Horsham (St. Mary)

HORSHAM (St. Mary), a borough, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Singlecross, rape of Bramber, W. division of Sussex, 29 miles (N. E.) from Chichester, and 36 (S. S. W.) from London; containing 5765 inhabitants. This place is supposed to have derived its name from Horsa, the brother of Hengist, who is said to have been interred in the immediate vicinity, in 457, after the battle with Vortimer, near Aylesford, in which he was slain. The town is pleasantly situated on a branch of the river Adur, and in the centre of a fertile district surrounded by varied and interesting scenery; it consists principally of one street, from which others branch off in various directions, and is paved with stone found in the neighbourhood, and amply supplied with water. The houses are in general indifferently built, but there are some good modern buildings, especially on the London road; those in the street leading to the church are agreeably sheltered by rows of trees. The approaches to the town are by excellent roads. A mechanics' institute has been established, to which a library is attached. An act was obtained in 1845 for a branch railway from this place to the London and Brighton railway, 8¼ miles in length; it was completed at the close of 1847. There are two breweries and a tanyard; and quarries of excellent stone are worked in the vicinity, in which are found the exuviæ of large Saurian animals, the bones of the crocodile, plesiosaurus, turtle, and other amphibious reptiles, with the carbonized remains of monocotyledonous plants, arborescent ferns, palms, &c. A great quantity of poultry is reared in the neighbourhood, for the supply of the London market. The market-days are, Monday for poultry, and Saturday chiefly for corn. Fairs, principally for sheep and lambs, are held on April 5th and July 18th, and others for horses and cattle on the Monday before Whitsuntide and November 27th; on the Saturday after the July fair is a fair for pedlery and toys, and on November 17th is a large fair for Welsh cattle, called St. Leonard's fair, from its having been formerly held in an adjoining forest of that name.

In the 23rd of Edward I. a charter of incorporation was granted to Horsham, and the control was for some time vested in two bailiffs, chosen annually at the court leet of the lord of the manor, at which constables, &c. are now only appointed. It is a borough by prescription, and returned two members to parliament from the 23rd of Edward I. to the 2nd of William IV., when it was deprived of one, and the privilege of election was extended to the £10 householders of the entire parish; the sheriff appoints the returning officer. The Midsummer quarter-sessions for the western division are held here, as are also petty-sessions on the first and third Saturdays of every month. The powers of the county debt-court of Horsham, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Horsham. The town-hall and sessionshouse form a handsome building with a stone front, enlarged in 1806 by the Duke of Norfolk, for the accommodation of the judges of assize, the Lent assizes being then regularly held here. The county gaol is now only used as a debtors' prison.

The parish comprises by computation nearly 10,000 acres, of which a very considerable portion forms part of the ancient forest of St. Leonard: the soil is in some parts a deep clay, and towards the forest a light sand; the surface is hilly, rising in some parts to a very considerable height. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £25; net income, £651; patron, the Archbishop of Canterbury; impropriator, R. Hurst, Esq. The church is a spacious and venerable structure, in the early English style, with a lofty tower surmounted by a spire; the window of the chancel is of beautiful design, and the interior, which preserves its original character nearly throughout, contains several ancient and interresting monuments. A second church, dedicated to St. Mark, was erected in 1840, on a site given by Thos. Coppard, Esq., who also presented the stone and a sum of £50 towards its erection; it was completed by subscription, aided by a grant of £300 from the Incorporated Society, and £200 from the Chichester Diocesan Society, and is a handsome edifice in the later English style. The living is in the gift of the Vicar. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans; and a Roman Catholic chapel. The free school was founded in 1532, by Richard Collyer, citizen and mercer of London, who endowed it with houses, producing more than £500 per annum; the premises comprise a good schoolroom, and dwellinghouses with gardens for the masters. The union of Horsham consists of ten parishes or places, and contains a population of 13,410: a union-house has been erected a short distance from the town, on the road to Crawley.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.