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Town Hall, Horsham

Description: Town Hall

Grade: II
Date Listed: 23 October 2009
English Heritage Building ID: 298162

OS Grid Reference: TQ1722930494
OS Grid Coordinates: 517229, 130494
Latitude/Longitude: 51.0618, -0.3285

Location: 1 Market Square, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1EU

Locality: Horsham
Local Authority: Horsham District Council
County: West Sussex
Country: England
Postcode: RH12 1EU

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Listing Text

26-JUL-1974 (Centre of)


Former town hall, c1812, rebuilt except for the north facade in 1888-9. Minor later alterations.

EXTERIOR: The building has two storeys plus a basement and is constructed of local stone with a slate roof, the latter concealed behind the crenellated parapets of the north and south crow-stepped gables. The principal façade is to the north and has octagonal corner turrets with crenellated parapets, the tops of the turrets slightly corbelled out and joined across the facade by a string-course. Between these, the ground floor has three Romanesque arcade arches with moulded soffits and cushion capitals, the central two with ivy leaf carving. The arcade is blind but for the central round-headed doorway. There are two cast-iron lamps in the spandrels of the arcade. Above, the blind second storey contains three panels, possibly in Coade stone, bearing heraldic devices, namely the Royal Arms, those of the Dukes of Norfolk and the town. In the apex of the central gable is a clock with two blank panels underneath.

The returns to east and west have round-arched windows on the ground floor, with moulded imposts and hoods, and segmental arched windows above, identifying the two main chambers inside. Beyond this, a short projecting tower on the east side contains a ground floor camber-arched door with columns to each side, and a round-arched window above. The southern section of each elevation is stepped back and has dormer windows on the upper storey and segmental-arched windows below (three bays to the west including a doorway, two to the east). The southern elevation has two windows with flat stone lintels on the ground floor and a large oriel window above with stone corbelling and timber mullions and transoms.

INTERIOR: the majority of the fixtures and fittings date to the 1888-9 phases of works, with the staircase in the eastern tower section possibly retaining some earlier fabric. There are two main chambers, located on the ground and first floors in the northern section of the building. The lower hall has Victorian ventilation shafts but later panelling and vestibule. The upper hall has later panelling too but the timber trusses and iron ties of the roof are 1888-9. The main stone staircase has an iron balustrade and moulded timber handrail. There are panelled doors, architraves, skirting boards and other joinery in the well-proportioned smaller rooms, all Victorian. Housed in a timber structure on the northern side of the roof is the clock, made by WH Bailey of Manchester, and given to the town by the Duke of Norfolk in 1820. Three bells, two dating to 1889 and cast in Croydon and one of 1820 are to either side of the clock house. The latter bears the words: His grace the Duke of Norfolk presented the new Town Hall / clock Anno Domini 1820. R. Hurst Esq., and J. Torne, Bailiffs: / R. Steadman, gent., Town Clerk: Sir John Aubrey, Bart., and /Robert Hurst, Esq., Members of the Borough. // Whose praise and fame I'll speak and tell,/ As long as I remain a bell,/ And after death I hope and trust / They'll all be numbered with the just. //

CELLS: In the basement are two sets of timber cells, probably Edwardian or 1920s in date, each numbered 1-6 and originally intended for men and women. They have matchboard panelled sides, doors with wire grilles, benches, fold-out tables for eating, light fittings, handles and locks, all the originals. In the northern part of the basement the floor level is higher; the older cells from the 1812 building may have been located here.

HISTORY: Horsham's town hall has been on this site since the C17 at least, and the present structure dates to the C19. The appearance of the original building is not known, but in the Georgian period it had the traditional form of a first floor chamber raised on an open arcade. The building had become unstable by the beginning of the C19 and the town was threatened with the loss of the quarter sessions if accommodation for the court did not improve. A gift from the Duke of Norfolk in 1812 made rebuilding possible. A new north façade in the Norman style, battlemented and turreted, and decorated with carved coats of arms was constructed. At its foot were three basement cells. A staircase was built at the south end of the building, with an ingress beneath in which to house the town fire engine, and the open ground floor was enclosed permanently as a lower court room. A photograph of February 1876 held by the Horsham Museum shows what the north front of this building looked like. It largely matches the current structure's north facade, but with a different crow-stepped gable to the second storey.

An article in the West Sussex Times in October 1888 reveals that an eastern tower containing a winding staircase giving access to the upper chamber was added to the building in the late 1860s, at the same time as which the clock was moved to the north side of the building. The current building has a short tower on its eastern elevation and this is likely to be the same structure. Legal records show that the town hall was mortgaged and the Duke of Norfolk granted £200 for repair of the building in c1869, further suggesting a minor phase of works in the late 1860s.

By 1888, structural problems had re-emerged and the idea of completely rebuilding the town hall was mooted. Designs by a Sussex architect, J Percy Gates of Dolphin Chambers, New Shoreham were drawn up and £3,000 sought from the Local Government Board. Only £1,500 was forthcoming, however, due to technicalities about the provision of cells which meant their construction could not be funded by the Local Board. Thus, ambitions were scaled down and refurbishment considered the better option.

The West Sussex Times article and other contemporary accounts describe how the stone walls of the older town hall were razed, and the hall 'pulled down with the exception of the north front'. This may be an exaggeration, and the eastern tower might have also been retained, but there was certainly substantial remodelling of the building in 1888-9. Gates' plan and elevation drawings of November 1888 survive and show the proposed designs for the west and south sides of the town hall. These match the current building, suggesting both were built 1888-9. A photograph of 1890 shows that the upper parts of the north front's crow-stepped gable were also remodelled and the clock face replaced at some point between 1876 and 1890, most likely in the 1888-9 phase of works. Indeed it may have been the case that the architect reused stone from the older building. Certainly the need for economy and to maintain consistency with the retained north and east elevations would have encouraged reuse of this good-quality local ashlar. Since 1889, few major changes have taken place to the fabric of the town hall.

SOURCES 'Horsham: Local government and public services', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2: Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) including Horsham (1986) 180-189
Photographs and records in Horsham Museum

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Horsham's Old Town Hall is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* north facade of c1812 commissioned by the Duke of Norfolk and in an antiquarian neo-Norman style, as the Duke also favoured at Arundel Castle;
* later work of 1888-9 possibly using the good quality local ashlar of the original;
* historic interest as the site of local government in Horsham since the C17, in this building since the C19;
* two surviving sets of cells in the basement which are virtually unaltered.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.