edited in 2014.
The bronze sundial in The Forum is the artistic centrepiece of the area. The £150,000 project was announced in September of 2002 and promised a time capsule visible through a glass window. The capsule is said to be in place but there is no window. Erected in 2003 the sundial was unveiled by the Queen on the 24thOctober. It not only shows the time when sunny but has representations of over thirty segments of history in the Horsham District.
In this post the Horsham Photographer explains each part of the sundial and links out to relevant sites related to the story. At the time of the unveiling a book entitled ‘Tales from a Sundial’ was released by Horsham Museum. Rather quirky in its style it does give some background to the stories told by the sundial but for reasons unknown the railway was omitted. Being a time piece, the history is expressed in chronological order starting at the top of the dial and going around clockwise when facing Sainsburys.
The sundial is another work by Lorne McKean and Edwin Russell who also created the Swans in Swan Walk and William Pirie in Piries Place which are both explored in the feature on Horsham’s sculptures. The sundial was originally created in clay before being cast in bronze by the Atelier Foundry. Signatures of the artists and the name of the foundry are to be found on the sundial, see near ‘Botolphs Church’.
Around the plinth supporting the sundial are a number of bronze plaques. One marks the unveiling by the Queen, another gives a graph showing correction factors for the dial. The others tell the stories shown in the detail of the dial and link them to places in Horsham District. The parts of the sculptures featured on the plaque are in bold text (with some discrepancies) and the place names are underlined, conventions not reproduced here.
Henry VIII is influential in three of the stories below and the young historian Howard Dudley refers to more than three of them.
This feature is not designed to replace a visit to the sundial; it is to enhance your visit. Go to The Forum and enjoy the sculpture. At the time of writing (2009) this article the aerial views on Google and Local.live do not show the redevelopment of the forum.
50,000 years ago, Dragonflies and Iguanodons
The oldest feature depicted on the sundial is that of two dragonflies, two iguanodons and a polacanthus rudgewickensis, the latter so named because it was first discovered in the 1980s in the brickworks at nearby Rudgewick. The bones of the five tonne armadillo shaped creature are on display at Horsham Museum. Local Quaker George Bax Holmes was a dinosaur ‘hunter’ who found iguanodon fossils when St Mark’s Church was being built in 1840. Howard Dudley gives an account of the finds in his history of Horsham. The dinosaurs date from 100 million years ago when the area was a freshwater estuary. On the sundial the start of the river is represented by the swirling pattern under the polacanthus.
Chanctonbury Hill burial site
Around about 1500 BC a female, possibly a warrior in her 30s, was buried in a mound at Chanctonbury Hill near Washington. From the remains it was possible to determine that she was about 5’5″ (1.65m) tall but had spent much of her short life in a squatting position. The mound was visible from the surrounding valley. She was wrapped in a bag and had a fine Wessex style bronze dagger alongside her. This was discovered during an excavation in the 1900s by archaeologists.
The Romans and Stane Street
The Romans were in Horsham District some 2000 years ago but evidence of their presence in Horsham is not strong. They left us Stane Street which still runs through Billingshurst, Five Oaks, Slinfold and beyond. It was built to link Chichester and London, both major Roman settlements. Stane Street meets up with another Roman road, Greensand Way, which remains outside the northern border of Horsham District.
After the Roman Empire retreated from England the Saxons populated the landscape. The area became known as South Saxon, giving us the county name of Sussex. The Saxons taught us how to manage cattle and pigs and this is what is depicted on the sundial.
This is a reference to the root of the name of Storrington. In 1086 the Domesday Book listed Storrington as ‘Estorchestone’; meaning a place known for storks. The sculpture shows three storks flying across the rising sun as three farm workers get the harvest it, one is sharpening his scythe. The backdrop is the South Downs and the detail in the foreground shows a hare escaping.
St Cuthman started life as a young shepherd boy. After his father died the family fell on hard times and were forced to go begging from house to house. Using a singled wheeled barrow he took his invalid mother on a long journey. The barrow was supported by a rope around Cuthman’s shoulders. When it broke he repaired it once determining to end his journey when it broke again. The journey ended in Steyning when, through exhaustion, he could travel no further. Cuthman took the site of the journey’s end to be a sign from God and built a church. It is said that Christ helped him in the construction; Cuthman was having trouble with a roof beam and a stranger assisted him. When Cuthman asked the stranger who he was the man replied ‘I am He in whose name you are building this church’. Later it became a site of pilgrimage and Cuthman became a Saxon saint.
