The Big H

204 Square miles, at least 100 million years, and only 100 objects to explore and explain the rich and fascinating story of Horsham District’s Heritage. If Neil MacGregor can tell the world’s history in 100 objects, surely telling the District’s heritage with the same number of objects should be easy? But it isn’t for many of the District’s stories have lain hidden in plain sight, known to a few.

Now as part of the District’s Year of Culture, Horsham Museum and Art Gallery is unearthing the stories and revealing in the full glare of public gaze the District’s compelling heritage which covers from dinosaurs to ploughmen’s lunches, from Roman roads to postal services, from cricket to workhouses and much much more.  The new temporary exhibition, Heritage of Horsham District in One Hundred Objects is at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery and is on now until 12 October. An accompanying book is due to be published and launched at the beginning of October.

Working with the Horsham District Heritage Forum, the Museum asked the member organisations to nominate their 10 most interesting or important cultural objects. The replies revealed a heritage that makes the District such a fascinating place in which to live. The selection could be seen as quirky, but every object represents a part of the District’s heritage.  Who knew that Bramber has a Coaching wall that was built to stop coach travellers peering in to adjoining gardens? Or that Henfield has a musical instrument- a Change eight-bell set-, a one off, that is recognised as nationally significant. Or that Henfield has a Union Jack flag that was used to drape over one of the four “unknown warrior” coffins, ready for the selected one to be interred at Westminster Abbey.  Or that stoolball was a local game that took off after World War One, only to decline in popularity in the 1930s, and then to be resurrected in the 1970s.  The 100 objects are like points in a compass, directing the visitor across a broad heritage landscape. The exhibition, with its strong visual images and outline, is in effect a visitor centre to the District’s heritage, and the forthcoming book, on which it is based, will be the travel guide.

The exhibition will feature over 30 of the 100 objects including cricket stumps that formed a shop- sign, a great introduction to the sporting heritage of a game first recorded in the District nearly 300 years ago.  Or the Horshamosaurus, a dinosaur named after the town, portrayed through a specially commissioned painting of the creature.   Also on display will be a silver inkstand, a reward for breeding Merino sheep in the middle of the Napoleonic wars, when agricultural innovation was going hand in hand with the war against France and the District’s Commons were being enclosed.

This is a must-see exhibition that will both surprise and inform, and also reveal just how special is the District’s heritage.

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