Horsham Museum set to host flagship RSPCA exhibition

Horsham Museum set to host flagship RSPCA exhibition

A new exhibition at Horsham Museum is set to place a spotlight on the unique history of the RSPCA - and the charity's 50 year association with the West Sussex town.

The RSPCA has teamed up with the Horsham Museum, and Horsham District Council, to launch the new exhibition - kicking off tomorrow (Saturday 26 November).

As the animal welfare charity continues preparations for its 200th anniversary in 2024, the exhibition will look at the RSPCA's work in rescuing and rehabilitating animals, campaigning for positive change for animals, and the charity's journey from its 19th century origins to the present day.

The exhibition will demonstrate key milestones in the history of the RSPCA, over 12 display panels - including a focus on the charity's unique remit, the work of its frontline officers during the two World Wars, and the historic 'Band of Mercy' movement; a youth organisation formed in 1875 to campaign against animal cruelty.

Other displays at the exhibition will showcase the RSPCA's work rescuing animals during the devastating floods on England's east coast in 1953 - with water rescue work still a key part of the work of the RSPCA's inspectorate in 2022.

The RSPCA is the world's oldest and largest animal welfare charity, and works to improve animal welfare across England and Wales - but has "many roots" in Horsham; which is a story which will also be told through the exhibition at the museum.

Headquarters for the charity were previously based at the former Manor House in Horsham, opposite the site of the museum, where the charity moved in 1972 - five decades ago. RSPCA moved to its Southwater base in Horsham, on Wilberforce Way, in 2001 - and has long been an important employer in the town.

Items on display will include wall panels, historic magazines, collection boxes, horse brasses and facsimile copies of historic documents from the RSPCA archives - including the charity's first ever minute book.

One of the star attractions at the exhibition will be the original Queen Victoria gilt silver medal produced for the RSPCA in 1882, and recently acquired by the charity's archives.

The exhibition will run until 15 April, and the museum is free for the public to enter. It's open every Tuesday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm, as well as across Bank Holiday weekends.

Phil Browning, who works at the RSPCA's archive, said:

We're really excited for the launch of this unique and very special exhibition at Horsham Museum.

As we gear up for our 200th anniversary in 2024, the RSPCA has an amazing story to tell - and it's always incredible to look back at the vast improvements to animal welfare across England and Wales since that date; and the countless animals our dedicated officers and frontline teams have rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed over the decades.

It's also important to acknowledge the RSPCA's many roots in the town of Horsham - where we have been based for some 50 years. As such, this exhibition - at Horsham Museum - also marks what an important organisation the RSPCA has been for the town, its communities and people.

We're so grateful to how positively Horsham District Council and Horsham Museum have embraced this idea since we approached them - and we'd urge people from across West Sussex and beyond to take advantage of the free entry and enjoy the exhibition between now and next April.

Nikki Caxton, museum curator, added:

The RSPCA's history is such an exciting story for Horsham Museum to bring to life and it has been wonderful to have an opportunity to spend time exploring the RSPCA archives.

It has been a real pleasure to research how the charity has developed over the last 200 years, and I am looking forward to welcoming visitors to the exhibition.

More information on the history of the RSPCA can be found here.