St Cuthman is depicted twice on the sundial, once as the boy pushing his mother in the barrow and then as a man with carrying a sheep around his neck. The church in Steyning is now dedicated to St Andrew although St Cuthman is represented in stained glass windows and in a sculpture on the opposite side of the road.
St Botolph’s Church
To the right of the adult St Cuthman is St Botolph’s church at Botolphs, shown with the river Adur running alongside it. The church is early Saxon, c950. It was built by a woodworker, not a stone mason, out of flint rubble which would be in ample supply in this area. At a later date two squint windows were added. These would have allowed lepers to watch the service.
At the top of the church the name of the Atelier Foundry is engraved and at the bottom Lorne McKean and Edwin Russel have signed their names.
The St Mary Magdalene nunnery at Rusper was a small Benedictine establishment. It was established in c1231 by William de Broase and is mentioned by Howard Dudley in his history of Horsham. It lasted until 1537 when Henry VIII closed it during his dissolution of the monasteries. An unmarked coffin was excavated in 1840 and it was found to contain a copper enamelled & gilded challis made by Limoges in 1195. The challis is shown on the sundial being held by a group of nuns. It was later sold by the trustees of Barbara Hurst to the British Museum for £40,000. A picture of the challis can be found by following the Art Saved link. The nunnery was destroyed in 1781. More information here.
During Saxon and into early Norman times the importance of Steyning and Bramber was indicated by the local royal mints and their ability to issues coinage. The Sussex Saxon Mint was later moved from where the Stone House is now to the Cissbury Hillside near to Findon.
A Saxon coin found in the area is shown on the sundial together with nine soldiers on horseback.
Bramber Castle and the Great Storm
In 1280 AD a great storm occurred and it had a significant effect on the Bramber area with the River Adur finding a new course. The Bramber Port eventually silted up and this, in turn, led to the decline of its sea trade. At the time there was a great castle there but all that remains today of the c1070 edifice is the Keep and the remains of the Gatehouse Tower. Some of the walls are still evident and so it is possible to imagine the original layout. The castle motte rises some 30 ft above the grassy bailey providing a perfect picnic and play area when the weather permits.
The Knights Templar have their connection to the Horsham area through the funding for their crusades from local estates. Both Shipley and Woodmancote paid for the fighting monks to ‘defend the true faith’ in Palestine.
In Shipley around 1125 the Knights built a Norman church; St Mary the Virgin. It is on the site of a much earlier one and was extensively remodelled in 1830 when in a state of disrepair. In Woodmancote the Church of St Peter was built by the Knights Templar in the mid 1220s, The advowson was given by Simon le Count and it passed into the hands of the Knights Hospitaller in the early 14th century.
The Knights Templar were banished from England in disgrace in 1308 but remain a rich source for use in modern films such as The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure plus the Indiana Jones films Raiders of the Lost Ark & The Last Crusade.
In around the year 1103 Luffa built a hunting lodge at Amberley and in 1140 Seffrid I built the first stone hall on the site. Over the next 200 years further improvements were made and between 1370 and 1385 Bishop Reede (Rede on the sundial plaque) built a new Great Hall. What was the hunting ground in those days has been turned into a conservation area today.
The grand entrance illustrated on the sundial is still the main entrance today and visitors can see down the hole that is a prison. Those visitors on site at midnight can witness the two tonne oak portcullis being lowered.
In 1893 Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk, whose family has connections with Horsham over the years, purchased the castle. Following a number of changes in ownership the castle is part of the von Essen collection (2014 update: now privately owned by Andrew and Christina Brownsword).
In Shermanbury there is a crossing over the River Adur known as Mock Bridge. It is a real bridge but the word ‘mock’ is a corruption of the old English word ‘moke’ meaning donkey.
The bridge is a road crossing on the A281 London Road, Horsham to Brighton route near to the Bull Inn and the current one was built in the 1930s. The Bull Inn gives its address as Mock Bridge. The crossing is sometimes impassable due to spring tides and flooding.
St Leonard’s Forest still bears the scars of the iron industry that dominated the area in the 15th century. At the time the landscape suffered as rivers were dammed to form the now extensive hammer ponds. The water power was harnessed to drive the bellows and hammers used to work the iron ore. Trees were felled to burn in the iron making process but the greater cause of fighting the French was the motivation behind the environmental damage. Today we see a different picture; the hammer ponds are placid havens for fishermen and the forest has recovered to become a place popular with walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike.
