1. Crawley history
  2. Modern history
  3. 20th century Crawley

Exploring 20th Century Crawley: A Historical Overview

Explore the history of Crawley during the 20th century, from its industrial development to its role in WW2 and beyond.

Exploring 20th Century Crawley: A Historical Overview

The 20th century was a time of immense transformation and growth for Crawley. From its humble beginnings as a small market town in the late 19th century, to its emergence as a major metropolis in the early 21st century, Crawley has seen some remarkable changes over the past century. In this article, we take a look back at the history of Crawley during this period, exploring how the town and its people have changed over the years. As we delve into the history of Crawley in the 20th century, we will explore the key moments that have shaped the town. We will look at how technological and social developments have impacted life in Crawley, and how these changes have helped to shape its identity today.

We will also consider the ways in which Crawley has been an integral part of the wider region's development, and how it has contributed to the evolution of modern Britain. So join us as we take a journey through Crawley's history over the past 100 years, and discover how this vibrant and exciting town has grown and evolved. The 20th century was a period of great growth and change for Crawley. In the early 1900s, the town was largely rural and agricultural. However, this changed following World War I when the Royal Air Force began to use nearby Gatwick Airport as a base. This lead to an increase in local industry and the growth of Crawley's population.

The Second World War also had an impact on Crawley. The town was heavily bombed during the war, with much of its housing and infrastructure destroyed. Despite this, the town quickly recovered and continued to grow throughout the second half of the century. In the 1960s, Crawley experienced a period of rapid industrialisation.

This led to an influx of people from other parts of the UK and abroad, resulting in a diverse population. This period also saw the establishment of several major companies in the area, including British Airways, the National Grid, and BT. Crawley's economy continued to expand throughout the 1980s and 1990s as new businesses moved into the area. The town also saw significant investment in infrastructure projects, such as improvements to roads and transport links.

This helped to make it an attractive place for businesses to locate and grow. Today, Crawley is home to a variety of industries, including aerospace, engineering, finance, IT, and logistics. The town has become an important hub for international business and is regularly used as a location for conferences and exhibitions. It is also home to numerous cultural attractions, including museums, theatres, art galleries, and parks.

Crawley's history is a testament to its resilience and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Despite experiencing significant hardship during both world wars, it has emerged as an important economic centre in modern times. Its rich history and vibrant culture make it an ideal place to visit or live.


At the start of the 20th century, Crawley was a small rural village. Today, it is a thriving industrial hub with much to offer.

The 20th century saw Crawley expand and develop significantly in terms of its industry, infrastructure and population. Its involvement in the two World Wars, its industrial growth and modern-day significance have shaped Crawley into the diverse and vibrant city it is today. It has become an integral part of the local economy, providing numerous employment opportunities and contributing to the prosperity of the region. Crawley is an important part of modern-day life and its significance will continue to grow in the future.

Its rich history is something to be celebrated and will help to ensure that Crawley remains an important part of the local community for years to come.

Industrial Development

Throughout the 20th century, Crawley underwent an industrial transformation that would shape its future. In the early 1900s, the town was mostly agricultural, but it slowly began to attract new businesses to the area. By the mid-20th century, Crawley had become an industrial hub with a variety of major companies establishing factories and offices in the town. One of the key developments in Crawley's industrial growth was the arrival of British Aerospace in 1948. The company set up a factory in the town, creating thousands of new jobs and bringing in millions of pounds in revenue.

In addition to British Aerospace, other companies such as ICI, Kodak, and GEC also established factories in Crawley during this time period. These businesses had a significant impact on the local economy and helped to propel the town's growth. The 20th century also saw Crawley become an important transport hub. In 1966, Gatwick Airport opened just outside of Crawley, connecting the town to the rest of the world and providing another major source of employment and economic activity.

As a result, Crawley experienced a rapid population growth throughout the latter half of the century. The industrial development of Crawley during the 20th century was a major factor in its transformation from a small rural village to a thriving modern-day hub. The arrival of key companies such as British Aerospace and ICI had a profound effect on the local economy, while the opening of Gatwick Airport brought further economic benefits. The town's industrial development has been a key factor in its growth and success over the past century.

Cultural Influence

During the 20th century, Crawley experienced a significant cultural shift. The town's population grew rapidly, and its diverse residents brought a range of different cultures to the area.

This created a unique atmosphere in Crawley, with many attractions available to explore. Museums were an important part of Crawley's cultural heritage. The Crawley Museum was founded in 1938, and it provided visitors with an insight into the history of the town. It showcased artworks from local artists, as well as artefacts from the two World Wars.

The museum also featured displays on the development of Crawley's industry during the 20th century. The town also had a thriving theatre scene. The New Victoria Theatre opened in 1934, and it provided a venue for performances of classic plays, musicals, and operas. The theatre also hosted films, lectures, and debates, which attracted visitors from all over the country.

Art galleries and parks were also popular attractions in Crawley during the 20th century. The Crawley Art Gallery opened in 1951, and it featured works from local and international artists. Crawley Park was also established during this time period, providing visitors with an opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the area. Overall, Crawley's culture was greatly shaped by its diverse population during the 20th century.

The town's museums, theatres, art galleries, and parks provided visitors with an insight into the area's unique culture. The 20th century saw Crawley transformed from a small rural village into a thriving modern town. Its diverse population, strong economy, and involvement in both World Wars and industrial development have enabled it to become an important hub for international business and an ideal place to visit or live. As we look forward to the future, we can be sure that Crawley will continue to play an important role in shaping our world.