Crawley

Site Map

Crawley is a town and local government district with Borough status in West Sussex, England. It is 28 miles (45 km) south of Charing Cross, 18 miles (29 km) north of Brighton and Hove, and 32 miles (51 km) northeast of the county town of Chichester, covers an area of 17.36 square miles (44.96 km2) and had a population of 99,744 at the time of the 2001 Census.

The area has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and was a centre of ironworking in Roman times. Crawley developed slowly as a market town from the 13th century, serving the surrounding villages in the Weald; its location on the main road from London to Brighton brought a passing trade, encouraging the development of coaching inns. It was connected to the railway network in the 1840s.

Gatwick Airport, now one of Britain’s busiest international airports, opened on the edge of the town in the 1940s, encouraging commercial and industrial growth. After the Second World War, the British Government planned to move large numbers of people and jobs out of London and into new towns around South East England. The New Towns Act 1946 designated Crawley as the site of one of these. A master plan was developed for the establishment of new residential, commercial, industrial and civic areas, and rapid development greatly increased the size and population of the town in a few decades.

The town comprises 13 residential neighbourhoods based around the core of the old market town, and separated by main roads and railway lines. The nearby communities of Ifield, Pound Hill and Three Bridges were absorbed into the new town at different stages of its development. As of 2009, expansion is planned in the west and northwest of the town, in co-operation with Horsham District Council. Economically, the town has developed into the main centre of industry and employment between London and the south coast of England. A large industrial area supports industries and services, many of which are connected with the airport, and the commercial and retail sectors continue to expand.

The area may have been settled during the Mesolithic period: locally manufactured flints of the Horsham Culture type have been found to the southwest of the town. Tools and burial mounds from the Neolithic period, and burial mounds and a sword from the Bronze Age, have also been discovered. Crawley is on the western edge of the High Weald, which produced iron for more than 2,000 years from the Iron Age onwards. Goffs Park—now a recreational area in the south of the town—was the site of two late Iron Age furnaces. Ironworking and mineral extraction continued throughout Roman times, particularly in the Broadfield area where many furnaces were built.

In the 5th century, Saxon settlers named the area Crow’s Leah—meaning a crow-infested clearing, or Crow’s Wood. This name evolved over time, and the present spelling appeared by the early 14th century. By this time, nearby settlements were more established: the Saxon church at Worth, for example, dates from between 950 and 1050 AD.

Although Crawley itself is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, the nearby settlements of Ifield and Worth are recorded. The first written record of Crawley dates from 1202, when a licence was issued by King John for a weekly market on Wednesdays. Crawley grew slowly in importance over the next few centuries, but was boosted in the 18th century by the construction of the turnpike road between London and Brighton. When this was completed in 1770, travel between the newly fashionable seaside resort and London became safer and quicker, and Crawley (located approximately halfway between the two) prospered as a coaching halt.

By 1839 it offered almost an hourly service to both destinations. The George, a timber-framed house dating from the 15th century, expanded to become a large coaching inn, taking over adjacent buildings. Eventually an annexe had to be built in the middle of the wide High Street; this survived until the 1930s. The original building has become the George Hotel, with conference facilities and 84 bedrooms; it retains many period features including an iron fireback.

Crawley’s oldest church is St John the Baptist’s, between the High Street and the Broadway. It is said to have 13th century origins, but there has been much rebuilding (especially in the 19th century) and the oldest part remaining is the south wall of the nave, which is believed to be 14th century. The church has a 15th-century tower (rebuilt in 1804) which originally contained four bells cast in 1724. Two were replaced by Thomas Lester of London in 1742; but in 1880 a new set of eight bells were cast and installed by the Croydon-based firm Gillett, Bland & Company.

The Brighton Main Line was the first railway line to serve the Crawley area. A station was opened at Three Bridges (originally known as East Crawley) in the summer of 1841. Crawley railway station, at the southern end of the High Street, was built in 1848 when the Horsham branch was opened from Three Bridges to Horsham. A line was built eastwards from Three Bridges to East Grinstead in 1855. Three Bridges had become the hub of transport in the area by this stage: one-quarter of its population was employed in railway jobs by 1861 (mainly at the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway’s railway works near the station). The Longley company—one of South East England’s largest building firms in the late 19th century, responsible for buildings including Christ’s Hospital school and the King Edward VII Sanatorium in Midhurst—moved to a site next to Crawley station in 1881. In 1898 more than 700 people were employed at the site.

