LETTER: Plaque reveals forgotten history

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In a recent edition of the County Times a reader suggested that a spelling error has occurred on the West Street plaque by Lloyds Bank in Horsham.

In fact the word is correct and the plaque opens up a fascinating but often forgotten part of British history.

When Charles I was beheaded and Oliver Cromwell came to power the royal court was destroyed. The future Charles II fled to France where he was introduced to the latest fashions of clothing and behaviour.

When Charles II came to the throne he was appalled at how uncouth the British had become. The booksellers of London imported a number of French manuals on behaviour to educate the British court.

And what the Court did trickled down to the lower social classes, many of whom could not read French. English translations of these guidebooks were known as Customary books.

By the 1690s Horsham was on the up and to avoid social death the people of Horsham were buying such books.

The kinds of advice contained in the books included no belching at the dinner table, no throwing bones from the table to your dog, and no blowing your nose on your sleeve in public.

The West Street plaques tell many fascinating stories about the town’s history which could only be captured in 20 words or less due to space constraints. To read the full story pick up a copy of West Street: A Biography, on sale at Horsham Museum.

JEREMY KNIGHT

Museum and heritage officer, Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, Causeway, Horsham