Dragon makes its den in Horsham Museum

JPCT 020813 S13320425x  Horsham Museum. Dragon with Terri Lefevre  -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 020813 S13320425x Horsham Museum. Dragon with Terri Lefevre -photo by Steve Cobb

Horsham Museum’s latest addition may not be able to breathe fire, but it is an impressive dragon sculpture.

The museum, based in the Causeway and run by Horsham District Council, is pleased to have permanently based in its grounds ‘Willoth’ as it uses its expertise to help attract a new audience to a much loved institution.

‘Willoth’ was born around 30 years ago from the imagination of sculptor Edwin Russell and called, for dragons are not named, by dragon expert and author Anne Mccaffrey.

From Horsham Museum and Art Gallery it will help to create marketing opportunities as the museum promotes the rich dragon heritage of Horsham as a home of dragons, imaginary, real and business.

Next year sees the town celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first news book published in Britain that records its dragon, though the news book does say it is a serpent.

Ever since then Horsham and dragons have been linked; it even appeared on an 18th century fake town crest.

Meanwhile the latest temporary exhibition ‘Drawn to the Heart of Sussex’ showcases the best depictions of the county’s rural landscape.

The selection of artists came in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by train, charabanc and bicycle to paint a landscape in transition from a once wealthy region battling the effects of agricultural depression and depopulation.

Magnificent buildings lay surrounded by unploughed fields with vistas unspoilt by housing, a visual blight that bedevilled the Sussex coastline.

Today we marvel at such rural splendour, but over 100 years ago it showed rural poverty not a culture of ‘back to nature.’ Paintings by Gerald Ackermann, Stewart Acton and John Bramham capture iconic images of Chanctonbury Ring from the Storrington Downs, while George Goodwin Kilburne painted the gatehouse to Ewhurst Manor and yet another artist an image of Cowfold Church.

Drawn to the Heart of Sussex covers some 200 square miles, a region today demarcated by the political boundary of Horsham District Council, yet its roots go way back way to medieval times; this is reflected in the views of the timber framed buildings of Steyning, portrayed by John Rendle in an illustrative format.

Collected over the last 40 years, the paintings on show are views of a region, collected for their subject matter rather than the artist, though occasionally the importance of both collide in one image, such as with Claude Muncaster, a famous maritime painter born in West Chiltington.

His painting of the South Downs looking towards Amberley is on display.

This exhibition is remarkable in that it makes the visitor return to places they have seen with a new vision. The artists have captured what they have missed and it provides an ideal opportunity to re-explore. This summer Drawn to the Heart of Sussex is an ideal exhibition for both ‘staycation’ and tourist.

The exhibition runs until August 31, admission free.

Horsham Museum is open 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, closed bank holidays.