There was a major expansion in housebuilding in the late 19th century. An area known as “New Town” (unrelated to the postwar developments) was created around the railway level crossing and down the Brighton Road; the West Green area, west of the High Street on the way to Ifield, was built up; and housing spread south of the Horsham line for the first time, into what is now Southgate. The population reached 4,433 in 1901, compared to 1,357 a century earlier. In 1891, a racecourse was opened on farmland at Gatwick. Built to replace a steeplechase course at Waddon near Croydon in Surrey, it was used for both steeplechase and flat racing, and held the Grand National during the years of the First World War. The course had its own railway station on the Brighton Main Line.

In the early 20th century, many of the large country estates in the area, with their mansions and associated grounds and outbuildings, were split up into smaller plots of land, attracting haphazard housing development and small farms. By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Crawley had grown into a small but prosperous town, serving a wide rural area and those passing through on the A23 London–Brighton road. Three-quarters of the population had piped water supplies, all businesses and homes had electricity, and piped gas and street lighting had been in place for 50 years. An airfield was opened in 1930 on land near the racecourse. This was a private concern until the Second World War when it was claimed by the Royal Air Force.

In May 1946, the New Towns Act of 1946 identified Crawley as a suitable location for a New Town; but it was not officially designated as such until 9 January 1947. The 5,920 acres (2,396 ha) of land set aside for the new town were split across the county borders between East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey. Architect Thomas Bennett was appointed chairman of the Development Corporation for the town. A court challenge to the designation order meant that plans were not officially confirmed until December 1947. By this time, an initial plan for the development of the area had been drawn up by Anthony Minoprio. This proposed filling in the gaps between the villages of Crawley, Ifield and Three Bridges. Bennett estimated that planning, designing and building the town, and increasing its population from the existing 9,500 to 40,000, would take 15 years.

Work began almost immediately to prepare for the expansion of the town. A full master plan was in place by 1949. This envisaged an increase in the population of the town to 50,000, residential properties in nine neighbourhoods radiating from the town centre, and a separate industrial area to the north. The neighbourhoods would consist mainly of three-bedroom family homes, with a number of smaller and larger properties. Each would be built around a centre with shops, a church, a public house, a primary school and a community centre. Secondary education was to be provided at campuses at Ifield Green, Three Bridges and Tilgate. Later, a fourth campus, in Southgate, was added to the plans.

At first, little development took place in the town centre, and residents relied on the shops and services in the existing high street. The earliest progress was in West Green, where new residents moved in during the late 1940s. In 1950 the town was visited by the then heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth, when she officially opened the Manor Royal industrial area. Building work continued throughout the 1950s in West Green, Northgate and Three Bridges, and later in Langley Green, Pound Hill and Ifield. In 1956, land at “Tilgate East” was allocated for housing use, eventually becoming the new neighbourhood of Furnace Green.

Expectations of the eventual population of the town were revised upwards several times. The 1949 master plan had allowed for 50,000 people, but this was amended to 55,000 in 1956 after the Development Corporation had successfully resisted pressure from the Minister for Town and Country Planning to accommodate 60,000. Nevertheless, plans dated 1961 anticipated growth to 70,000 by 1980, and by 1969 consideration was given to an eventual expansion of up to 120,000.

Extended shopping facilities to the east of the existing high street were provided. The first stage to open was The Broadwalk in 1954, following by the opening of the Queen’s Square development by Her Majesty The Queen in 1958. Crawley railway station was moved eastwards towards the new development.

By April 1960, when Thomas Bennett made his last presentation as chairman of the Development Corporation, the town’s population had reached 51,700; 2,289,000 square feet (212,700 m2) of factory and other industrial space had been provided; 21,800 people were employed, nearly 60% of whom worked in manufacturing industry; and only seventy people were registered as unemployed. The corporation had built 10,254 houses, and private builders provided around 1,500 more. Tenants were by then permitted to buy their houses, and 440 householders had chosen to do so by April 1960.

A new plan was put forward by West Sussex County Council in 1961. This proposed new neighbourhoods at Broadfield and Bewbush, both of which extended outside the administrative area of the then Urban District Council. Detailed plans were made for Broadfield in the late 1960s; by the early 1970s building work had begun. Further expansion at Bewbush was begun in 1974, although development there was slow. The two neighbourhoods were both larger than the original nine: together, their proposed population was 23,000. Work also took place in the area now known as Ifield West on the western fringes of the town.

