I was so pleased to hear that there is a proposal to have a Blue Plaque installed on the wall next to Marks and Spencer’s store in swan walk, Horsham, in remembrance of the Capitol theatre which used to stand on this site.
It was still there when I moved to Horsham 42 years ago.
This and several other ‘Blue Flash’ theatres in Sussex were initiated by Major Rupert Middleton to give employment to returning ex-servicemen after the First World War who found there were few jobs available.
A lot of these men had been tradesmen in their civilian life prior to 1914 when jobs were plentiful so their employment building these theatres was a godsend, especially as they were all Sussex Regiment veterans.
It is hard nowadays to imagine how hard life for them was in 1918 - no benefits system and very little compensation for wartime injuries. Apparently, the distribution of food was very disorganised during that war (it improved during WWII) so a war veteran’s homecoming was placing him a hopeless position.
Maj Middleton created the Blue Flash Company using the blue flash from the Sussex Regiment’s insignia.
I know of several like-minded people who organised this type of venture to help ex-servicemen to earn a wage and keep their dignity, eg, Ashted Potters bought in the pottery in the white which these men decorated and sold. Also, in the village of Newdigate in Surrey where I grew up a Colonel French started up a cider and chutney making business for the same reason. I have an inscribed cider flagon and Newdigate chutney jar.
The Capitol theatre in Horsham was a wonderful place. Built in the Italian style, just walking up to the front door you were transported into a magical world.
I used to take my son and his friends to pantomimes there and he remembers the feeling of excitement, especially going up the staircase before the performance.
It reminded me of when my aunt used to take me to the Grand Theatre in Croydon as a child in the late 1940s.
I feel that a Blue Plaque is very relevant now, especially as we will be commemorating, next year, the end of World War One.
The building and running of the Capitol theatre gave hope to the returning heroes of the Sussex Regiment so why not let us remember it.
For further details visit the Blue Flash Music Trust’s website at www.blueflashmusictrust.org.uk/
Dorking Road, Warnham
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