The object of Rowlands Castle Heritage Centre, as stated in its registered Constitution, is to establish and maintain a museum in Rowlands Castle in order to advance the education of the public in the history and heritage of the village, its former inhabitants and the surrounding area.
Our Mission Statement is to ‘Preserve, Record and Prepare’. We believe this means looking after and cherishing artefacts and archive from the past, while noting and measuring aspects of today, so that we may be more aware of the continual changes going on around us. Both ‘preserving’ and ‘recording’ will encourage us to be more prepared for and perhaps more responsive to future opportunities and threats.
Rowlands Castle is a dynamic community whose residents have expressed a high level of satisfaction with the village as a place to live. They also value and are interested in protecting the surrounding countryside. The Heritage Centre, as with the Rowlands Castle Association from which it originates, will contribute further to this important sense of local identity and community.
The Heritage Centre will have the civil Parish of Rowlands Castle, including Finchdean, as its main area of interest. The northern half of the Parish is formally included in the South Downs National Park.
However, the entrance to the neighbouring, historic Stansted Estate – formally in West Sussex – is adjacent to the centre of the village. Residents work – or are attendants at Stansted House – as well as enjoy relaxing in the forested grounds of the estate. Licence has been exercised, therefore, to include Stansted and nearby farms as well as the village of Forestside, within the ambit of the Heritage Centre.
Furthermore, noting that the regular issues of the RCA Magazine highlights ‘Village & Valley’ as a slogan for its area of interest, then geographically, the valley, splitting in to two at Finchdean, extends northwards either side of Chalton, into the Downs – more noticeable when the seasonal streams are flowing, This suggests that the historic village of Charlton with its picturesque church, and the nearby Butser Ancient Farm – described as an experimental archaeological and educational, site in the heart of the South Downs – should also be included in our area of interest.
How will it develop?
The website represents the first step towards the larger project of forming a Village Heritage Centre or museum. The project has been started under the auspices of the Rowlands Castle Association (RCA). The Heritage Centre has since become independent, is a registered charity, and with its own membership and volunteers, bank account and possibly space to store the archive, hold meetings, and offer displays and presentations.
What is in it?
The website offers the opportunity to integrate and display the embryonic archive – historic, environmental, social and economic – that has evolved. As the community of Rowlands Castle grows, it spontaneously creates material of interest to future generations. At the moment, apart from the archive from larger, well organised groups such as the Rowlands Castle Association or Golf Club, archive material is being assembled by individual residents, sometimes being lost through neglect, or by residents moving away or dying.
Who is it for?
The target populations for the website are, firstly its residents, secondly visitors, thirdly and importantly younger people, fourthly ‘expert’ inquirers, and lastly by linking with the County Archives and other local museums, wider society.
The Heritage Centre represents a coordinated attempt to provide a ‘one-stop shop’, or single, central home for archive and memorabilia which is of interest and value to the local community.
It will help the community become more aware of its past, and to prepare for its future.
This article was first published in 2017 and revised in January 2020 to extend our area of interest.”