Houses for the workers – a poem

What’s in a name of a street near to you in this town?
In Southgate seventeen occupations are renowned

street sign - Baker Close, Southgate

There’s a baker, but no butcher or candlestick maker
The closest being a chandler, and not a muck raker

street sign - Chandler Close, Southgate street sign - Loriners, Southgate

Loriners produced all sorts of items to fit on horses
Saddlers provided the means to ride them over courses

street sign - Saddler Row, Southgate street sign - Smith Close, Southgate

The smith gave the horse shoes to prevent it being lame
A hunter rode out on the trail of deer or maybe even game

street sign - Hunter Road, Southgate street sign - Fletcher Close, Southgate

The fletcher gave him arrows to help him with the kill
The wainwrights built carts for the successful kills to fill

street sign - Wainwrights, Southgate street sign - Fisher Close, Southgate

The fisher added fish to make the villagers feel full
And the shepherd watched his flock so they’d provide wool

street sign - Shepherd Close, Southgate street sign - Brewer Road, Southgate

A brewer converted crops to beer to help memories fade
It was put in to large barrels that the cooper had made

street sign - Cooper Row, Southgate

street sign - Thatcher Close, Southgate

Atop an early house did a thatcher put a roof upon
And straw was a good roof until a tyler came along

street sign - Tyler Road, Southgate

street sign - Mason Road, Southgate

The mason didn’t mind what material made the roof coverings
His stone trumped the forester for erecting new buildings

street sign - Forester Road Southgate

street sign - Collier Row, Southgate

And the collier provided coal to heat up everyone’s home
Look out for all these workers on signs wherever you roam

By Kev Neylon

A Neat Clean Town: Writings about Crawley’s History

Crawley Workers

As May 1st is International Workers Day, here are some photographs of people working in Crawley from our collection.

Group of workers in aprons and hats

Richard Cook & Workers

Man and woman standing on the steps of a shop. Sign aobve shop window reads 'F.Hollingdale'

Hollingdales Shoe Shop

Four men wearing caps standing outside a forge building

Steeles Forge, Balcombe Road

Housing building site. Man operating cement mixer in foreground.

Northgate Housing under construction – April 1951

Man in suit leaning over a architectural model of housing

Model of West Green, February 1949

Woman in jacket and skirt weighing a baby

Northgate Clinic

Man on building site turning dials on a machine

Strain Gauge measurement apparatus – August 1950

two people wearing hardhats, one crouching in a trench in the earth.

Broadfield excavators

Three workmen standing on the roof of a factory with other factories in the distance

View of standard factories from roof of A.P.V. – September 1951

Broadfield House – a short story

The night my father met John Haigh, the acid bath murderer.

Broadfield House is a Georgian mansion built in the early 1800s. It is situated on what was once the main London to Brighton Road (A23) just south of Crawley.  A long drive leads up to the house, crossing Broadfield Brook before curving south. If you followed the drive round to the end you came to Broadfield cottage, my childhood home, nestled in woods and fields.  Sadly, it is no longer there, nor are the fields and woods, all having been replaced with Crawley New Town houses and roads. Broadfield House is still there, although looking less splendid now.

The land around Broadfield House originally consisted of landscaped gardens and lake, orchards, grass tennis court, a walled garden with greenhouses, yards, barns and residences for the workers at the house. The estate, much changed, is a now a public nature park owned by Crawley Borough Council.

I lived in Broadfield Cottage with my parents, Vera (neé Parsons) and Jack Cook, my two sisters, Jean and Cheryl, and my brother David.

My father was caretaker of Broadfield House and the offices, as well as being head gardener on the estate from 1946 to 1979.  We grew up in its shadow: playing on the veranda, exploring its creepy cellars and of course playing in the beautiful grounds.

After work, my father would sit down and tell us stories about his life.

There was the one about how he was nearly caught when scrumping for apples, and another about the time he was a ‘stop boy’ for the local shoot at Tilgate Mansion. He lived at Tilgate walled garden, at this time, with his parents George and Alice Cook.

We also heard about his first job at aged fourteen when he worked in a laundry in Three Bridges. He had to turn a ‘dolly’ all day to clean clothes, and his wages were twelve shillings and six pence for the week.

There were stories of more recent events, such as the time in 1950 that the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, visited the architect’s offices (Broadfield House) where the new town was being planned.

As caretaker, my father had to fit a special lavatory for the royal visit. He spent a long time getting it ready, but she never used it!

