Exciting New Displays as Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Re-Opens

Jeremy Knight, retiring long-term Curator of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

As the newly refurbished Horsham Museum & Art Gallery reopens Jeremy Knight, its Curator for some thirty-three years, is preparing to retire.

I ask Jeremy about his time at the museum, he replies “I arrived in 1988 and remember thinking what a fabulous building and collections and that feeling has deepened over time. Horsham and the District has such a rich history and cultural story which needs to be celebrated. The museum is the only organisation that brings those threads together and makes it accessible to the people who live here and visitors to the district.”

Building up the collection for future generations has required all of Jeremy’s deep knowledge and understanding of the history of Horsham and her district. Without him being here so much would have been lost.

Thanks to Jeremy Knight’s curatorship the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s reputation has grown beyond all measure. His vision and work has attracted the attention of curators and institutions ranging from Tate Britain, the V&A, the Royal Collections, the National Trust and the RA to name but a few. This reputation has brought extraordinary bequests, gifts and partnerships which most recently have included works by John Constable and the artist Vincent Lines.

Jeremy has always practiced servant leadership; what he does is always about the flourishing of others and not about self.

The new galleries tell the stories of Horsham, her industries, people and communities across centuries through wonderful objects. The new cabinets and displays bring the collections alive and it is as though you are discovering the objects for the very first time.

One of the newly refurbished displays with the Gruffalo

I notice a number of the displays are lower down. “They’re for the children.” Jeremy explains “It’s really important that all this is accessible to them and their families.” I agree, I have been coming to the Horsham Museum since I was a child.

Jeremy Knight has the qualities of a patron supporting artists, local historians and bibliophiles. Through his work at the museum he has created strong links with local people and enriched the heritage community.

He explains that he is looking forward to writing, and a PhD on The Book in the Museum. There is a fine new display of the important history of literature in the Horsham District.

I ask Jeremy about the reasons behind his leaving. He answers “The museum is a constant in people’s lives as the narratives and displays change reflecting the community. The refresh is a perfect moment, [the new layout] makes it possible to change the displays so that the museum can remain relevant to each generation in its turn. And it will allow those who take it forward to reflect their own and the public’s evolving interests.

All I have achieved and this exciting refurbishment has only been possible because of Horsham District Council’s support of the museum and me, and the help of the staff and volunteers.”

The refurbishment of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is a terrific footnote to Jeremy Knight’s long-term stewardship. You must see it.

This gifted and generous antiquarian has blessed us with his professionalism, knowledge and passion for the people and history of Horsham and her district. Jeremy Knight is deserving of our thanks.

“There’s a bit of blue sky over Worthing”

Ken Howard OBE RA – ‘Beach with Kites’, oil on canvas

August arrived with a weekend of perfect weather, blue skies and scudding clouds.

In contrast to Friday, and the crowds that the hottest day of the year brought to the South Coast, Saturday saw a generous gathering of much more sensible numbers on the beaches at Worthing. There was a communal delight in the sharing of a different horizon as lockdown eased and the steady on-shore-breeze embraced us. For those who have experienced the Covid-19 lockdown without access to a garden or an adequate outside space this experience must have been especially precious.

Since the 19th century when the railways allowed people in our towns and cities access to Britain’s coast and towns there has always been a wonderfully democratic quality to our beaches.

I grew up in Horsham in the early 1970s. Everyone seemed to have much less materially than we do today and yet we had so much more. We had time, and not just as children but grown-ups too.

It was an adventure to get to the beach in our ancient pale blue Morris Travellers. Many of the roads in Worthing were still concrete and the old cars made a boom-ba-langa noise as they bounced over the joins which delighted me and my brother.

You could leave Horsham’s micro-climate in blazing sunshine to arrive at the coast to find a howling wind or a sea fret. Sunshine or showers my Granny’s response was always the same “Oh there’s a bit of blue sky over Worthing”. An optimistic outlook which has been good training for life. Part of the seaside tradition was Grandpa making tea on an ancient Gaz stove and Granny’s pink iced sponge cake. We would swim, sail, fly kites and walk to the ice cream van. This pebbly bit of beach holds a special place in my heart with a sense of joy and freedom.

The dance of light on an incoming tide, the whoosh and clatter of the waves as they break on the pebbles and the salty wind on my face has the power to restore me in a way I find hard to describe.

These memories bring to mind a wonderful oil painting by the contemporary British artist Ken Howard titled ‘Beach with Kites’ which we sold at Toovey’s for £5000. His art is about revelation, communication and celebration. Here families soak up the sun and sea air in a shimmering light with vibrant colours. The windbreaks with their strong vertical and horizontal lines lead us through the medley of people. You can sense the heat, breeze and happy voices enjoying a picnic beside the sea.

