Horsham church and cinema taken over by the Sun

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There’s nothing like browsing through a box of old photos to turn up a few gems. This one shows an aerial view of Horsham and, while instantly recognisable, it brings home just how much the town centre has changed.

The picture is undated but appears to be from the 1970s.

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The spire of St Mark’s Church is easy to spot, though it no doubt looks strange to the younger generation, who weren’t around when the site was developed in the early 1990s.

St Mark’s opened in North Street in 1841 and was flanked to the north and south by the boys’ and girls’ National schools.

One hundred and 50 years later it was gone, having been demolished in 1988 to make way for the Sun Alliance’s sprawling new office complex, known as St Mark’s Court, which made an instant and very visual impact on the town centre.

The current St Mark’s now stands in North Heath Lane, while all that is left of the Victorian building is its spire.

Other old landmarks in the picture include the Carfax, in the foreground, which at the time was a double ring of roads which was nowhere near as pedestrian-friendly as today’s layout. It was partially closed to traffic in 1992.

Close to the Carfax – to the bottom left of the photo, across from St Mark’s – stood the Odeon Cinema with its rocket-like neon sign. This fantastic picture was taken by John Maltby when it opened in 1936.

According to the Cinema Treasures website, the cinema opened on Wednesday October 7 1936 with a showing of Little Lord Fauntleroy, starring Freddie Bartholomew.

It was designed by architect George Coles.

Richard Roper, writing for Cinema Treasures, stated: “With the closing of the old Capitol Cinema in Horsham in 1954, Odeon took the opportunity to upgrade the Odeon and installed a wide screen with its first Cinemascope film screened in 1955.

“However, audiences continued to decline and the Odeon was one of the weaker Odeons that were sold off to Classic Cinemas chain and on December 9 1967 it was re-named the Classic Cinema.”

It was demolished in 1983 to make way for the Sun Alliance offices at Stains Court, which opened in 1987.

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