In 1958 the Queen visited Crawley again and my father was honoured to be one of those who had lunch with her at The George Hotel in Crawley (I still have the seating plan and menu!)

But the most fascinating story that my father told us was the one about the time he met John Haigh, the famous acid bath murderer.

My parents were asked to move into Broadfield House for a few months to oversee the closing down of the country club.

(From the memoir of Jack Cook, 1918-1999)

‘One night in January 1948 there was a knock on the door. When I opened it there were two men standing there.

“Yes?” I said, “What can I do for you?”  I noticed one man had very grey hair, the other dark.

“My name is Haigh,” said the dark-haired man, “and this is my friend Dr Henderson. I have booked dinner for two here tonight.”

I said, “You can’t have done because the hotel has been closed down for the last three months”

“But I have,” said Haigh. He took a small diary from his pocket.

The doctor looked at him and said, “Haigh you are mad, I always said you were mad.”

Haigh then asked if he could use the phone and I said, “Yes, come in.”

I heard him speaking to someone in Brighton.

Dr Henderson pulled a gold cigarette case from his pocket and took out a cigarette.

When Haigh had finished the call he said, “If anyone calls here and asks for me, tell them to go to the Punch Bowl in Crawley.”

He gave me two shillings for the phone call and they both left. It had all seemed rather odd.’

My father was later interviewed by the police when they were investigating the Haigh murders – he had been one of the last people to see Henderson alive. Henderson was probably murdered in Haigh’s workshop in Leopold Road, Crawley that very night! Shortly afterwards, Haigh also murdered Henderson’s wife and, like the rest of his victims, her body was disposed of in a vat of acid.

I’m glad that I encouraged my father to write a memoir. It’s full of all the stories he told us and is a book I’ll always treasure.

By Shirley Anne Cook. 

You can buy Shirley’s book on Broadfield House in our online shop

Black and white photograph of the exterior of Broadfield House - large white house with grass in front and trees to the sides and behind.
Broadfield House (with thanks to Shirley Anne Cook for the use of the photograph)

A Business Opportunity – a micro story

A Business Opportunity


Brighton Pavilion was built and Queen Victoria went to visit. She stopped overnight at The George Hotel. The owner rubbed his hands with glee. Frequent visits to Brighton meant regular overnight stays at his hotel.

He immediately went and bought all the flowers on the market. He painted and decorated the rooms within an inch of their lives, spending every penny he had. If the Queen was going to stay here on a regular basis, the royal set would flock here too.

Only for the Queen to hate the Pavilion and vow never to go back.


By Kev Neylon

Inspired by Crawley History? Share your writings online.


George Hotel

For Laura – a poem


From the corner of the road

I watched you turn into the station

One of many men to go

Heroes of our nation.

Everywhere the talk was

Of the Kaiser’s million extra men

I saw you board the train

Not knowing when you’d come back again.

You were my light, my life, my joy –

Oh my darling little boy

To think of all that might have been

‘ Died of wounds April 13th 1918.’

(By Renny Richardson)

Inspired by Crawley History? Share your writings online.

All the Bright Company of Heaven – free pdf version!

A true story of two schoolboys from Crawley and how the weight of history fell on one of them – A short story

“I do not like thee, Doctor Fell ,
The reason why – I cannot tell ;
But this I know , and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell”.

Sometimes members of a family meet and the talk turns to their memories.
On one such occasion I was told a story by my cousin. The story, though some fifty years old, was scored into his memory, and it included a part for me.
He related that aged about ten he had been set the task of writing a poem for homework and he was not confident about fulfilling his task. Luckily on a visit to me he saw a poem in my handwriting which he thought I was the author of and he memorised it. Later he changed some of the words then handed it in to school as his own work.
The homework received a commendation, even as far as an assembly I thought he said. But then another teacher thought that they recognised the piece and his plagiarism was discovered, he was disgraced.
At another meeting a few months later I asked him to write the verse as he remembered it and he produced the following:
“I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why – I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell”.