The sundial shows two men shovelling fuel into a furnace with a large chimney billowing smoke.
The derivation of Horsham’s name is uncertain but there are two suggestions that each have a degree of credibility. The first is that it is named after Horsa who did battle with the Picts on Denne Hill. This is supported by the name Denne for Dane and the nearby Picts Hill
The other suggestion, as depicted on the sundial, and having perhaps more acceptance by local historians is that the name means a place where horses are bred and pastured, hence Horse-Ham. The spelling of Horsham has been consistent since its first documented record; King Eadred mentioned it in his charter of 947.
2014 update: In 2013 Horsham District Council (HDC) won £600,000 from West Sussex County Council to renovate West Street. HDC adopted the theme of horses which re-enforces the horse option.
St Leonard’s Forest
St Leonard’s Forest sits to the east of Horsham and has provided tales for folk lore on many occasions. Perhaps the most famous is that of the dragon or serpent that is said to roam and prey upon the unsuspecting. The dragon can be seen on the sundial prowling amongst the oak trees. Further along the depiction of the forest a unicorn can be seen. In medieval times it was said that if a virgin is taken to a place known to unicorns and left there then a unicorn will come. When it sees her it will run to her and rest his head in her lap then fall asleep. This was how unicorns were frequently captured and killed.
Upon his death in 1532 Richard Collyer left money for a grammar school to be set up for 60 boys from Horsham. In 1541 Collyers Grammar School opened near to where St Mary’s Primary School is today. The history of Collyers School is documented in its own post.
Howard Dudley in his history of Horsham writes about the school as it was in 1836. The teacher on the sundial has the Latin words ‘tempus fugit’ meaning ‘Time Flies’ written across the pages of his book. At his feet 23 children are sitting, all but one paying attention to him.
A small detail in the sculpture shows two Wealden farmhouses. Typical of designs dating back to the 14th century they depict the black wood and white plaster used across the Weald.
Golden Pippin Apples
The sundial shows five rows of apple trees in an orchid with someone is working at the foot of one of the doors. It represents the creation, through grafting techniques, of the Golden Pippin apple at Parham House in 1629.
The Quakers and William Penn
The Quakers or Friends as they call themselves feature large in the history of the Horsham area. The sundial represents them in three ways:
- A group of Quakers are seen praying in a small circle. They pray in silence only speaking if they feel moved to do so. Before their churches were built they would often pray in the open air.
- William Penn is the large figure. He came from Warminghurst and was one of the Friends greatest leaders. He moved to Sylvania in the United States and it was re-named Pennsylvania in his honour after he founded the city of Philadelphia.
- William Penn is seen holding a meeting house, built in 1691, now known as the Blue Idol which is still in Coolham. Originally known as Little Slatters it was established by Penn on his return from America. The purchase price of £53 was put up by another Quaker John Shaw.
The Quakers were amongst the first non-conformists in Horsham and their church in Worthing Road dates back to 1785.
Hot Air Balloon
A smaller feature on the sundial is that of a hot air balloon seen landing. Look between the 1691 and 1790 text to find the balloon above the sheep, more of which below.
The balloon was piloted on the 23rd of March, 1785 by Count Francesco Zambeccari, aged 33 and Admiral Sir Edward Vernon, aged 62 who left Tottenham Court Road, London. Just one hour later it made a bumpy landing in Kingsfold near Horsham. On its descent it encountered a snow fall which made the balloon spin before landing on the ploughed field.
The Southdown Sheep were noted not only for the quality of the meat but also the fine wool that they produced. John Ellman of Glynde, a master breeder, is recognised as being a major influence on the breed towards the end of the 18th century.
Such was the quality of the breed that it was exported to Australia and New Zealand where it was farmed in flocks of up to 1000. It remained a dominant breed for over a century, the decline setting in after the First World War. Note on the right hand side of the sculpture a crouching sheep dog rounding up the flock.
Wey and Arun Canal
Try as it might, the Wey and Arun Canal never quite made it into Horsham. On the sundial a canal boat can be seen floating along London’s ‘lost road to the sea’. Several attempts were made to connect the canal to Horsham, funding was promised, but the route was never completed. Ultimately the impending arrival of the railway finished off the project.
The water course once connected London to Littlehampton making good use of the Arun and Adur along the way. The section between the River Wey at Shalford and the River Arun at Pallingham forms the 23 mile long Wey and Arun Canal. Today there is an enthusiastic team, The Wey and Arun Canal Trust, dedicated to restoring the route and it is making good progress.
