Few memorable moments in Horsham’s recent history have captured the imagination to the same degree as Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to the town.
Today (Wednesday September 9), Queen Elizabeth II becomes the UK’s longest serving monarch - surpassing her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years, seven months and two days.
Her Majesty has visited Horsham twice, in 1978 and 2003, and was welcomed by excited crowds on each occasion.
She paid her first visit the year after the Silver Jubilee celebrations, where she appropriately visited the school that bears her name.
And 12 years ago a Royal motorcade passed through the town centre in between the Queen’s visits to the Forum and newly refurbished Capitol Theatre.
Gary Shipton, Editor In Chief of the County Times group, was a guest at The Capitol during the Queen’s visit.
He recalled: “The streets of Horsham were packed with well-wishers cheering Her Majesty throughout her day in the town.
“It was the culmination of an extraordinarily exciting and creative period for Horsham.
“Not only was The Capitol restored and transformed but The Forum and The Pavilions were also developed - making Horsham one of the best places in Britain in which to live and work.
“The Queen seemed hugely impressed by everything she saw and everyone she met.
“This was a day the town would never forget and the County Times marked it with a souvenir supplement.”
A week after the Royal visit on October 24 2003, the County Times’ front page headline was ‘Crowning glory’ and the edition included a full-page souvenir poster to mark the occasion.
Street cleaning staff began working in the town centre at 4am on the day, ensuring the town looked its best after months of meticulous preparation.
Queen Elizabeth, wearing a pink coat and matching headwear, and Prince Philip first attended Christ’s Hospital School to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the signing of the school’s Royal Charter.
The Queen was welcomed to the town centre by Vivien Lyth, the chairman of Horsham District Council, and more than 2,000 onlookers watched her unveil the sundial sculpture in the Forum.
Thousands watched a historic scene as the Royal procession drove through the Carfax en route to the Capitol.
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “It looked like the whole town was out on the streets. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the crowds in the town centre.”
She was heard to announce ‘it’s splendid!’ as she stepped out of the theatre.
She and Prince Philip left via helicopter from Horsham Park.
In 1978, the Queen attended the recently constructed Queen Elizabeth II School in Comptons Lane, which was built in the Silver Jubilee year.
During the visit, Queen Elizabeth wore a big fur hat and an orange coat and visited each of the classrooms.
Former headmaster Wyn Davies was the Queen’s guide and talked to her about the school’s various facilities.
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