By 1980, the council identified land at Maidenbower, south of the Pound Hill neighbourhood, as being suitable for another new neighbourhood, and work began in 1986. However, all of this development was undertaken privately, unlike the earlier neighbourhoods in which most of the housing was owned by the council.

In 1999, plans were announced to develop a 14th neighbourhood on land at Tinsley Green to the northeast of the town. However, these were halted when proposals for possible expansion at Gatwick Airport were announced. As of 2008, discussions are underway with Horsham District Council concerning the possible future provision of new housing on Crawley’s western fringes; much of the land proposed for development currently lies within Horsham’s administrative boundaries.

Crawley Urban District Council was formed in May 1956 from the part of the Horsham Rural District which covered the new town. The Local Government Act 1972 led to the district being reformed as a borough in April 1974, gaining a mayor for the first time.

The Urban District Council received its coat of arms from the College of Heralds in 1957. After the change to borough status a modified coat of arms, based on the original, was awarded in 1976, and presented to the council on 24 March 1977. It features a central cross on a shield, representing the town’s location at the meeting point of north–south and east–west roads. The shield bears nine martlets representing both the county of Sussex and the new town’s original nine neighbourhoods. Supporters, of an eagle and a winged lion, relate to the significance of the airport to the locality. The motto featured is I Grow and I Rejoice—a translation of a phrase from the Epistulae of Seneca the Younger.

Initially the district (and then borough) council worked with the Commission for New Towns on many aspects of development; but in 1978 many of the commission’s assets, such as housing and parks, were surrendered to the council. The authority’s boundaries were extended in 1983 to accommodate the Bewbush and Broadfield neighbourhoods.

The borough remains part of the local two-tier arrangements, with services shared with West Sussex County Council. The authority is divided into 15 wards, each of which is represented by two or three local councillors, forming a total council of 37 members. Most wards are coterminous with the borough’s neighbourhoods, but two neighbourhoods are divided: Broadfield into North and South wards, and Pound Hill into “Pound Hill North” and “Pound Hill South and Worth”. The council is elected in thirds.

Crawley lies in the Weald between the North and South Downs. Two beds of sedimentary rock meet beneath the town: the eastern neighbourhoods and the town centre lie largely on the sandstone Hastings Beds, while the rest of the town is based on Weald Clay. A geological fault running from east to west has left an area of Weald Clay (with a ridge of limestone) jutting into the Hastings Beds around Tilgate. The town has no major waterways, although a number of smaller brooks and streams are tributaries for the River Mole which rises near Gatwick Airport and flows northwards to the River Thames near Hampton Court Palace. There are several lakes at Tilgate Park and a mill pond at Ifield which was stopped to feed the Ifield Water Mill.

In 1822 Gideon Mantell, an amateur fossil collector and palaeontologist, discovered teeth, bones and other remains of what he described as “an animal of the lizard tribe of enormous magnitude”, in Tilgate Forest on the edge of Crawley. He announced his discovery in an 1825 scientific paper, giving the creature the name Iguanodon. In 1832 he discovered and named the Hylaeosaurus genus of dinosaurs after finding a fossil in the same forest.

Since the Second World War, unemployment in Crawley has been low: the rate was 1.47% of the working-age population in 2003. During the boom of the 1980s the town boasted the lowest level of unemployment in the UK. Continuous growth and investment have made Crawley one of the most important business and employment centres in the South East England region.

Crawley was already a modest industrial centre by the end of the Second World War. Building was an important trade: 800 people were employed by building and joinery firms, and two—Longley’s and Cook’s—were large enough to have their own factories. In 1949, 1,529 people worked in manufacturing: the main industries were light and precision engineering and aircraft repair. Many of the jobs in these industries were highly skilled.

Industrial development had to take place relatively soon after the new town was established because part of the Corporation’s remit was to move people and jobs out of an overcrowded and war-damaged London. Industrial jobs were needed as well as houses and shops to create a balanced community where people could settle. The Development Corporation wanted the new town to support a large and mixed industrial base, with factories and other buildings based in a single zone rather than spread throughout the town. A 267-acre (108 ha) site in the northeastern part of the development area was chosen. Its advantages included flat land with no existing development; proximity to the London–Brighton railway line, the A23 and the planned M23; space for railway sidings (which were eventually built on a much smaller scale than envisaged); and an adjacent 44-acre (18 ha) site reserved for future expansion, on the other side of the railway line (again, not used for this purpose in the end). Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) opened the first part of the industrial area on 25 January 1950; its main road was named Manor Royal, and this name eventually came to refer to the whole estate.

