Treasures in your own back yard….

Vegetarian’s Paradise:  you don’t see these two words side by side very often – and as a vegetarian of 21 years standing my interest was
immediately piqued.

Then of course it’s the usual thing:  in following up you find that right on your
doorstep there’s an undiscovered gem.  It’s been there all along, naturally – I just hadn’t paid enough attention – leading to another of those ‘should have done this sooner’ moments.

Vegetarian’s Paradise is an art exhibition which has just opened at the splendid local history reservoir of riches that is Horsham Museum.  The Museum’s collection is housed in the medieval Causeway House on Horsham’s historic Causeway. Dating from the 1420s the Tudor jettied building rather deceptively houses 26 galleries packed with artefacts, displays and information detailing Horsham’s past.

Causeway House is a museum piece in itself, forming part of a four bay house that was built on a plot of land first laid out around the year 1200 when Horsham, then a small trading hamlet, became a Borough. Around
1600 a major re-build took place and the building was transformed so that the
medieval rooms became a wing, which backed onto a building facing the Causeway. Around 1700 further building took place, with staircases and bay windows inserted with another suite of rooms added in the nineteenth century.  The house has remained essentially unchanged since then, other than the addition of gas, electricity and mains water, along with the renewal of some plasterwork and fireplaces.

This beautiful building became Horsham Museum in 1941, although the space was shared with the WRVS and the ARP.  In 1950 West Sussex County Council bought the building and the Museum took it over in its entirety.

Among the displays is a recreation of William & Smiths chemist’s shop with some of the original fittings. A collection of artefacts trace the history of shopping in Horsham over the last 200 years and a nearby panel details the fairs and markets which were held.  I particularly like the look of the ‘Pedlary
and Toy Fair’ held on the Saturday after 18th July!

As well as a recreation of Horsham goal from the 1700s and detailing the rescue and refurbishment of what was to become the Garman Gallery (in memory of the Museum’s Dodie Garman) and now a gardening and cookery gallery, the Museum has a recreation of a blacksmith’s forge and saddlery
amongst its many galleries.   There is also of course mention of Horsham’s famous son, the radical poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Such was my absorption at the treasures of the Museum
that I was quite distracted from the original purpose of my visit.

So, back to ‘Vegetarian’s Paradise: A Fruit and Vegetable Medley’.  This exhibition by Bignor artist Jean Jackman showcases her watercolours in superb studies of the root crops and fruit that will shortly be on display as part of Harvest Festivals.  Every work of art is unique and Jean has a
highly individual manner of working, creating the right effect and revealing
the character of the plants, whether leeks, carrots, beetroot, Sicilian blood
oranges and pomegranates, Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ and lastly, zucchini―all of which are all on display in the exhibition and are for sale.

I learnt a lot about Horsham’s history on that day, but more important I think was the lesson to never overlook what’s in your own back yard.

Part of this feature was published in The Sussex Newspaper on September 26th.

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