Gallery: New exhibition looks at working life in Horsham

Horsham Museum
Horsham Museum

You wouldn’t expect to meet someone called Joan Scientist, Frederick Typewriter, or Pete Bricklayer, yet surnames such as Fletcher, Cook and Butcher seem perfectly normal.

However, these are all the names of jobs that people did in the medieval period that have been adopted as surnames.

Work is such a core part of many people’s lives and can be integral to a person’s identity and sense of self-worth.

Yet All Work and No Play is the first time Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery has held an exhibition on the topic of work.

This fascinating and eye-opening exhibition reveals the wide variety of roles that Victorian women undertook in Horsham, ranging from baking to brick making and beyond.

The exhibition also looks at apprenticeships, a topic that has been in the news recently.

On display are some of the legal contracts that set out the agreement between master and apprentice, as well as William Hogarth’s biting morality tale of the apprentice gone bad.

Hogarth’s tale was used by masters throughout Britain to keep their charges on the straight and narrow, and to instil personal and work discipline in young apprentices.

According to the architect of Royal and Sun Alliance insurance building, an “office should be a theatre for the occupants – a place where they have a chance to actually look good, feel good, dress up”.

However, it is doubtful that he had considered those workers who wore the “stylish” uniforms on display in the exhibition, such as those worn by a postman, a nurse and a maid.

Uniforms could also indicate the high status of the wearer, as exemplified by our portrait of Sir Cecil Hurst in his judicial robes.

Other examples legal costume, such as barrister’s wigs, wig curlers and an 18th century wig hanger are also on display in All Work and No Play.

For many people today work is focused on the keyboard, yet its predecessor the typewriter is only 140 years old. A range of examples of this ingenious technology are on display in the exhibition, many of which were rescued from the scrapheap as businesses modernised.

There are many unusual objects related to local trades, such as a table used to sell cakes on the Carfax, a saddlers stool, a tradesman’s bike, and the day book of an 18th century solicitor, as well as items relating to the town’s notable trades such as brickmaking, engineering and brewing.

Using a wealth of photographs, documents, objects, and paintings, this exhibition reveals the unusual, interesting and entertaining facets of all types of work.

All Work and No Play is open now and closes on March 21, admission free.

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