The Corporation stipulated that several manufacturing industries should be developed, rather than allowing one sector or firm to dominate. It did not seek to attract companies by offering financial or other incentives; instead, it set out to create the ideal conditions for industrial development to arise naturally, by providing large plots of land with room for expansion, allowing firms to build their own premises or rent ready-made buildings, and constructing a wide range of building types and sizes.

Despite the lack of direct incentives, many firms applied to move to the Manor Royal estate: it was considered such an attractive place to relocate to that the Development Corporation was able to choose between applicants to achieve the ideal mix of firms, and little advertising or promotion had to be undertaken. One year after Manor Royal was opened, eighteen firms were trading there, including four with more than 100 employees and one with more than 1,000. By 1964, businesses which had moved to the town since 1950 employed 16,000 people; the master plan had anticipated between 8,000 and 8,500. In 1978 there were 105 such firms, employing nearly 20,000 people.

The Thales Group opened a new manufacturing and office complex in Crawley in 2009. The site consolidated manufacturing and offices in the Crawley area and the south-east of England.

While most of the jobs created in the new town’s early years were in manufacturing, the tertiary sector developed strongly from the 1960s. The Manor Royal estate, with its space, proximity to Gatwick and good transport links, attracted airport-related services such as logistics, catering, distribution and warehousing; and the Corporation and private companies built offices throughout the town. Office floorspace in the town increased from 55,000 square feet (5,100 m2) in 1965 to a conservative estimate of 453,000 square feet (42,100 m2) in 1984. Major schemes during that period included premises for the Westminster Bank (later part of NatWest), British Caledonian, and The Office of the Paymaster-General—a government ministry within the remit of HM Treasury. The five-storey Overline House above the railway station, completed in 1968, is used by Crawley’s NHS Primary Care Trust and various other companies.

Companies headquartered in Crawley include Astraeus Airlines, Doosan Babcock Energy, WesternGeco, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Atlantic’s associated travel agency Virgin Holidays, and the Office of the Paymaster-General. BDO International has an office in Crawley. In addition the registered offices of TUI UK and Thomson Airways are located in Crawley.

British Airways took over British Caledonian’s former headquarters near the Manor Royal estate, renamed it “Astral Towers” and based its British Airways Holidays and AIRMILES divisions there. Other companies formerly headquartered in Crawley include British United Airways, CityFlyer Express, CP Ships, First Choice Airways, GB Airways, Laker Airways, Tradewinds Airways, and Air Europe.

Crawley has numerous hotels, including The George Hotel, dated to 1615. It is reputedly haunted.

Even before the new town was planned, Crawley was a retail centre for the surrounding area: there were 177 shops in the town in 1948, 99 of which were on the High Street. Early new town residents relied on these shopping facilities until the Corporation implemented the master plan’s designs for a new shopping area on the mostly undeveloped land east of the High Street and north of the railway line. The Broadwalk and its 23 shops were built in 1954, followed by the Queen’s Square complex and surrounding streets in the mid-1950s. Queen’s Square, a pedestrianised plaza surrounded by large shops and linked to the High Street by The Broadwalk, was officially opened in 1958 by Queen Elizabeth II. The town centre was completed by 1960, by which time Crawley was already recognised as an important regional, rather than merely local, shopping centre.

In the 1960s and 1970s, large branches of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer were opened (the Tesco superstore was the largest in Britain at the time). The shopping area was also expanded southeastwards from Queen’s Square: although the original plans of 1975 were not implemented fully, several large shop units were built and a new pedestrianised link—The Martlets—was provided between Queen’s Square and Haslett Avenue, the main road to Three Bridges. The remaining land between this area and the railway line was sold for private development by 1982; in 1992 a 450,000 square feet (41,800 m2) shopping centre named County Mall was opened there. Its stores includes major retailers such as Debenhams, Boots, W H Smith and British Home Stores as well as over 80 smaller outlets. The town’s main bus station was redesigned, roads including the main A2220 Haslett Avenue were rerouted, and some buildings at the south end of The Martlets were demolished to accommodate the mall.