The canal is shown below the sheep and if you look carefully on the sundial you will spot the two canal boats illustrated here.
Henfield Cricket Club
The cricket game depicted on the sundial only gets a fleeting mention on the plaques. The book gives greater detail of Henfield Cricket Club and its founding in 1771, making it one of the oldest clubs in the world. Records of Henfield playing cricket in the 1720s are in existence with one game being noted on June 4th 1719 against Sandfields.
Henfield Cricket Club is currently playing in Division Three West of the Sussex League and the teams include colts and ladies.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley is often claimed by Horsham as a resident but he was born at Field Place in Warnham which is in Horsham District. He was not known well during his lifetime and Horsham forgot to commemorate the centenary of his birth. The Rising Universe (better known as Shelley’s Fountain) was erected to celebrate the bi-century of his birth.
Shelley was a precocious writer and his earliest known work, The Cat, is represented on the sundial. He wrote it when he was just eight years old. The poem is reproduced on a plaque on the sundial plinth and also below.
The depiction on the sundial is a portrait of Shelley with a cat laying on the frame.
Verses on a cat
A cat in distress
Nothing more, nor less
Good folks, I must faithfully tell ye
As I am a sinner
It waits for some dinner
To stuff out its own little belly
You would not easily guess
All the modes of distress
Which torture the tenants of earth
And the various evils
Which like so many devils
Attend the poor souls from their birth
Some a living require
And others desire
An old fellow out of the way
And which is the best
I leave to be guessed
For I cannot pretend to say
One wants society
Others a tranquil life
Some want food,Others
as good,Only want a wife
But this poor little cat
Only wanted a rat
To stuff out its own little maw
And it were as good
Some people had such food
To make them hold their jaw!
Originally the brick making business was a series of small operations; often clay was turned into bricks for use on the same site. Businesses in Horsham, Rudgewick and Warnham increased in size, spurred by the arrival of the railway.
Henry Michell estimated that he made 2.5 million bricks on the site of the third prison, in the area of Park Terrace East and West. Many of these bricks went to build the railway link between Horsham and Three Bridges, others went to make the foundations for the re-sited home of the 1851 Great Exhibition; Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill.
On the sundial a man can be seen removing bricks from the kiln whilst another moves a load away using a wheel barrow.
St. Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster is at Partridge Green, south of Horsham. It is the home to the Carthusion Monks who are a solitary order spending much of their day alone in individual hermitages where they pray, work, takes their meals, and sleep.
The monks suffered during the reign of Henry VIII but two communities who were expelled from the continent returned to England in 1873 at the request of the Catholics.
The monastery is an extensive range of buildings, including 34 hermitiages, with the spire of the central church visible for many miles. On the sundial the monastery is represented by the row of cloisters viewed from inside the large courtyard. This monastery is one of 25 dotted across three continents.
Be sure to visit the Parkminster website for more information on the order and photographs of the buildings and work taking place.
Railways have been important to Horsham even before the line arrived at Horsham Station. Prior to 1848 unsuccessful efforts were made to include Horsham on the potentially lucrative London to Brighton line. In 1859 it was successful in joining the London to Brighton line with Portsmouth at which point Horsham ceased to be a terminus.
Not mentioned on the border of the sundial, only on the plaques, is the bluecoat school of Christ’s Hospital at Stammerham. It relocated from London in 1897 and, until just a few years ago, the students could be seen in town in their uniform of long coats and stockings. Nowadays the uniform is only worn for school purposes.
A standing student is depicted on the sundial in the bluecoat reading from the book ‘Alice in Wonderland’. The school was founded in by Edward VI at Newgate in 1552 to take children that were made poor and destitute by Henry VIII dissolution of the monasteries. Until the move to Stammerham it remained in Newgate except for the period following the Great Fire of London. The foundation stone was laid by Edward, Prince of Wales on 23rd October 1897, the anniversary of the birthday Edward VI.
The grade I listed Leonardslee House and 200 acres of gardens are in Lower Beeding, just a short distance from Horsham. For a 100 years the gardens have been open to the public and this continues from Easter with spectacular rhododendrons through to late October when autumn colours abound.
The underlying landscape was a result of seven hammerponds for the iron industry but from 1907 it was redeveloped as a country home and gardens by Sir Giles Loder. Wallabies are kept in one part of the gardens but some have escaped and are now living and breeding in the adjacent St Leonard’s Forest. The gardens are also world renowned for their rhododendrons and azaleas.
