Although Horsham Football Club can trace its roots back to 1871, the playing of matches depended entirely on the availability of enough players to form a side and it wasn’t until the club reformed in 1881 that fixtures were played on a more regular basis.

A founding member of the Sussex County FA and the West Sussex Senior League, of which the club were crowned champions three years running at the start of the 20th century, progress continued to be made as Horsham secured Queen Street as its permanent home in 1904 where they would remain until 2008.

The first half of the 1920s was a lean period until a fourth West Sussex Senior League triumph saw them invited to join the Sussex County League in 1926, heralding a golden era for the club. Six times the County League title was won during the 1930s, with the side regularly scoring over one hundred goals in a season, while more silverware was added by virtue of the Sussex RUR Cup (seven times) and the Sussex Senior Cup (twice).

Horsham won the first post-war title, too, in 1947, the RUR Cup in 1946, 1949 and 1951, and the Sussex Senior Cup in 1950. In 1947/48 the club reached the First Round Proper of the FA Cup for the first time, taking a first minute lead against Notts County before losing 9-1. In 1951, the club became members of the Metropolitan & District League and won the title in their first season, finishing above the ‘A’ sides of several professional clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall and Brighton & Hove Albion. But as the league became stronger, Horsham struggled to make an impact and after finishing bottom of the table in 1957 they quit the league and joined the Corinthian League where they began a period of consistent progress, finishing 13th, 9th, 8th, and 5th before their best ever season in 1961/62 when 3rd place was achieved.

In 1963, Horsham found themselves placed in Division One of the Athenian League following the decision to absorb the Corinthian and Delphian leagues to create a new three-tiered structure of the Athenian. After a mass exodus of players, Horsham were forced to rebuild with a young, local team that would peak at 4th place in 1964/65 only to become the first Horsham side ever to be relegated the following season. Under coach Pat Tobin, the team was rebuilt once more and this reaped dividends in 1966/67 when the club hosted Swindon Town in the first round of the FA Cup in front of a record 7,134 crowd.

But this was a frustrating period of near misses for the club who finished 3rd, 3rd and 5th and suffered three consecutive defeats in the final of the Sussex Senior Cup. By now nicknamed the Hornets, following a supporters’ competition, the club appointed Roy Osborne as their new manager and the change brought immediate success with the championship of Division Two achieved in 1969/70, the Division One title in 1972/73, and the Sussex Senior Cup in 1972.

Instead of taking their place in the Athenian League Premier Division, Horsham became members of the Isthmian League when that competition expanded to two divisions in 1973/74, finishing 8th in its first season and rounding the season off in style by winning the Sussex Senior Cup. Now under the guidance of Tony Elkins-Green, 1976/77 saw the Hornets finish in a best ever 6th place but financial problems threatened the club’s existence and only the dedicated work of chairman Frank King saw the club saved from bankruptcy and dissolution. However, it couldn’t prevent a young amateur team from finishing bottom of Division One in 1979/80 and the club was relegated to the new Division Two. Horsham endured some dark times under numerous managers in the 1980s, finishing bottom of the league in 1983/84 and 1989/90, when only a successful two-legged relegation play-off against Letchworth Garden City maintained the club’s Isthmian status.

Progress was made under the management of Peter Evans from 1990, during which time the club reached the final qualifying round of the FA Cup, though under his replacement, John Yems, Horsham once again propped up the entire league in 1993/4 leading to the appointment of former captain Mark Dunk as manager. He led his side to the Division Three championship in 1995/96, narrowly missing out on a second successive promotion before departing in 1997.

Three years of lower mid-table obscurity followed before former Crawley Town boss John Maggs took over as manager in January 2000, taking a struggling side out of the relegation zone to Division Two runners-up in three seasons and a play-off final appearance against Bromley in 2004/05. Promotion to the Premier Division was achieved the following season with another runners-up finish and the club went on to establish itself as a consistent performer, even challenging for a place in Conference South in 2007/8 before ending up 11th. The Hornets made history in 2007/08 by reaching the second round proper of the FA Cup and taking eventual League One champions Swansea City to a replay, with both matches shown live on Sky TV.

Having sold their ground for redevelopment at the end of the season, Horsham played at Worthing during 2008/09 and again reached the fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup where they took Conference side Stevenage Borough to a replay before ending an injury-ravaged year in thirteenth place. Season 2009/10 saw a return to Horsham, entering into a groundshare agreement with their old neighbours Horsham YMCA as their quest for a new ground continued, but fortunes were on the wane and an acute overhaul of the club’s finances in 2011 resulted in the departure of Maggs and virtually the entire playing squad.

