You can easily get to Brighton, Chichester and London, making Crawley a perfectly placed hub for exploring southeast England.

This large town has plenty to offer for people of all interests. Sports lovers will be pleased with the vast range of facilities and leisure centres, such as Tilgate Forest, one of England's best public golf courses.

The Crawley Millennium Greenway boasts a perfect route for walkers through woodlands and open space around the town. County Mall (one of the biggest shopping centres in the region) is the ideal shopping spot in Crawley, as well as offering a bowling alley, cinema and other leisure facilities for everyone to enjoy.

Enough about the present. It’s Crawley’s rich history that makes this large town incredibly interesting. The history is long and varied, so buckle up; you’re in for an intriguing ride.

Prehistoric Crawley

That’s right, the first evidence of human activity in the Crawley area dates back to the Neolithic period (around 4000-2000 BC). Archaeological finds suggest that early settlers lived in the area, farming crops and looking after animals.

Evidence of a Roman road passing through the area also suggests that Crawley was an important trading hub during Roman times.

Medieval Crawley

Although there's evidence of a prehistoric past, the first written mention of Crawley is dated back to 1202. This was when King John granted the town a charter, allowing them to hold a weekly market and an annual fair. These events meant that Crawley became a centre for trade and commerce, attracting many traders and merchants to the area.

Throughout the 13th century, Crawley became home to several religious communities. For example, the town had a chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist, which was part of the parish of Worth.

Like everywhere in England, the 14th century came along and hit Crawley hard with the Black Death. Of course, this plague wiped out a huge chunk of the population and put a hold on all the great things that the market brought.

However, by the 15th century, the town was able to recover and became a thriving centre for the wool trade.

Crawley in The Industrial Revolution

Well, what a time in history this revolution was!

As it did for many towns around the country, the industrial revolution had a substantial impact on Crawley. In the early 1800s, Crawley was still very much an agricultural town, with a population of around 1,500 people. However, once the railway was opened in 1841, everything changed rapidly.

With so much more access to other parts of the southeast, Crawley became a central destination for industry and manufacturing. This meant that many new factories and mills were built in the area to help keep up with the growth of the town.

This new way of life led to a boom in population, and by the end of the 19th century, Crawley had a population of over 5,000 people.

The new town of Crawley

Now we’re coming into the first half of the 20th century, and Crawley was developing further with a brand new piped water supply and an electricity generating station.

Once both world wars had come and gone, the New Town Act was passed and Crawley was officially designated as a New Town in 1947, merged with the villages of Three Bridges and Ifield.

This decision opened up almost 6,000 acres of land where houses and factories could be built. In 1951, a new plan was made for Crawley to create a town centre with 9 surrounding neighbourhoods, each containing its own shops, churches, schools, and leisure facilities.

That work was completed in the early 60s, but there were plenty more developments made throughout the 20th century:

  • 1958 - The aerodrome at Gatwick was made an international airport.
  • 1974 - Crawley was made a borough.
  • 1983 - The boundaries of Crawley were extended.
  • 1988 - The Hawth Theatre and Exhibition Centre was built.
  • 1990’s - Maidenbower private housing estate was built.
  • 1992 - Crawley shopping centre was greatly expanded with the building of the County Mall.
  • 1999 - Crawley Leisure Park was opened with restaurants and bars.

21st Century Crawley

Crawley has continued to thrive in recent years, with a strong economy and diverse population. The town has become a centre for the technology and creative industries, with many new businesses choosing to set up in the area.

With a new library that opened in 2008, extra neighbourhoods and more additions to the area, Crawley continues to grow and is the largest inland town in West Sussex.

Facts about Crawley

Now you’ve learnt the history of Crawley, we thought we’d throw in some interesting facts for you.

1. A resident became a famous boxer

Alan Minter was a middleweight European and World Champion boxer several times in his career. The town even named a high street restaurant after him (Minter’s Restaurant 1977- 1983).

2. Crawley is twinned with Dorsten, Germany

Many strong relationships have been built since Crawley was twinned with Dorsten in 1974. Both twinning associations have strengthened their links through cultural, social and educational exchange visits.

3. Home to the Big Football Roundabout

Drive through Crawley, and you might bump (not literally!) into the sight of a huge football in the middle of a roundabout by Broadfield Stadium. The football displays the playing colours of “The Reds”, Crawley Town Football Club.

4. Schools were named after local or regional VIPs

Two primary schools that were created in the New Town were given the names Desmond Anderson and Bishop Bell. Bishop Bell was named after the Bishop of Chichester during World War II. A secondary school was named Thomas Bennet after Sir Thomas Bennet, who was "Chairman of the Development Corporation of Crawley New Town". This was allegedly the biggest secondary school in Europe at the time.

5. Home of the World Marble Championships

The first-ever marble championship can be traced back to 1588, held at the Greyhound Pub in Tinsley Green. Teams would travel near and far to compete for the desired silver trophy.

As you can see, the history of Crawley is quite a fascinating one. We’ve taken a wonderful adventure through the ages and noted the pivotal moments that have made Crawley the ever-growing town it is today.

From its ancient roots to its modern-day success, it’s clear to see that the town has been shaped by many different factors, including its location, its industries, and its people. Today, Crawley is a thriving urban centre with a strong economy, excellent transport links, and a diverse and vibrant community.

If you were born and bred in Crawley, we hope you’ve learned something new about the town you love and feel even more pride knowing how Crawley has grown.

Not local to the area? In that case, we hope that you will come and visit our delightful town and enjoy all it has to offer. You’ll be welcomed with open arms and inundated with fun things to do. Who knows what you might get up to on your travels!

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