The verse was written by Tom Brown in 1680 when he was a student at Oxford university. The Dean of his college was Doctor Fell. Brown had taken part in some mischief and faced expulsion. To avoid expulsion he was given an exercise in Latin translation. The result of Browns translation was the verse quoted above.
It became cause celebe and then a nursery rhyme. Even though my cousin’s story, with its echo of ‘school trouble ‘ in the origin of the rhyme our attention now turns to my part in it.
My cousin said that the rhyme was in my handwriting and stuck to my door and yet I have no memory of it and this contrasts with a memory I do have from around the same time and it’s the memory of buying a book from a beach-front kiosk while on holiday. The book was “The Strange Tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stephenson which contains a reference to Doctor Fell. It is more alluding to the rhyme than a reference but if the copy I had contained footnotes then it is possible that I copied it from there.
Just one question for my cousin, did he recite the nursery rhyme to his children?,
Excerpt from “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ” by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Mr Utterson regarded him, ‘There must be something else,’ said the perplexed gentleman. ‘There is something more, if I could find a name for it. God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic, shall we say? Or can it be the old story of Dr Fell?”
No footnotes or annotations in this edition.

By Tim Holt

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Fields – A short story


Map showing field layout

The old man started with the sentence, “When I was a child, all of this was fields.”

It was a line that had been spun many times by many people over the years as they tried to explain how much their locality had changed since their youth. Most of them would be alluding to the fact that they thought the changes weren’t for the better. That wasn’t the impression I got from the old man.

It wasn’t the first time the old man had tried to tell a passer-by what had used to be here. He stood on the corner of Wakehurst Drive and Colliers Row every day. He stood facing St. Mary’s Church and he would try and start up conversations with anyone who walked past him. Whether it was those going to the row of shops, or those heading into The Downsman for a drink.

Lots of people knew the old man by sight, and took detours to avoid having to speak to him. It was one of those things that the locals just knew about. No one was ever nasty to him, but most would try their utmost to avoid being drawn into a conversation.

I however, didn’t know about him. I had seen the man standing on the corner plenty of times before, but I had never paid him any attention. I never had a reason to be walking past him. Yet, that morning I did. It has to be said I try to avoid speaking to anyone, and for a split second I nearly kept on. But there was something about that first sentence that made me stop and listen to him.

I found myself replying, “How long ago was that then?”

And the old man told me. And as he did I stood there transfixed as he spoke and gesticulated. He pointed to places he could see in his mind’s eye that were now hidden from view by an army of bricks and concrete. He started pointing up towards the end of Wakehurst Drive to the left of the church.

“That used to be a farm down there, with fields full of different crops growing. We are stood in the middle of one of the fields. As I child I would run through those fields, much to the annoyance of the farmer I can tell you. The farmhouse building is still there, hidden away amongst all these new builds. Malthouse Farm it was called, that’s why the road is named that, and it would have been the track leading to the farmhouse.”

The old man swept his arm across to his right a bit, to point to where, hidden from view by the houses was Hawth Woods.

“They were bigger then, and marked the edge of the land belonging to Malthouse Farm. They weren’t criss-crossed with paths as they are now, just a single track through. People didn’t used to go walking in the woods then. Most people walked everywhere anyway. There wasn’t the mass use of cars there is today. None of this drive up to this row of shops behind us even though they only live across the road.”

He continued on sweeping his arm to the right,

“The other side of the woods was another farm. I never used to go near the fields of that farm though. The farmer there was a bit trigger happy with his shotgun. One of the other children I knew had forty-one pieces of buckshot picked out of the back of his legs, arms and torso for taking a shortcut through one of his fields.

Furnace Farm it was called, of course that’s where Furnace Green got its name from. As with so much of Crawley and its estates, they used the names of what was here before they built the new town. Although the town grew up in what seemed like a blink of an eye, they made it seem as if it happened organically, as it had in towns and cities that had grown up over centuries.”

The old man continued his sweep to the right.

“Tilgate Forest has been there forever, it’s actually bigger now than it used to be, it was more open the other side of where they stuck the motorway. Yet where the houses of Tilgate are now never used to be forest at all, it was all open common meadows, or so it appeared, someone probably owned it, but it wasn’t enclosed.”

He carried on and was pointing over to Broadfield.

“If what they built on for Tilgate wasn’t forest, Broadfield certainly was, there was no field at any time in my youth; it was the very edge of St. Leonards Forest. Trees covered the whole area up the hill and into Pease Pottage.”

Finally the old man turned so he had his back to the church and was looking through The Downsman.

“Over there was the old Inn. Not this modern identikit estate pub right in front of us, but the one on the other side of this Hogshill we stand upon. The Moon. There was an inn there on the road to Brighton before I was born, and I suppose there will be after I’m gone. That was the only route directly south out of Crawley back then.”

