Life and Times of Old Town Hall custodian

Portrait of Dan Roberts by local artist John Wakefield.
Portrait of Dan Roberts by local artist John Wakefield.

Dan Roberts lived from 1757-1831 and became the custodian of the Town Hall for the Duke of Norfolk. Mr Roberts was also the Town Crier.

He lived through some very dramatic times; he was born the year after Mozart, and by the time of his death the French Revolution had come and gone, and so had Napoleon.

In the year 1812 the Duke of Norfolk had the Town Hall rebuilt.

The only part of the present building that would have been familiar to Dan Roberts is the front of the hall, which was retained when the Town Hall was rebuilt in 1888, thanks to the efforts of Robert Hurst and the Board of Health.

A portrait of Dan Roberts was made during his life time by the father of the famous folk singer Henry Burstow who included the portrait in his book Reminiscences of Horsham.

Mr Burstow also provides a very clear description of him, “He was always dressed in the most magnificent clothes; a long frock coat, with a deep red collar and gold buttons down the front, plush breeches, black shoes with silver buckles and a black pot hat.

It was a splendid attire and made him quite the most gorgeous person the town had ever seen.”

Dan Roberts was very proud of his large nose, which won him numerous competitions.

Dan Roberts’ ghost is said to be the only benevolent ghost in the country waiting for the day when the hall is returned to its former glory.

Ghosts don’t usually get to be dressed so well!

In this extract from Dan Roberts’ Dream, the ghost, Dan Roberts, sets out his feelings about the Town Hall to Robin Aide: “Young man, I know and appreciate the skills and abilities of the Victorian era, but remember I have been able to travel through many time cycles.

“With myself keeping a watchful eye over proceedings, the Victorians built the hall as it stands today.

“We were very aware we should keep future developments in mind.

“Good acoustics are something to treasure; look at the examples we have in the cathedrals around the country today.

“We saw that the day would come when this place would no longer be suitable for assizes and the like. I do not come from the Victorian era!

“I come from an earlier period; the Georgian period, when the likes of George the second, and George the third were on the throne.

“Though great builders, the Victorians are too materialistic for me, and your age, well it’s even worse.

“That is why I should like your age to take advantage of the great gift you have in this hall.”

(Dan Roberts’ Dream ©2005)