1. Crawley History
  2. Early History
  3. Origins of Crawley

Origins of Crawley: A Historical Overview

Learn about the early history of Crawley, from its ancient origins to its modern development.

Origins of Crawley: A Historical Overview

Crawley is a town with a rich and storied history that can be traced back centuries. Located in West Sussex, England, Crawley has been a settlement since the Iron Age and beyond. Over the years, Crawley has seen its fair share of events, from the Norman Conquest to the Industrial Revolution, which have shaped it into the vibrant town it is today. In this article, we'll take a look at the origins of Crawley and explore the historical events that have shaped this wonderful town. The town of Crawley is believed to have been inhabited since ancient times.

Archaeological evidence suggests that a settlement existed during the Iron Age and Roman periods. During the Saxon period, Crawley is thought to have been part of the Kingdom of Sussex. The town was likely founded in the 11th century by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, as part of a Norman estate. By the 13th century, the town had grown significantly and was known as Crowele or Crowle.

The town was granted a market charter in 1202 and continued to prosper until it suffered during the Black Death in 1348-49. In 1582, King James I granted Crawley a charter for a market and fair. In the 18th century, the town's population began to grow significantly as a result of the construction of the London to Brighton road. In addition, industrialisation saw the establishment of several large factories and businesses in Crawley. The town's rapid growth was further spurred by its designation as an official new town in 1947. Today, Crawley is a thriving hub of commerce, industry, and culture. The town's population has grown to over 100,000 people, making it one of the largest towns in West Sussex. The town centre itself contains numerous historical sites and buildings, such as County Mall shopping centre which was built on the grounds of what was once an old manor house.

Other buildings of note include St John's Church which dates from the 11th century and St Catherine's Church which was built in 1790. The town also contains several parks and gardens, including Worth Park which is home to a Grade II listed building. Crawley's history is not just confined to its buildings and streets however; there are several other landmarks that are associated with the town's past. For example, The Hawth Theatre is a popular venue that has been entertaining audiences since 1922. The local railway station is still known as Three Bridges after its original name when it first opened in 1841. Finally, the town is home to a number of notable figures from its past including former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and international film star Michael Caine. Crawley's rich history has been instrumental in shaping the town into what it is today. From its earliest inhabitants to its modern development, Crawley has evolved into a vibrant centre of culture and commerce.

Despite its long history, Crawley remains an important part of West Sussex and continues to be a popular destination for both locals and visitors alike.

Modern Development

Crawley's modern development began in the 18th century, when the town grew substantially as a result of the expansion of its industries. The 19th century saw further growth, with the completion of the London-Brighton railway line, which connected Crawley to London. This made the town more accessible to people looking to move there, and it quickly became a popular destination for those seeking to escape London's overcrowded streets. In 1974, Crawley was designated as an official new town.

This brought with it government funding and support for its development, and new infrastructure was created, including schools, hospitals, and shopping centres. The population of Crawley boomed during this period, with the number of inhabitants tripling between 1974 and 2000. This growth was not only fuelled by the new infrastructure but also by the availability of jobs in Crawley's expanding industries. Many businesses, such as Gatwick Airport and Microsoft, established offices in the town and provided employment for many people. Today, Crawley is a thriving modern town with a vibrant atmosphere and culture. Its history has shaped the town into what it is today, with its past informing its present and future.

With its rich heritage and modern amenities, Crawley is a great place to visit or live.

Medieval Development

The medieval period was a time of great importance for Crawley. During this period, the town grew to become a major centre of economic and social activity in the region. In the 12th century, Crawley was granted a charter by Henry II, which allowed for the growth of trade and industry. This enabled Crawley to become an important market town, with weekly markets being held in the High Street.

Crawley also became an important centre of religious activity during this time. The parish church, St John the Baptist, was built in the 13th century and other chapels were constructed in the town. These religious sites served as centres for worship, education and charity work. In addition to its economic and religious significance, Crawley also had an important military role during the Middle Ages.

The town was the site of a castle built by Richard I in 1180 and later fortified by Edward I. This castle was an important part of the local defences against French raiders and served as a base for English troops during the Hundred Years War. By the late 14th century, Crawley had grown to become one of the most important towns in West Sussex. Its economy was thriving due to its weekly markets, religious sites and military base.

This continued until the 16th century when it began to decline due to the Reformation and civil war.

The Ancient Origins of Crawley

Evidence suggests that Crawley has been inhabited since ancient times, with some archaeological finds dating back to the Iron Age. This suggests that the area was settled by people of Celtic origin, who were likely drawn to Crawley for its strategic position and access to resources. It is also believed that the Romans had a presence in the area, as evidenced by a number of coins and pottery fragments discovered near the town. The Anglo-Saxons began to settle in the area around 500 AD, and the name 'Crawley' is derived from a Saxon word meaning 'crow wood' or 'crow clearing'. This is likely a reference to a thick forest that once surrounded the town.

By the 11th century, Crawley had become a small village surrounded by farmland. By the 14th century, Crawley was an established market town, known for its skilled craftsmen and thriving market. This period of development saw the construction of many of Crawley's historic buildings, including St John's Church, which was built in 1310 and is still standing today. The town continued to grow throughout the centuries, with new industries and businesses springing up. The 19th century saw the arrival of the railway, which increased trade and connected Crawley to the rest of England. By the 20th century, Crawley had become an important regional centre for commerce and industry. The ancient origins of Crawley have had a lasting impact on the development of the town.

Its strategic position and access to resources made it an attractive destination for settlers from all periods of history. The archaeological evidence suggests that people have been living in this area since at least the Iron Age, and its rich history has left a lasting mark on Crawley's modern identity. Crawley's past has been the driving force behind its present and will continue to be the foundation for its future. From its ancient origins, to its medieval development and modern growth, Crawley has experienced a long and rich history that has shaped the town into what it is today. This in-depth overview of Crawley's history provides readers with an understanding of how this town has evolved over time. As Crawley continues to develop, it is important to remember its past and be mindful of the lessons it can teach us.

With an appreciation for the town's history, we can ensure a bright future for Crawley.