Curators' Blog

Highlights From The Archives

Highlights from the Archives 

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is home to thousands of photographs that depict the people and places of Horsham District, as well as images brought back to Horsham from around the world. The images range from sports team photos, travel souvenirs and family portraits, to street surveys and records of buildings. The photographic collections are an extremely valuable resource for local historians as they chart the changing fashions, activities, landscapes and sights of the area and its people. 

The photographs in our collections range in date from the 1860s through to present day and encompass the work of professional photographers through to the family snaps of local people. Many of the images have come to us via donation and the level of information that donors are able to give us varies. Several local photographers have donated their entire archives to us, along with accompanying newspaper clippings and documents, so we know a great deal about the images and their subjects. Other items in the collection have been found in antique shops and house clearances and therefore little is known about them. 

Our dedicated volunteers have been cataloguing, researching and scanning the photographs in our collections for more than 20 years and a great deal of work has been done to make them available to the public. We hope to develop an online collections search in the future, thus ensuring that this hard work is accessible to as many people as possible.  

To highlight the variety and importance of our photographic collections our staff and volunteers have each selected a small number of images that are of particular interest to them. Each panel in the exhibition is dedicated to the selections of one member of the team and they explain, in their own words, why they have made their choices. We hope that this will not only demonstrate the breadth of the collections, but also emphasise the importance of the work that our volunteers do every day. 

If you would like to find out more about the photographic collections, or want to know if we have images of a particular place or subject, please email us on 

Eleanor Coate, volunteer since 2007 

All three images date from 1908/09. I’m always fascinated by images of how Horsham looked in the past and I think photographers and camera clubs should regularly document changes in their local area. That is especially appropriate now with the new town developments in Horsham over the last couple of years. The Carfax bandstand is easily recognisable from the 1908 photograph and the view across to King & Chasemore has hardly changed at all, even the tree remains! However, Chart & Lawrence, a well-loved department store, is now the Waterstones site. I still remember Chart & Lawrence which was rather like the store in an old TV sitcom, ‘Are You Being Served’  


2008.96.107 – Carfax Bandstand 


2008.96.108 – Chart & Lawrence Fire 


2008.96.116 – View of King & Chasemore from Carfax Bandstand 

Elizabeth Harvey, volunteer since 1998 

I have chosen three photographs taken by John Hicks who lived in East Street in 1891 and which were donated to the Museum; two were listed as ‘unidentified’ whilst the third was labelled ‘Morth Gardens’ amended to ‘Piries Place.  I first noticed the three images in 2001 when we began to re-box and check the photographic collection. 



It was puzzling why a professional photographer would have taken this picture of an apparently neglected area. It certainly wasn’t the house Hicks lived in. The 1891 census showed John Hicks lived in a house on East Street that didn’t resemble this one. The location of the photograph remained unidentified. 



When I later compared this photograph with 1996.412 I picked out some similarities such as the ivy covered roof and concluded that it had probably been taken from an upstairs window of the house to the left of the gateway in the first image. 


1996.1187 – Unknown Alley  

Comparing this renamed third image with the first two there were several more similarities and a building opposite the end of the dilapidated alley could be seen. It appeared to be a shop window displaying posters.  Knowing that Tanner & Chart Outfitters had occupied that corner of Middle Street and Market Square suggested to me that the alley might have been located on the opposite side of the Square and that the gateway opened onto East Street. Another of Hicks’ photographs (not displayed) looking east towards the corner of Market Square and East Street before the 1899 redevelopment confirmed that the alley was indeed where I had thought it might be and that all of these photographs had therefore been taken by John Hicks to record that part of Horsham before it was pulled down and replaced by modern buildings. 


Julie Mitchell – volunteer since 2004 

I have been volunteering at the Museum since 2004 and have been lucky enough to have seen thousands of photographs of Horsham and the wider District. This has stood me in good stead for identifying some of the “disappeared” places.  Having lived most of my life in Horsham, I have seen and experienced many of the changes to the town since the mid-20th century, and I have to say most have been an improvement!   

A large part of the lower section of North Street from the junction with Park Street to the Carfax has completely changed since the late 1970s.  The pedestrian walkway now passes over Albion Way providing access to the entrance to Sun Alliance, the tower of St Mark’s Church and steps leading to the Carfax.  The picture (2017.47.1.29) shows the same area, looking towards the Carfax before the construction of Albion Way and the underpass.  

