Crewe

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Crewe is a railway town within the unitary authority area of Cheshire East and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. According to the 2001 census the urban area had a population of 67,683. Crewe is perhaps best known as a large railway junction and home to Crewe Works, for many years a major railway engineering facility for manufacturing and overhauling locomotives, but now much reduced in size. From 1946 until 2002 it was also the home of Rolls-Royce motor car production. The Pyms Lane factory on the west of the town now produces Bentley motor cars exclusively.

Although the name Creu first appears in the Domesday Book, the modern urban settlement of Crewe was not formally planned out until 1843 by Joseph Locke to consolidate the “railway colony” that had grown up since around 1840-41 in the area near to the railway junction station opened in 1837, even though it was called Crewe by many, from the start. Crewe was thus named after the railway station, rather than the other way round.

Crewe was founded in the township of Monks Coppenhall which, with the township of Church Coppenhall, formed the ancient parish of Coppenhall. The railway station was named after the township of Crewe (then, part of the ancient parish of Barthomley) in which it was located. Eventually, the township of Crewe became a civil parish in its own right also named, rather confusingly, Crewe. This civil parish changed its name to Crewe Green in 1974 to avoid confusion with the adjacent town, which had been made a municipal borough in 1877. The railway station remained part of the civil parish of Crewe, outside the boundary of the municipal borough until 1936. So, throughout its history, the town of Crewe has neither been part of, nor has it encompassed first the township of Crewe, later the civil parish of Crewe, and later still the civil parish of Crewe Green adjacent to it, even though these places were the direct origin of the name of the town via the railway station which was also not part of the town before 1936. An old, local riddle describes the somewhat unusual states of affairs: “The place which is Crewe is not Crewe, and the place which is not Crewe is Crewe.”

Until the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) company chose Crewe as the site for its locomotive works and railway station in the late 1830s, Crewe was a village with a population (c. 1831) of just 70 residents. Winsford, 7 miles (11 km) to the north, had rejected an earlier proposal, as had local landowners in neighbouring Nantwich, 4 miles (6 km) away. Crewe railway station was built in fields near to Crewe Hall and was completed in 1837.

A new town grew up, in the parishes of Monks Coppenhall and Church Coppenhall, alongside the increasingly busy station, with the population expanding to reach 40,000 by 1871. GJR chief engineer Joseph Locke helped lay out the town.

The town has a large park, Queen’s Park (laid out by engineer Francis Webb), the land for which was donated by the London and North Western Railway, the successor to the GJR. It has been suggested that their motivation was to prevent the rival Great Western Railway building a station on the site, but the available evidence indicates otherwise.

The railway provided an endowment towards the building and upkeep of Christ Church. Until 1897 its vicar, non-conformist ministers and schoolteachers received concessionary passes, the school having been established in 1842. The company provided a doctor’s surgery with a scheme of health insurance. A gasworks was built and the works water supply was adapted to provide drinking water and a public baths. The railway also opened a cheese market in 1854 and a clothing factory for John Compton who provided the company uniforms, while McCorquodale of Liverpool set up a printing works. Nevertheless, the dominance of the railway industry was such that times of recession were keenly felt.

Crewe crater on Mars is named after the town of Crewe. Crewe was described by author Alan Garner in his book Red Shift as “the ultimate reality”. Bill Bryson described Crewe as “the armpit of Cheshire” in his 1995 book “Notes from a Small Island”.

The railways still play a part in local industry at Crewe Works, which carries out train maintenance and inspection. It has been owned by Bombardier Transportation since 2001. At its height, the site employed over 20,000 people; in 2005 fewer than 1,000 remained, with a further 270 redundancies announced in November of that year. Much of the site once occupied by the works has been sold off and is now occupied by a supermarket, leisure park, and a large new health centre.

There is still an electric locomotive maintenance depot to the north of the railway station, operated by DB Schenker Rail. The diesel locomotive maintenance depot is now closed and is used for storing surplus rolling stock.

The Bentley car factory is on Pyms Lane to the west of town. As of early 2010, there are about 3,500 working at the site. The factory used to produce Rolls-Royce cars, until the licence for the brand transferred from Bentley’s owners Volkswagen to rival BMW in 2003.

There is a BAE Systems Global Combat Systems factory in the village of Radway Green near Alsager, producing small arms ammunition for the British armed forces.

The headquarters of the off-licence chain Bargain Booze is in the town, as was the head office of Focus DIY plc, which went into administration in 2011.

There are a number of business parks around the town hosting light industry and offices. Crewe Business Park is a 67 acre site with offices, research and IT manufacturing. Major presences on the site include Air Products, Barclay’s Bank, Fujitsu Services Ltd and Focus DIY. The 12 acre Crewe Gates Industrial Estate is adjacent to Crewe Business Park, with smaller industry including the ice cream van manufacturer Whitby Morrison. The Weston Gate area has light industry and distribution. Marshfield Bank Employment Park is to the west of the town, and includes offices, manufacturing and distribution. There are industrial and light industrial units at Radway Green.

The town has two small shopping centres; the Victoria Centre and the Market Centre. There are indoor and outdoor markets throughout the week. Grand Junction Retail Park is just outside the centre of town. Nantwich Road provides a wide range of secondary local shops, with a variety of small retailers and estate agents.

Crewe railway station is less than a mile from Crewe town centre, although it was not incorporated into the then Borough of Crewe until 1937. It is one of the largest stations in the North West and a major interchange station on the West Coast Main Line. It has 12 platforms in use and has a direct service to London (Euston) (average journey time of around 1 hour 35 minutes), Edinburgh, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Chester, Wrexham, Holyhead for the ferry connections to Dún Laoghaire and Dublin Port. Many other towns and cities also have railway connections to Crewe.

Crewe is on the A500, A530 and A534 roads, and is less than 10 miles (16 km) from the M6 motorway.

The Crewe Heritage Centre is located in the old LMS railway yard for Crewe railway station. The museum has three signal boxes and an extensive miniature railway with steam, diesel and electric traction. The most prominent exhibit of the museum is the British Rail Class 370 Advanced Passenger Train.

The grade-II-listed Edwardian Lyceum Theatre is in the centre of Crewe. It was built in 1911 and shows drama, ballet, opera, music, comedy and pantomime.The theatre was originally located on Heath Street from 1882. The Axis Arts Centre is on the Manchester Metropolitan University campus in Crewe. It relocated from the university’s Alsager Campus when it closed. The centre has a programme of touring new performance and visual art work. The Box on Pedley Street is the town’s main local music venue.

Both the Lyceum Theatre and the Axis Arts Centre feature galleries. The private Livingroom art gallery is on Prince Albert Street. The town’s main library is on Prince Albert Square, opposite the Municipal Buildings.

The Jacobean mansion Crewe Hall is located to the east of the town near Crewe Green. It is a grade I listed building, built in 1615–36 for Sir Randolph Crewe. Today, it is used as a hotel, restaurant and health club.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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