Many may be surprised to know that the 'new' town of Crawley has its origins in Saxon times; even its name is of Saxon origin, with 'craw' meaning crow and 'leah' meaning pasture. The change from Crawleah to Crawley took several hundred years, with Crauleia at the beginning of the thirteenth century, Crawele in the mid-thirteenth century and Croule towards the end of the thirteenth century. It was only in 1316 that records show the town with its current name.
A stopping point on the route from London to Brighton, the town was little more than a village in a forest clearing, and horse drawn coaches were charged a toll to travel along the road - the Toll House once stood in the north of the town. Some of the old timber-framed coaching houses (such as The George Inn) are still there, located in the High Street, all be it renovated and in use by modern business. In the north of the High Street is the Tree House, which dates from the fourteenth century and set just off the road is the church with it's fifteenth-century tower.
The Manor of Crawley was awarded a licence to hold a weekly market, when Michael de Poyninges gave King John a Norwegian
goshawk in 1203. The market tradition has continued ever since, with the High Street used as the market place.
An Act in 1946 designated Crawley as a 'new' town, with construction starting the following year. The area has expanded rapidly ever since, with the neighbouring villages such as Ifield and Three Bridges having now been swallowed up. Crawley revolves around the main shopping area of Queen's Square, County Mall and the High Street, with smaller 'village centres' set up around the circumference. These include Pound Hill, Maidenbower, Bewbush, West Green, Gossops Green and Tilgate. Unlike many other developments of the 1960s, tower blocks are notably absent and instead the buildings are comprised of town houses, terraces and low-rise apartment blocks. The old parts of Ifield have even been turned into a 'preservation area' and it retains much of its old village atmosphere.
The old and the new seem to balance well, and Crawley is regarded as one of the best shopping areas in Sussex. With the expanding Gatwick Airport nearby and local industry moving into areas such as technology, the future growth of Crawley seems certain.