A regeneration strategy for the town centre, “Centre Vision 2000″, was produced in 1993. Changes brought about by the scheme have included 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) of additional retail space in Queen’s Square and The Martlets, and a mixed-use development at the southern end of the High Street on land formerly occupied by Robinson Road (which was demolished) and Spencers Road (shortened and severed at one end). An ASDA superstore, opened in September 2003, forms the centrepiece. Robinson Road, previously named Church Road, had been at the heart of the old Crawley: a century before its demolition, its buildings included two chapels, a school, a hospital and a post office.

There are plans to expand Crawley’s central shopping area northwards on to land occupied by the Town Hall and office buildings. The borough council’s premises would be moved to a new site—possibly the land occupied by Sussex House on the High Street—and The Boulevard would become a large pedestrianised shopping area. A 255,000 square feet (23,700 m2) John Lewis department store, to be opened in 2013, would be the anchor store. The scheme, named “Town Centre North”, is designed to make Crawley a major regional shopping destination.

Crawley’s early development as a market town was helped by its location on the London–Brighton turnpike. The area was joined to the railway network in the mid-19th century; and since the creation of the new town, there have been major road upgrades (including a motorway link), a guided bus transit system and the establishment of an airport which has become one of Britain’s largest and busiest.

The London–Brighton turnpike ran through the centre of Crawley, forming the High Street and Station Road. When Britain’s major roads were classified by the British government’s Ministry of Transport between 1919 and 1923, it was given the number A23. It was bypassed by a new dual carriageway in 1938 (which forms the A23’s current route through the town), and then later to the east side of the town by the M23 motorway, which was opened in 1975. This connects London’s orbital motorway, the M25, to the A23 at Pease Pottage, at the southern edge of Crawley’s built-up area. The original single-carriageway A23 became the A2219.

The M23 has junctions in the Crawley area at the A2011/A264 (Junction 10) and Maidenbower (area of Crawley) (Junction 10A). The end of the motorway at Pease Pottage is Junction 11. The A2011, another dual-carriageway, joins the A23 in West Green and provides a link, via the A2004, to the town centre. The A2220 follows the former route of the A264 through the town, linking the A23 directly to the A264 at Copthorne, from where it then runs to East Grinstead.

The first railway line in the area was the Brighton Main Line, which opened as far as Haywards Heath on 12 July 1841 and reached Brighton on 21 September 1841. It ran through Three Bridges, which was then a small village east of Crawley, and a station was built to serve it.

A line to Horsham, now part of the Arun Valley Line, was opened on 14 February 1848. A station was provided next to Crawley High Street from that date. A new station was constructed slightly to the east, in conjunction with the Overline House commercial development, and replaced the original station which closed on 28 July 1968. The ticket office and Up (London-bound) platform waiting areas form the ground floor of the office building.

Ifield railway station is now within the Crawley urban area. Opened as Lyons Crossing Halt on 1 June 1907 to serve the village of Ifield, it was soon renamed Ifield Halt, dropping the “Halt” suffix in 1930.

Regular train services run from Crawley to London Victoria and London Bridge stations, Gatwick Airport, East Croydon, Horsham, Bognor Regis, Chichester, Portsmouth and Southampton. Three Bridges has direct “Thameslink” trains to Bedford & Brighton.

Gatwick Airport was licensed as a private airfield in August 1930. It was used during the Second World War as an RAF base, and returned to civil use in 1946. There were proposals to close the airport in the late 1940s, but in 1950 the government announced that it was to be developed as London’s second airport. It was closed between 1956 and 1958 for rebuilding. Her Majesty The Queen reopened it on 9 June 1958. A second terminal, the North Terminal, was built in 1988. An agreement exists between BAA and West Sussex County Council preventing the building of a second runway until 2019. Nevertheless, consultations were launched in 2002 by the Department for Transport, at which proposals for additional facilities and runways were considered. It was agreed that there would be no further expansion at Gatwick unless it became impossible to meet growth targets at London Heathrow Airport within existing pollution limits.

Crawley Museum is based in Goffs Park. Stone Age and Bronze Age remains discovered in the area are on display, as well as more recent artefacts including parts of Vine Cottage, an old timber-framed building on the High Street which was once home to former Punch editor Mark Lemon and which was demolished when the ASDA development was built.

Crawley has three Grade I listed buildings (the parish church of St Margaret in Ifield, the parish church of St Nicholas, Worth, and the Friends Meeting House in Langley Lane, Ifield), 12 Grade II* listed buildings and 85 Grade II listed buildings.

No reviews yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.