It is interesting to note the height of the pavement on the west side, with steps leading down to road level.  When the new office buildings were constructed, the pavement became level with the road. 



This earlier picture shows more of the old buildings and trees on both sides of the road. This picture of North Street, looking towards the Carfax, clearly shows the steps have been there for many years.  



Similar view – the pavement is still the same height but has been modernised. There are also steps up to the church buildings on the east side.  



The buildings on the left still survive but all the rest have been replaced by new office buildings on the left and the walkway leading to the Sun Alliance entrance. 

Julie Mitchell, volunteer since 2004 

Stopham bridge is a Grade 1 listed building and a Scheduled Monument.  On the site of a former ford across the Arun, the bridge was originally constructed in wood as a replacement for the Eastover Ferry owned by John Stopham.  The earliest stone bridge was built around 1442 and in 1757 the road became a turnpike.  The central arch was raised in 1822 to provide clearance for vessels using the River Arun navigation and Wey and Arun Canal.  It was extended at both ends in 1865 to 246 ft (75.7 m).   It is 12 ft (3.7 m) wide with nine refuges over the piers.  The new bridge was completed in 1986 and both are maintained by West Sussex County Council.  The foundations extend down to firm sandstone some 50-65 ft below ground level.” 


This picture shows the River Arun where it passes under Denne Road and the London to Southampton railway line.  This was taken around 1890.  



This picture shows the new Stopham Bridge above the River Arun with the ancient stone bridge to the left. 

Jeremy Knight, Curator since 1988 

This photograph, dating from the First World War, was selected not only for the intriguing sight of a horse dangling in mid-air, but also because it is a powerful image of the impact of war. Jeremy counts this photograph as a particular favourite and has included it in a number of past exhibitions. He feels it is an important image as it shows the helplessness of the animal versus the drive and industry of the people preparing for war. According to the RSPCA, it is estimated that 484,143 British horses, mules, camels and bullocks died between 1914 and 1918. 


Jeremy’s second selection is this photograph of a damaged plane that crashed into a tree. It is believed that the crash occurred during a military training exercise, and that tragically the pilot died. Jeremy chose the photograph as, much like the previous one, it shows the tragedy of war. The soldier, presumably a young man, was a casualty of war before he had even completed his training. Both images are taken from a series of albums donated by the family a local soldier. The albums depict scenes from the whole duration of the war in theatres of operation as diverse as Egypt, Gibraltar, Galipoli, Rome, Corfu, Greece, France and the UK. 



Rhiannon Jones, Assistant Curator since 2018 

Having previously worked at museums with substantial photographic collections I was delighted to find out that Horsham Museum & Art Gallery has a sizeable collection of its own. Our photographic collection is full of the weird and wonderful, as well as the mundane. My personal passion is music, and I am a member of a female barbershop chorus based in Redhill called Vocal Dimension. Each week I meet with 40 other women to sing and laugh, and prepare for our performances across the country and around the world. This inspired me to select images of people making music, and highlight the range of activities with which people have filled their leisure time throughout Horsham’s history. 



The man depicted in this image, taken in the 1930s, is Sam Davies, a rope maker from Horsham. We’re not sure why this photograph was taken, but I think his expression captures the pure joy of listening to good music and the feeling of peace and relaxation it can produce.” 


Mr Cook’s Orchestra c. 1890-1900, Mr E.R. Cook is seated in the centre of the 2nd row. The orchestra is believed to be the first such group in Horsham. This is certainly the oldest photograph of musicians in our collections, but it is my no means the only one. We have a large number of photographs of the Horsham Recreation Silver band (now called Horsham Borough Band), as well as accompanying programmes and posters, dating from the 1900s through to the 1960s. It is fascinating resource and shows the importance of music to town life. 

Lewis Herron, volunteer since 2017 

Photograph taken in May 1971 from Blackhorse way, Manor House School is visible on the left. “I chose this Photograph because I go to the dentist there, my dentist is located in the door under the arch in the photograph. The surroundings have changed a lot over 50 years.” 


Postcard of Grammar School, Hurst Road, Horsham. “I chose this photograph on a postcard of Hurst Road taken between 1931 and 1940 because I walk this road almost every day and it is familiar to me, so seeing it from a perspective of 90 years ago is fascinating. Looks more of a country lane than the development of modern roads today. The Grammar School is still there with its original building with added modern architecture.”