HORSHAM is a busy little Sussex town that combines its old character as a smugglers’ haunt and late 18th-century garrison town with plenty of interesting little shops and local businesses as well as some bigger high-street names. It has a population of 45,000, which is expanding. It is in a marvellous position, with a good train service to London, but with house prices lower than they are across the border in Surrey. Chichester and Guildford are close enough for theatres, though Horsham has its own small theatre, and the sea is 20 miles away over the South Downs. You can go to the races at Goodwood, show-jumping at Hickstead, and there are golf clubs at Pulborough, Mannings Heath, Pease Pottage, West Chiltington and Ockley. It also has a public school, Christ’s Hospital for boys and girls, where there is a separate railway station.
Some of the houses in the town are collector’s items. Walk down Pump Alley and into the Causeway, for example, and you find a street that is much as it was 300 years ago. These houses, with bulging walls and uneven roofs, rarely come on to the market. For something more family friendly – a detached five-bedroom house near the station with access to good schools – you could pay £700,000. A small modern two-bedroom house would cost around £175,000. There are council estates to the east and west of the town.
Local villages also maintain strong links with the past. Slinfold, to the east, has a mix of older properties, including Tudor and Georgian, many of them listed, as well as Victorian houses. It still has a village shop, a pub and a school. A six-bedroom, three-bathroom period house with country views can set you back £800,000. Closer to Horsham, separated from it by the A24, is Broadbridge Heath, which has a sports centre, a Tesco, and Field Place, the birthplace of the poet Percy Shelley, occasionally open to the public.
Further south is Itchingfield, which has an intriguing priest’s house attached to the tiny church, and Southwater, where a village centre redevelopment has created a square with public art, surrounded by shops, a post office and restaurant. Moving west you come to Nuthurst, a delightful village with 16th-century houses and a timber-framed inn. A modern-five-bedroom detached house here would cost £500,000. Lower Beeding is small and elongated. The big house, Leonardslee, has rhododendron gardens that are open to the public from April to October. The countryside lapses back into heathland here in St Leonard’s Forest, which covers 12,000 acres of old Royal hunting ground, once thought to have harboured dragons and to which (within living memory) pigs were driven up from Brighton to snuffle for acorns. To the south-west is Cowfold, which has lost some of its character through being a junction for the A272 and the A281, but it is still well-liked. The Farm Shop sells apple wine made by the monks of the nearby Carthusian monastery. A period two-bedroom terraced cottage here might be bought for £170,000.
North of the Forest is Rusper, an enchanting village with a church dating from the 13th century, a high street lined with black-and-white timber buildings and two pubs, The Plough and The Star, which are centuries old. A four-bedroom converted former dairy with a barn and paddock could go for more than £1m. On this side of Horsham you have to beware the intermittent noise of aircraft from Gatwick.