Shipley Windmill & Hilaire Belloc
Hilaire Belloc (1870 – 1953) was born a frenchman but was naturalised to the UK in 1902 having spent much of his boyhood in West Sussex. He was a writer, a journalist and a Member of Parliament. As a poet all his life, he is best remembered for his “Cautionary Tales” for children. Belloc was the Liberal MP for South Salford in 1905, later becoming an Independent.
In 1906 Belloc purchased and lived at Kingsland (sometimes called Kings Land) in Shipley. Totalling five acres and including Shipley Windmill he lived there until his death. The windmill is the youngest in Sussex, being built in 1879 and was leased to Earnest Powell until 1926 when it ceased being an active mill. Despite its relatively young age the mill fell into disrepair but Belloc was instrumental in its restoration. Since 1987 the mill has been in the hands of a charitable trust which pays a peppercorn rent to the owner Charles Eustace, great grandson of Belloc. Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council are amongst the trustees.
Belloc is shown on the sundial alongside the Shipley Windmill.
Royal Observer Corps
The back of the Drill Hall in Denne Road, Horsham, was the base for Group 2 of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) during World War II. The Observer Corps was established in 1925 to enable early detection of an airborne attack on London. Initially it relied on 43 observer posts in Kent, Surrey and Sussex but this was expanded in the years preceding World War II. The ROC were a civilian unit but under the control of the Royal Air Force (RAF). In 1941 it earned its ‘Royal’ prefix from George VI and it became a uniformed force, initially in boiler suits as the full battle dress was rolled out. In the same year women were allowed to join.
The scenes in the film ‘The Battle of Britain’ are said to resemble the activities at Horsham where model aeroplanes were pushed around a map of Britain.
During WWII the RAF requisitioned the nearby Normandy Centre for the ROC so that they could use the ktichen and dining room. On May 12th 1945 when all of the Luftwaffe aircraft were grounded the ROC was stood down. In later years the ROC built underground concrete bunkers on the Denne Hall site; these to be used in the event of a nuclear attack. The bunkers were decommissioned in 1990. The sundial shows one observer looking to the skies through binoculars whilst another radios the information back to the headquarters.
A small nuclear bunker still exists in Horsham, built for the Cold War. Although decommissioned it remains as a monument to the period.
is an ideal venue for bird watcher and for lovers of the outdoors to enjoy the West Sussex countryside. The nature reserve, based in the Arun Valley, boasts a range of birds that change with the seasons that can be seen from the four hides and three viewpoints
The sundial shows water and wading birds at the bottom of the photo below. This and the remaining subjects are closely intertwined in the sundial and all can be seen in the photograph below.
Sempur Sursum – Ever onwards and upwards
A modern aeroplane is seen flying into the clouds in a reference to Gatwick Airport. Although it is outside of Horsham District it has brought much wealth and employment to the area.
The one remains, the many change and pass
This quote is another reference to Shelley, again in the photo above. Taken from Adonais: an Elegy on the Death of John Keats; it is on the sundial to signify that as people and place change around us there is always something that remains. Perhaps, for now, this sundial. So far it has outlasted one of its major benefactors Alders who went out of business even before the credit crunch of 2008.
The composer’s full name is Ralph Vaughan Williams but his first name is rarely mentioned. Originally from Down Ampney, Gloucestershire he moved to nearby Leith Hill on the death of his father. In 1904 Vaughan Williams discovered English folk songs and set about transcribing and preserving them, later becoming president of English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). In recognition of his early and important work in this field the EFDSS named its Vaughan Williams Memorial Library after him.
Vaughan Williams wrote the Pilgrims Progress opera based on John Bunyan’s allegory of the same name. The hymn ‘He who would valiant be’ came from that opera. There appears to be no reference to Vaughan Williams on the sundial, only on the plaques on the plinth.
Cicely Mary Barker
Born in 1895 on the 28th June in West Croydon Cicely Mary Barker was an artist specialising in fairies. At the age of 16 she was paid for a series of postcards and spent the rest of her life as an artist. Her most notable works were the collection of seven Flower Fairy books. As a devout Christian Cicely also illustrated religious books and painted panels for churches.
There seems to be some disagreement about the spelling of the first name with many references going for Cecily. Uniquely the plinth uses the middle name May, not seen in any other reference. An image of the cover of the book ‘Spring Songs with Music from Flower Fairies of the Spring’ confirms the headline spelling of Cicely Mary Barker. The plinth describes a fairy playing ‘hide and seek’ but the Horsham Photographer has not been able to spot one on the sundial yet.