A turbulent 2011/12 found the club under three different managers, with Simon Colbran ultimately unable to prevent the side from returning to Division One South. A season of stability followed, with the Hornets ending the campaign in 15th and claiming the Brighton Charity Cup for a second successive season. The club entered a new chapter in November 2013 when, following Colbran’s departure, long-serving player Gary Charman was appointed as first team manager. Despite steering the club to 16th place, a poor run of results the following season led to him being replaced by two more former players, Anthony Storey and Cliff Cant, in January 2015. That same month, the club’s misery was compounded when an application to build a new home on the outskirts of the town was unanimously rejected by Horsham District Council. Despite some impressive initial results, Storey and Cant were unable to save the club from relegation so former East Preston manager Dominic di Paola was appointed towards the end of the campaign with a view to rebuilding a side capable of competing in the Sussex County League for the first time since 1951.

After a season-long battle with Eastbourne Town, Horsham took the title by eleven points to secure a record-equalling 8th County League title, thus securing an immediate return to the Isthmian League. During that 2015/16 campaign, the club recorded a club record 97 points whilst conceding the fewest goals in their history (22). Off the pitch the club finally got the news it longed for when, on March 21st 2017, a revised ground application was submitted and overwhelmingly approved by HDC, meaning work could finally begin on constructing a new community stadium off the Worthing Road.

With the arrangement at YMCA having come to an end, Horsham moved into the Lancing headquarters of the Sussex FA in the summer of 2017 but a crippling injury list put paid to any pre-season expectations of improving the club’s position, with the lowpoint of the season coming in an 8-0 reverse at Cray Wanderers in what is the club’s heaviest ever FA Trophy defeat. Yet that result proved the catalyst for the side to kick on and only six of the next nineteen matches ended in defeat, a run that lifted Horsham to 11th in the table, only to fall away again in the closing months of the season before ending in 15th spot, one better than the previous year.

Hopes that the club might start the 2018/19 campaign in the new ground went unfulfilled but the disappointment didn’t seem to affect the players who turned their temporary home into something of a fortress, losing just four matches in all competitions. From early December, the Hornets never dropped below fourth place, eventually finishing as runners-up to Cray Wanderers and securing their deserved promotion via a play-off final victory over Ashford United to return to the Premier Division after an absence of seven years.

However, the joy of this success was in stark contrast to that felt when Club President Frank King passed away just weeks before his beloved Hornets finally took ownership of their fabulous new ground. But the players did his memory proud, confounding expectations by occupying one of the play-off spots for much of 2019/2020, topping the division on more than one occasion, whilst also reaching the last four of the Isthmian League Cup for the first time, only for the campaign – as it would also be in 2020/21 – declared null and void due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Although it ultimately counted for nothing, their standing of 6th place at the premature conclusion to the season represented the highest finish in the club’s history

The 2021/22 season was the first fully completed campaign at the new ground and although a lengthy injury list soon put to any hopes of another promotion, there was plenty to celebrate in the cups as the Hornets overcame the odds to battle through to only their fourth appearance in the FA Cup first round. A 2-0 loss in Cumbria put paid to the heroics but the team would end the season with silverware after beating Margate 4-0 to earn the Isthmian League Cup (Velocity Trophy) for the first time in their history.

By contrast, last season produced little cup success although early exits in each of the FA Cup, FA Trophy and Velocity Trophy focussed the minds on an improved league placing, which was achieved with a best-ever 7th. In addition, the club topped the division’s attendance charts with an average of 920.

Honours 

West Sussex Senior League 1899-1900, 1900-01, 1925-26

Sussex County League 1931-32, 1932-33, 1934-35, 1935-36, 1936-37, 1937-38, 1946-47

Metropolitan League 1951-52

Athenian League Division Two 1969-70

Athenian League Division One 1972-73

Isthmian League Division Three 1995-96

Isthmian League South-East Play-Off winners 2018-19

Southern Combination Football League Premier Division 2015-16

(Isthmian League) Velocity Trophy 2021-22

Brighton Charity Cup 1967-68, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2011-12, 2012-13

Sussex RUR Cup 1900, 1931, 1932, 1934 (joint), 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938 (joint), 1946, 1949 (joint), 1951, 1952, 1957

Sussex Floodlight Cup 1977-78, 2001-02

Sussex Senior Cup 1933-34, 1938-39, 1949-50, 1953-54, 1971-72, 1973-74, 1975-76, 2024-25

FA Cup First Round Proper 1947-48, 1966-67, 2021-22

FA Cup Second Round Proper 2007-08, 2023-24

Record attendance (Queen Street) 7,134 v Swindon Town FA Cup 1st round 26th November 1966
Record attendance (Hop Oast) 3,000 v Barnsley FA Cup 1st round replay 14th November 2023

Record transfer fee paid £2,500 to Lewes for Lee Farrell, July 2007

Record transfer fee received £10,000 from Tonbridge Angels for Carl Rook, December 2008

Players progressing to football league:
George Cox
 (Arsenal)
Peter Small (Luton Town, Leicester City, Nottingham Forest)
Darren Freeman (Gillingham, Brentford, Fulham, Brighton)
Jamie Taylor (Dagenham & Redbridge)
Jamie Ndah (Torquay United)
James Tilley (AFC Wimbledon)
Sam Howes (Leyton Orient)
Harry Griffiths (AFC Wimbledon)