Amongst family, friends and those I meet along the way there seems to be a consensus that we were all going a bit too fast for our own good and the world before Covid-19. Perhaps post-Covid things might look rather more like my childhood where we had less but so much more.

Like the beach itself Ken Howard’s art, inspired by light, lifts our spirits raising us above the challenges and sorrows of life. No wonder there is a need to be beside the sea especially in these times!

With any luck a combination of old-fashioned good manners, common sense and a genuine care for others will prevail and hold back the tide of a second wave. I hope this beautiful weather blesses you and those you love – keep safe.

Jeremy Knight and the Horsham Museum

The iconic Horsham Museum & Art Gallery in the Causeway, Horsham

As The Horsham Museum celebrates its 125th Anniversary Jeremy Knight is marking 30 years as its curator on the 15th August 2018.

This August the Horsham Museum is celebrating its 125th Birthday. It was founded in 1893 by members of the Free Christian Church and the Horsham Museum Society was born. In 1974 Horsham District Council took over responsibility for running the museum.

Jeremy has been the curator at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery for thirty years. As I meet him I comment on the remarkable coincidence of the timing of these two important anniversaries, he agrees and says “We’re continuing those noble Victorian aspirations of learning, public service and working for the civic good.”

I ask Jeremy what most delights him about his role at the museum, he replies “Listening to people talking about the museum as their museum, it’s then that you know you’ve got it right.”

Curator Jeremy Knight celebrating 30 years at the Horsham Museum

Jeremy Knight is a modern antiquarian; passionate about the use of objects in telling stories from our past. He stands against the current concerning trend of removing objects and labels from our nation’s museum displays. He comments “It’s about story-telling, it always has been, using objects to bring history to life by exploring historical connections and peoples’ relationships.”

Jeremy is a gifted historian. His excellent volumes on the history of Horsham are published by the museum and the profits go to help support its work.

Reflecting on his thirty years at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery he smiles and says “It has been exciting to professionalise and develop the curatorship of the collections whilst re-inventing the museum.” Jeremy explains how he has edited and managed the collections. His policies in this area have been celebrated by museums and fellow curators. Jeremy comments “If you have collections they enable you to work with and borrow from others.” Jeremy has built relationships with national institutions and collaborated with the Worshipful Company of Loriners, the V&A and the Royal Academy.

Jeremy developed an interest in objects and history at an early age. He explains how his mother encouraged him to collect geological specimens when he was 11 years old. From geology he moved onto the natural world with a Christmas gift of an antique taxidermy red squirrel. And then to books, not just as documents of learning but as aesthetic objects.

In the museum he balances the public’s appetite for art with an ability to display our local social and economic history in creative and unique ways. Under Jeremy Knight’s leadership the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery has become one of the most visited art and heritage attractions in West Sussex.

He is quick to praise his staff and community of volunteers “I work with a small, dedicated and talented staff at the museum. We are supported by over sixty volunteers ranging in age from nineteen to nearly ninety – they work on everything from gardening, to making fittings for exhibitions, cataloguing, researching collections, digital recording and local history, as well as guiding.”

The Horsham District Council’s continued commitment to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is deserving of praise.

Jeremy Knight continues to have an enormous influence on the promotion of culture and heritage across the whole Horsham District. His work illustrates the importance of generous, long-term leadership and service, in preserving the history and art of our county and he is richly deserving of our thanks.

Entrance to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is free with permanent displays and exciting shows like the current Frankenstein exhibition. For more information visit www.horshammuseum.org.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Horsham’s Art Gallery Attracts National Attention

Christian Mitchell, Nicholas Toovey, Rosa Sepple., PRI, Robin Hazelwood., PPRI, and Jeremy Knight at the opening of the RI: Now 17 watercolour exhibition

The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, Now 17 summer exhibition is currently on show at The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (RI) rarely holds exhibitions outside London and this show highlights the growing reputation of Horsham’s exceptional regional art gallery.

The exhibition was opened by the President of the Royal Institute, Rosa Sepple, and the Chairman of Horsham District Council, Christian Mitchell, in front of a large audience.

The RI can trace its origins back to 1807 when it was first formed as the New Society of Painters in Watercolours. Early exhibitors included the luminaries William Blake and Paul Sandby. The Society closed in 1812 but was resurrected by the artist Joseph Powell in 1831. The Society acquired its Royal status by order of Queen Victoria in 1883. For much of its existence its home was opposite the Royal Academy in Piccadilly but in 1971, together with a number of other leading societies of artists, it moved to the Mall Galleries as part of the Federation of British artists. Her Majesty the Queen is the RI’s patron.

Since Horsham’s art gallery was opened in 2010, to compliment the museum’s already outstanding program, visitor numbers have doubled making the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery one of the most visited arts and heritage destinations in the whole of Sussex.

