Horsham is, at heart, a traditional English market town. West Sussex is a relatively rural county in southern England, and Horsham provided a focus for people to gather and trade in times gone by.
Over recent years, Horsham has grown significantly, being a commutable distance from London and Gatwick Airport, while still having the benefits of the countryside.
Horsham is also the site for Novartis-UK Affiliate of the Swiss based company Novartis AG . The R&D here focuses on Metabolic disorders, GI tract diseases and such.
In its recent history Horsham has been one of the main headquarters for the international firm Royal & SunAlliance which still opens and operates in some of the towns largest buildings. The recent Yes! Car Credit which went bankrupt was also based in Horsham.
Traditionally not known for its open mindedness (The film 'Monty Python's Life of Brian' was banned here upon its release, and Horsham was one of the last places in England someone faced the death penalty for homosexuality). Despite this the town does show some signs of moving forward despite being a little 'backward' compared to London or Brighton, perhaps due to the older demographic. Horsham is also one of the last places on Earth to still display its stocks in the town centre.
The closest airport to Horsham is London Gatwick (LGW) which is only 20 minutes by car or train (the station is right in the airport). London Heathrow (LHR) is about an hour by car (depending on traffic) or two and a half hours by train via London - change at Hammersmith and London Victoria. London Stansted (STN) is about an hour and a half by car (depending on traffic) or two and a half hours by train - change at Tottenham Hale and London Victoria.
Horsham can be reached easily by train. There are four trains per hour from London. Two trains from London Victoria via Croydon and Crawley. There is an hourly service (not Sundays) from London Victoria via Sutton & Dorking and an hourly stopping service from London Bridge. There are two trains an hour from the Sussex coast; Bognor Regis and Chichester. Be aware that most coastal trains 'divide' en route so listen carefully to the announcements.
Horsham can also be easily reached by car as it lies on the junction of three main routes. Follow the A24 from London (SW) via Dorking, the M23/A264 from London (SE) via Crawley, the A23/A281 from Brighton via Cowfold, the A24 from Worthing, the A29 from Chichester or the A281 from Guildford.
The town centre is compact and walkable. A small number of bus services are available to the residential areas. All services run via the bus station and the central square, the Carfax.
Horsham's town centre is its main charm. The town is based around a central square (that isn't square) called the Carfax (said to mean 'where four roads meet'). This is pedestrianised and often features music on the bandstand in the summer. There is also an element of European cafe culture with street cafes and alfresco bars on the square and the historic alleyways running from it. The rest of the centre is no more than five minutes walk from the Carfax.
Nearby, to the South is The Causeway, a conservation area with a real feeling of history about it. Horsham Museum is also located on The Causeway. At the bottom of The Causeway is St. Marys church and the River Arun.
The second focal point to the town is the Shelley Fountain named after the poet Shelley who hailed from Horsham. It is a large mobile artwork which is an earthlike sphere which takes in and releases water causing it to rise and fall on a pillar. The town's main shopping street, the pedestrian only West Street, connects the Carfax to the Shelley Fountain square. The Swan Walk mall runs off this street.
To the north is a large park, which has a small wildlife pond, a leisure complex with indoor/outdoor (heated) pool and a gym. There's an excellent children's playground alongside with slides and swings: it's very popular at the weekend.
The Post Office is situated in the Carfax square.
The most central full scale supermarket (Sainsbury's) is just beyond the bus station, to the south of the centre, though there are smaller 'budget stores' operating near to the Shelley Fountain and a branch of Waitrose in Piries place.
Horsham has a range of restaurants covering most of the various styles found in England, with Italian being particularly common. Most town centre restaurants are on East Street, although there are some in the Carfax and West Street. About a mile from the centre of town is the American/Tex/Mex style 'Smith and Western' which has become a definite destination for special events.
There are numerous take-away food outlets near the town centre. Most are located just to the west, in the Bishopric and Springfield Road. Including Mr Li's, a highly popular Chinese restaurant, renowened locally for its food
Perhaps one of Horshams best restaurants is the Indian Tree curry house. Located in a traditional Tudor style listed building, the Indian Tree, formerly the Nisam, offers excellent cuisine while maintaining a family atmosphere.
Horsham has a reasonable selection of pubs in the town centre. Most are tied to the Hall and Woodhouse brewery, generally serving Badger and Tanglefoot real ales.
- The Anchor Hotel (formerly Bar Vin), just off the Carfax. Always packed, despite question marks over the ability to get served.
- Black Jug, in North Street, two mins walk from the station. Good ambience and generally more mature clientele. Has a good reputation for its food with prices to match.
- The Stout House, a more traditional pub complete with bar billiards.
- The Lynd Cross, a Wetherspoons pub popularly known as the Lynd Creche for the age of the clientele.
There is also the locally legendary Chameleon, popularly known as its former name,'Shelleys' - Horsham's first and only night club, that draws students, regulars and scum alike.
Some bars also stay open late.
- B52s, a quiet bar in Piries place with a medieval beam ceiling serving food during the day which transforms into a sweaty crush on weekend evenings.
- Piries bar, a very cosy bar just round the corner, worth a visit for the unusual arrangement of the gents toilet.
Horsham itself has relatively few hotels, and none at the higher end of the market. Some of the villages surrounding Horsham do have quality hotels however.
- Premier Travel Inn, opposite the Station, about £50 per room per night (2004), really the only hotel in the town centre http://www.travelinn.co.uk
There are many possible day trips from Horsham, here are some suggestions:
- Leith Hill and the Surrey Hills, 20 minutes north-northwest via the A24 and B2126, one of the most beautiful stretches of the North Downs, with the highest point in south east England. There is a lot of good mountain biking to be found here.
- Leonardslee Gardens, Lower Beeding, via the A281
- Wakehurst Place, 25 minutes east at Ardingly on the B2028, a nationally important garden maintained by Kew
- Petworth House, 30 minutes southwest at Petworth, a large country house set in acres of parkland