West Street embraces arrival of shopping

west street horsham 1890 HDC
west street horsham 1890 HDC

By the end of the Victorian era, West Street in Horsham had changed. Thanks to the growing economy, rising population, rise in living standards, though Horsham was affected by the agricultural depression, shopping had become a key feature of most towns.

Home owners had moved out of the main streets, living on the outskirts, whilst their former homes were transformed in to shops with living accommodation above.

Or, if not shops, offices for the expanding service industries required for an ever more complex society. This is clearly seen in the photographs of West Street.

This brilliant photograph shows West Street before the Hunt brothers knocked down the mediaeval building in the foreground, which they owned, but after they had built a neoclassical style section of their shop. The street is paved, which the Local Board of Health and later the Urban District Council had taken on, but the road is still dirt rather than cobble.

As can be seen, although the buildings were predominantly houses rather than purpose built shops - Hunt Bros and Cramps who built Clerkenwell house in 1878, being two notable exceptions - the street was very much Horsham’s High Street.

West Street is currently the subject of a major revamp with improvements being made to hard and soft landscaping, street furniture, signage, way finding and lighting.

The project is the brainchild of Horsham District Council and HDC’s museum in the Causeway kindly provided this old photograph.