I looked at my watch and was surprised to see that twenty minutes had gone by since I’d stopped to listen to the old man. It hadn’t felt more than a few seconds. He smiled and thanked me for listening, saying hardly anyone did anymore. Everyone was in too much of a hurry nowadays. I told him that I should be thanking him for sharing his memories and knowledge with me. And I asked him if he had ever thought about writing them down; have them as a permanent record for future generations.

He laughed, saying no one would be interested. But I was, and I was sure there would be others who would be.

By Kev Neylon

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Charles Kenneth Mitchell

Portrait of a young man

Portrait of Kenneth Mitchell, year unknown. CWSCM:2019/4880.157.13

Charles Kenneth Mitchell was born 1st October 1889 to parents Charles James and Sarah Blanch Mitchell. He had one sister; Blanche Mary who was 4 years older. Charles senior worked as the Postmaster for Crawley while the family lived in locally at 24 High Street and later New Road.

Kenneth or Ken to his friends was a popular lad, a member of the local choir as well as playing football and cricket in Crawley and Three Bridges. In the 1911 census he is a 21-year-old man working as an estate agent while living at the family home, Roxham, Post Office Road, Crawley.

When war broke out there was a need for young men to sign up. The 11th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment was formed on 7th August 1914 in Bexhill. The 11th along with the 12th and 13th regiments were know locally as Lowther’s Lambs because they had been raised by Claud Lowther MP. We do not know when Ken signed up, but it must have been soon after the battalion’s formation.

Shortly after joining, tragedy struck when Ken was admitted to Bexhill Hospital with Spotted Fever which developed into Meningitis and killed him on Friday 5th February 1915. He was 25 years old. During the time spent with the battalion in Cooden Camp, Bexhill he achieved the rank of Lance-Corporal.

Grave stone of Charles Kenneth Mitchell

Kenneth’s grave stone in St John’s churchyard, Crawley.

Ken’s body was transported by motor hearse to Crawley where he was buried in a military grave at St. John the Baptist Church the following Wednesday. His coffin was partially draped in a union flag, carried from the family home by uniformed service men, followed by floral tributes, the Crawley Boy Scouts, The Manchester Regiment which was based in Three Bridges and mourners. At the end of the service three volleys were fired over the grave and the Last Post played on the bugle. Sadly, Charles James was too ill to attend the funeral.

At a local fundraising event for the war effort shortly after Ken’s death, Mr Lehmann is reported to have said “Mr Mitchell had died for his country just as surely as if a bullet from the Germans had brought him down in the trenches. … and when the time came to erect a Roll of Honour for those in the district who had died for the country’s cause, the name Kenneth Mitchell would not be absent.” (Richardson, 2011, p. 75-76).

Bronze plaque inscribed with Charles Kenneth Mitchell

Kenneth’s death penny was donated to the Crawley Museum in 2019. CWSCM:2019/4880.173

The 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions went on to be sacrificial lambs at the Boar’s Head raid to draw German attention away from the battle of the Somme further south. 30th June 1916 subsequently became known as The Day Sussex Died due to the amount of men that were wounded or killed at Boar’s Head and is where Lowther’s Lambs got their name.

Ken is one of two soldiers who died during the First World War to be buried at St. John the Baptist Church Crawley. Gunner Howard Clement Pace died on 5th July 1916 aged 22 and was buried in the plot next to Ken shortly after. Both are remembered on the plaques outside of Memorial Gardens, Crawley and on the war memorial outside the same church.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Find My Past

Imperial War Museum

Richardson, Renny. (2011). All the Bright Company of Heaven, Menin House, Eastbourne.

“My message to you”

Thumbs Up World are a wonderful organisation. They designed our children’s guide books, and also sit on our community panel.

They’ve asked us to share the following message:

““My message to you”..creating a community message of hope. Please do share this we can get as many messages as possible ?.

We are creating a combined “our message to all”.

Adults, children and teenagers are writing their reassuring message / letter to someone important to them (sibling, friend, child, parent, grandparent etc) about what’s happening now and why & how it will be ok & anything else they want to say to them. And we are going to put them all together (anonymous) and create a combined message to use in various ways which can help others. And the message you or your child / teenager write is also something you / your child can keep to share as they want. It would be amazing to have a range of messages to others and for us to create a community message of hope during these times.

We have seen such lovely messages so far and we want to keep them coming.

Please email me at with your / your children’s letter or message or if you have any questions.

Nobody’s details or information will be shared unless you ask for it to be and please don’t put any very personal information in the letter or message. Thank you so much ?”

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