The Birth of Crawley; Master plan for Crawley New Town, 1947 (Par 60/26/4)

image1Chosen by James Gaffney, member of staff

James' photo

This is the original Master Plan for Crawley New Town, one of eight new ‘satellite’ towns created by the Government in the late 1940s on the outskirts of London. The aim of these new towns was to encourage people to relocate from an over-crowded capital, which had been heavily bombed during the Blitz, to the countryside with the promise of better living conditions in a greener environment, higher employment opportunities and improved educational facilities.

Map of Crawley in 1910, prior to the new town developments (OS 3rd ed. 1-2500 3/12)

The plan for Crawley was a seemingly simple idea to merge the small market town of Crawley, seen on the plan above as the dark shaded area in the centre, with the village of Three Bridges, to the east, and the agricultural village of Ifield to the west by ‘filling in the gaps’ with nine residential neighbourhoods grouped around the town centre. Each neighbourhood would include a primary school, shopping centre, a church and pub. There would also be three secondary schools and a health centre throughout the town and an industrial estate to the north of the town, as well as plenty of open park space and playing fields.

The original plan was for a 6000 acre site, to accommodate around 50,000 people, although by the time the town was considered to be complete in 1962 the population had grown to 60,000 and the original nine neighbourhoods had increased to ten.

image1 (2)
Aerial photograph of Crawley town centre in 1986 (Acc. 14261 7788/177-78)

The plan did also allow for growth and today there are 14 neighbourhoods that form the town of Crawley, with a population that has doubled to well over 100,000! At the time, the idea of these ‘New towns’ must of seemed like a big dream but I wonder if they had any idea how much the town would continue to grow!


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