Documenting the coming of the railway

Members of the Crawley Museum Society SUS-140716-103730001
Members of the Crawley Museum Society SUS-140716-103730001

It’s often said Crawley is an airport town but, long before the coming of the aeroplane, the railways played their own part in shaping our future.

A day doesn’t pass without some one standing at one of the town’s level crossings, bemoaning their lot, as they wait for the train to pass and the barriers to rise.

But without the railway, Crawley, Three Bridges and Ifield would be very different.

Members of Crawley Museum Society have teamed up with the history group of Crawley U3A (University of the Third Age ) to produce a booklet documenting the changes seen between 1840 and 1914 as the railway flourished.

Called ‘The coming of the railways and their impact on Crawley’ the booklet took more than two years to produce.

It covers the development of the railway, which ventured south of the Thames for the first time in 1836, as well as the effect it had on the people who lived in the three villages.

Gillian Pitt, of Crawley Museum and Crawley U3A, said: “Our group first met in May 2012 when we decided to cover the period from 1840, with the Act to build the London to Brighton railway line, through the rest of the century.

“This was later extended to the outbreak of war in 1914 as being the historic cut-off point.

“We also decided that our study would include any parts of the borough of Crawley that members wished, thus giving scope for the inclusion of Three Bridges.

“Members of the group have learned a lot on their research journey.”

Among the gems included in the booklet is the fact Three Bridges Station was called East Crawley until Crawley Station itself was built in 1848.

With the railway, came a population boom which would be echoed on a much larger scale 100 years later with the building of the new town.

The booklet records that in 1851, the Parishes of Crawley, Ifield and Three Bridges had a combined population of 4,034.

By 1901, this had more than doubled to 8,121.

Gillian thanked Martin Hayes and Tim Stanton, of the West Sussex Library Service for their help in gathering information and for the use of library resources.

She added: “We have also had unstinting support from Helen Poole, the Curator of Crawley Museum who has guided and encouraged us in many ways.”

The booklet is available to purchase at Crawley Museum, Goffs Park House, Old Horsham Road.