The Horsham Museum Society was originally founded as a subgroup of the Free Christian Church in 1893. However, it was not until 1929 that the museum found a permanent home in the basement of Park House. Until this time quarterly meetings as well as exhibitions were held in the Free Christian Church. Such an arrangement was not conducive to enlarging the collection of paintings and it was only after 1929, with the benefit of additional space, that larger framed paintings could be acquired and permanently displayed. The most notable gift at this time was ‘Whither’ by Bainbridge Copnall. The work was received with mixed blessings, as a number of the committee members wanted to use the reverse of the canvas for a new picture. It was not until 1995/1996 that this painting was finally put on public display.
In 1941, the Museum Society relocated to its current home in the Causeway. Only a couple of rooms were allocated for its use, as the remainder of the rabbit-warren of rooms were used for civil defence purposes.
Horsham Museum Society did not adopt a formal policy for collecting artworks, but like other museums it obtained items from notable families and civic dignitaries as well as helping to ‘rescue’ paintings which would otherwise have been discarded. As an accession register was only initiated in 1990, no records relating to these early works are available. This fact accounts for the lack of information available for a number of portraits in this catalogue (the paintings in question can be identified by the ‘X’ which precedes their accession number).
In 1966, Horsham Museum Society decided that the collection was too large for them to run. An agreement was finally signed in 1974 with Horsham District Council whereby the museum collection would be loaned to the council, who would in turn be responsible for its management.
As a general rule, most paintings over the last 20 years or so have been acquired through purchase rather than donation. The museum has also been fortunate enough to acquire some pieces at favourable prices directly from artists. In the case of the oils by Robert Green, a noted local artist, we were fortunate to acquire examples of his work through direct donation, for which we are very grateful. His work would otherwise have been unrepresented in the collection as to purchase them would have fallen beyond the museum’s budget. Another local amateur artist who is represented in the collection is Jack Carter who ran a greengrocer’s shop in the town and whose flower paintings have a strong local following. The collection also holds numerous works by T. B. Mills, an amateur historian who painted a number of houses in his village of Cowfold. His paintings very much reflect the museum’s priority of obtaining artwork which provides an important local historical record.
Horsham has produced a couple of noted artists. Philip Hugh Padwick was a popular artist in the 1950s, who is represented in the collection by four landscape oils. Padwick’s colleague, Bainbridge Copnall, was a prolific artist whose pictures adorned many a home in Horsham. The most famous artist’s name connected to Horsham is Sir John Everett Millais’ son, John G. Millais, who moved to Horsham in 1899. Whilst he and his son Raoul were talented artists in their own right, the museum unfortunately holds no oils by them although it does have a bronze and some chalk drawings.
Jeremy Knight, Curator and Heritage Officer, Horsham District Council
Text source: PCF / Horsham District Council: Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
This description was originally written for a catalogue.