History of Crawley, England

St John the Baptist's Church from the southeast

Crawley is a borough and large town in West Sussex, England. It is 45 km (28 miles) south of London, 29 km (18 miles) north of Hove and Brighton, and 51 km (32 miles) north-east of the county town of Chichester. Crawley comprises an area of 44.96 km2 (17.36 square miles) and has a population of nearly 118,597 residents as of 2021.

Origin of Crawley

The region may have been occupied during the Mesolithic era: regionally manufactured stocks of the Horsham Culture type have been discovered to the town’s southwest. Burial mounds and tools from the Neolithic era, and a sword and burial mounds from the Bronze Period, have also been discovered. Crawley is on the High Weald’s western edge, which produced iron for more than 2,000 years from the Iron Age onwards.

Goffs Park—now a relaxing recreational area in the south of the city—was the site of two late Iron Age furnaces. Mineral extraction and Ironworking continued throughout Roman rule, especially in the Broadfield area, where many furnaces were constructed.

In the mid-5th century, Saxon immigrants named the region Crow’s Leah—meaning Crow’s Wood or a crow-infested clearing. This name evolved, and the modern spelling appeared by the late-14th century. By this time, nearby towns were more established: the Saxon church at Worth, for instance, dates from between 950 CE and 1050 CE.

Although Crawley itself is not stated in the Domesday Book of 1086 CE, the nearby Worth and Ifield settlements are noted. The first written record of Crawley dates from 1202 CE when King John issued a weekly market license on Wednesdays. Crawley evolved gradually in importance over the next few centuries but was boosted in the early-18th century by the construction of the famous turnpike road between Brighton and London. When this was built in 1770 CE, travel between London and the newly fashionable seaside resort became quicker and safer, and Crawley (situated about halfway between the two) gained attention as a coaching halt.

By 1839 CE, it offered an hourly service to both destinations. The George, a timber-framed home dating from the early015th century, expanded to become an extensive coaching inn, taking over adjacent buildings. Eventually, an annex had to be constructed in the middle of the broad High Street; this survived until the 1930s CE. The original structure has become the George Hotel, with 84 bedrooms and conference facilities; it retains many period features, including a historic iron fireback.

Railway age and Victorian Period

The popular Brighton Main Line was the original railway line to serve the Crawley region. A station was inaugurated at Three Bridges in the summer of 1841 CE. Crawley railway station, at the south end of the High Street, was established in 1848 CE when the Horsham branch was started from Three Bridges to Horsham. A line was developed eastwards from Three Bridges to East Grinstead in 1855 CE.

New Town

In May 1946 CE, the New Towns Act of 1946 recognized Crawley as a fitting location for a New Town; but it was not officially designated as such until 9 January 1947 CE.

The 2,396 ha (5,920 acres ) of land set aside for the new city were divided across the province borders between West Sussex, East Sussex, and Surrey. Famous early modern era architect Thomas Bennett was chosen chairman of Crawley Development Corporation. A court challenge to the selection order meant that plans were not officially confirmed until December 1947 CE. By this time, an original plan for the construction of the region had been drawn up by Anthony Minoprio.

Work started almost instantly to prepare for the development of the town. A full master plan was readied by 1949 CE. This pushed an increase in the population of the city to 50,000, residential properties in nine neighborhoods spreading from the town center, and a distinct industrial area to the north.

At first, small development took place in the town center, and residents relied on the services and shops in the existing high street. The oldest progress was in West Green, where new homeowners moved in during the late 1940s CE. In 1950 CE, the town was explored by the then heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth, when she formally opened the Manor Royal industrial area. Construction work continued throughout the 1950s in Northgate, West Green, and Three Bridges, and in Langley Green, Pound Hill, and Ifield. In 1956 CE, land at “Tilgate East” was allotted for housing use, ultimately becoming the new neighborhood of Furnace Green.

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