Responding to this demand the museum changed its collecting policy. It now collect’s not only Sussex related art, but also watercolours by leading exponents of the medium. A watercolour collection of national significance is being built with financial support from The Friends of Horsham Museum, collectors, businesses, trusts and institutions. I am delighted that Toovey’s have already donated a number of watercolours by key British artists and are sponsoring the exceptional RI: Now 17 show. This exceptional selling exhibition includes watercolours by some twenty leading RI artists including works by the current President.

Charles Bone’s watercolour, Sussex Downs

The beauty of the Sussex Downs never fails to excite me. The watercolour, ‘Sussex Downs’, by RI past President Charles Bone, captures the shifting grey-green hues of the late spring and early summer. His broad but delicate brushwork gives us a sense of the fast changing play of light and weather on this ancient landscape. Charles Bone is understandably celebrated for his ability to record landscapes and architecture.

Lillias August’s Hanging by a Thread watercolour being painted in her studio

Lillias August’s watercolour ‘Hanging by a Thread’, in contrast, conveys a stillness which appears out of time. The three-dimensional quality of the light bulbs depicted is emphasised by the economy of her palette and the building up of painstaking layers of wash. ‘Hanging by a Thread’ seen here in her studio allows us to glimpse something of the artist’s working method.

These are just two of the delights in the RI: Now 17 exhibition which gives the backdrop for a number of summer events celebrating watercolour paintings and artists at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

Highlights include a talk by Art Historian, Nicola Moorby, on Turner’s watercolour technique on the 8th June 2017, and Nick Toovey of Toovey’s Auctioneers will once again be holding a fundraising valuation event for paintings, prints, books, postcards and other paper collectables on Saturday 10th June 2017, 10am to 1pm at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

This current show, RI: Now 17, is proof of Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s growing national reputation. Curator, Jeremy Knight, is once again deserving of our thanks.

The RI: Now 17 exhibition runs until 15th July 2017 at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE and entrance is free. For more information visit www.horshammuseum.org or telephone 01403 254959.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Concert Celebrates the Life of Henry Burstow

Horsham’s famous Henry Burstow

This Saturday a remarkable concert at St Mary’s Parish Church in the Causeway, Horsham, commemorates the life of Henry Burstow who died 100 years ago this year.

Burstow’s love of Bell Ringing and Folk Songs will be celebrated in words, dance, music and bell ringing by the Horsham Bell Ringers, the Horsham Folk Club, the Broadwood Morris Men, the Friends of Horsham Museum and international violinist, Andrew Bernardi, playing the 1696 Stradivarius.

Andrew Bernardi plays the ‘Lark Ascending’ on the 1696 Stradivarius
Andrew Bernardi plays the ‘Lark Ascending’ on the 1696 Stradivarius

Henry Burstow was Horsham’s cobbler, a bell ringer and folk singer. Writing about his love of folk music Burstow said ‘In learning and retaining all my songs my memory has seemed to work quite spontaneously: many of the songs I learnt at first time of hearing; others, longer ones, I have learnt upon hearing them twice through.’ His knowledge and memory of Sussex folk music drew the attention of Lucy Broadwood and the composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, who visited the area in 1904.

Celebrating the life of Henry Burstow with Dance, Music and Bell Ringing
Celebrating the life of Henry Burstow with Dance, Music and Bell Ringing

Vaughan Williams’ famous ‘Lark Ascending’ will be performed by Andrew Bernardi and members of his critically acclaimed Music Group, String Academy and Christs’ Hospital Director of music, Andrew Cleary. This extraordinary piece of music rises and falls as though accompanying a skylark’s flight in the folds of the Sussex Downs. The composer was inspired by specific lines from George Meredith’s poem of the same title which dates from 1881. They were originally printed on the flyleaf of Vaughan Williams’ musical score:

‘He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.’

There is a Eucharistic quality to the way that Vaughan Williams draws these particular lines together from Meredith’s much longer poem. It never fails to move and uplift me.

Writing about bell ringers in his reminiscences Henry Burstow said ‘To all brother campanologists and friends who remain of the hundreds with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting I offer my kind regards, and thanks for the hearty welcome and good fellowship they have always shown me.’ With bell ringers at the heart of this event you can be assured of a warm welcome on Saturday.

This unique concert takes place this weekend on Saturday 22 October at 7.30pm at St Mary’s Parish Church, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1HE. Advance tickets are priced at £10 each and can be purchased from the Capitol Box Office by telephoning 01403 750220 and from The Horsham Museum and Art Gallery. Tickets will also be available on the night at £12.50 each. The funds raised by the concert will be donated to the Friends of Horsham Museum. For more information visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com or www.horshammuseum.org.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.