Do you remember The Tree?

The Tree building, before restoration

 

We need your help!

We’re currently writing some new text for the museum about the history of The Tree building, and want to include quotes from people who remember it before it became the museum.

Do you remember when it was council offices?

If you have any memories or photos you’d like to share with us and our visitors (once we’re open again), please get in touch. 

https://crawleymuseums.org/contact-us/

Thank you! 

Town – a poem

Town

All these big palaces and castles
The centrefold of tourism
But what about that little town
Now built up, the history forgotten

How much i know of the Tudors,
Victorians and the woes of war
On such a large scale. But oh,
How little i know of this local town
The way it grew and how.

The men who left this nearby town
To die. Not just for the crown but
Also those people in their little town
I didn’t know so much of the iron
Industry, or how it was so close
To what i call home, here in this town

But how glad i am i took the time
To find out more of this local
Land. the men, the woman
And that huge famous tree!

By Melanie Bransome

Photo of entrance to Broadwalk from High Street

What is now the entrance to the Broadwalk from the High Street. From Crawley Museum’s collection.

Inspired by Crawley History? Share your writings online.

Where’s the Queen? – a poem

WHERE’S THE QUEEN?

When I was young I saw the Queen,
Opening a building new and clean.
I thought she’d be in royal gown,
With jewels and sceptre, wearing crown,
Like the queens in all my books;
I expected Royal looks.
The crowd were cheering; “Hip hooray!
Oh, this is a lovely day!”
Mum, excited, “There’s she is!”
I looked and looked, but what a swizz.
“Where is she Mum? She can’t be seen.”
“Right there, the centre of the scene.”
My disappointment can’t be told
(I really wasn’t very old)
‘Cos she was dressed like me and you!
Green suit and hat, and normal shoes.
She looked just like the others there
It really wasn’t very fair!
Her jewels are saved, this I now know
For special days, but even so
For all my life I’ll not forget
The day she made me so upset!

(On 17th December 1969, H.M. The Queen came to Crawley to open the new Crawley Council offices. My Mum and I were in the crowd that came to see her.)

By Sue Ganz

Inspired by Crawley History? Share your writings online.

Photograph of the Queen in 1958 planting a tree in Queens Square, Crawley
Queen planting a tree, Queen’s Square, 1958. Photograph from Crawley Museum’s Collection

The Crow – a poem

THE CROW

I am the crow
From my perch on high I see the town below.
I’ve watched you Crawley, I’ve seen you grow.
From stones to iron and the age old market.
The coaching stops, trains and the old racecourse
Machines matching my ability to fly
The New Town developing and expanding
Yet still green and welcoming
From up on high hear me call
I am the crow who started it all

By Jan

Inspired by Crawley History? Share your writings online.

Inspired by Crawley History? Share your writings online.

Underwood typewriter

As part of our exhibition on historical writing about Crawley, we were running a writing competition and displaying the entries in our temporary exhibition space.

As we are currently closed to the public due to Covid-19 we wanted to find a different way of sharing the writings with people, so we’ll be putting them online.

If you haven’t already sent us an entry and would like to do so please submit it by email with the entry formInspired by Crawley History online version

The closing date is 19th April.

We’re not sure yet what we’ll be doing about judging or prizes but will let you know!

Frederick Russell: Hairdresser, Bird Stuffer and Fancy Goods Seller in Victorian Crawley.

(Written by Graham Crozier, 2020)

Sepia photograph of Crawley High Street labelled "High Street (South), Crawley
Photograph of South Side of Crawley High Street, from Crawley Museum’s Collection.
Date unknown

The Victorian period witnessed the commercial expansion of Crawley and one of the key figures in that process was Frederick Russell, the proprietor of Russell’s Emporium in the High Street.

Frederick Russell was born at White Hart Farm (later the Ancient Priors) around 1829, one of seven children, to John Russell (died 1840) and his wife Louisa (born c.1804, death unknown, although she lived until at least her 80s and possibly to nearer 100!).

According to Denman (1), Louisa was the illegitimate daughter of Ann Boswell and William Chart, who married when Louisa was 3 years old. This sequence of events was by no means unusual at this time, when marriage and procreation were governed as much by economics as by morals.

Louisa and John Russell married when she was 14 years old; she was a widow by age 34, when Russell was around 6 years of age.

Both John and Louisa were hairdressers, an occupation that their son would also follow. Louisa is recorded as having a hairdressing business in a room at White Hart Farm in 1845. Russell continued to operate his hairdressing business when it became the Old White Hart.

Russell married twice, in 1865 to Hannah Bletsoe, who at about 48 years of age was some 12 years older than him and, in 1881, to 43 year-old Julia Cawley, some nine years his junior. It is possible that he had been married before Hannah (although the average age men married was around 28). It does appear that his mother, Louisa, was a strong character and this may offer some explanation, plus the fact his father died when he was 6 years old.

Russell was an example of the small-scale entrepreneur that typified Victorian commercial life. His Emporium, opened by the mid-1860s, was known as a ‘fancy shop’ – an ‘Omnium Gatherum’ – and occupied one of three buildings in the middle of the High Street south of the George Annex and what was known as The Square. Russell also lived at this address.

He was making his way as a trader at a time when the town centred on Crawley and Ifield were beginning to re-establish itself following the demise of the mail coach business and as the new railway connection was beginning to make an impact (2).

The growth of the town can be measured by looking at listings in Kelly’s Directory for the period. The 1852 edition lists 33 people as what could be classed as ‘trade’ occupations (excluding farmers, publicans, finance, Dr. Thomas Smith and Walter Rayward the vet.). In 1862 this had risen to 46, although in 1867 seems to have dropped to 40, with the same exclusions. In 1874, it is up to 50 (again discounting the above occupations and, this time, Dr.TH Martin).

In Ifield, for the same spread of dates, the numbers were respectively 5, 11, 10 and 16; this excludes publicans but includes beer retailers, whose business had been stimulated by the 1830 Beer Act, which cut the malt tax and allowed the free trade of beer. The Post Office Directory for Ifield for 1878 gives 13 commercial concerns, with 20 in 1882.  Throughout this period the majority of people in Ifield parish are listed as farmers.

The real change in the nature of commercial activity and prosperity in Crawley/Ifield began in the 1880s. This was associated with, among other things, progress in drainage and sewerage improvements after 1882; improvements carried out in the High Street by the Simmins family, the restoration of St. John the Baptist church by John Barrett-Lennard; and the impact of housing development by Longley’s in East Park.

It is against this background that Frederick Russell plied his business. The range of activity that Russell engaged in can be traced through entries in Kelly’s Directory. In the 1852 edition he listed as a hairdresser, but the entries for 1862 and 1867 are more illuminating: he is described as a barber, sports outfitter, tobacconist, stationer, bookseller, bookbinder, news agent (London ‘papers available from 7.30am), dealer in tea, advertising agent, life and fire insurance agent, ‘bird stuffer’, and loan negotiator. By 1874 his listing is restricted to stationer and news agent. The 1862 edition also lists his mother Louisa as a shopkeeper, undoubtedly helping her unmarried son to run his sprawling business.

As a representative of the Alliance Fire and Briton Life insurance companies in the 1860s, Russell was agent for two of the seven such firms operating in Crawley.

His listing as a ‘bird stuffer’ (or ‘Preserver of Specimens in Natural History’ as his advertising put it) is perhaps most interesting. The Victorians were enthusiasts for taxidermy and every small village had someone who preserved birds and animals in this way. Killing animals that overpopulated rural areas was common, and people kept all kinds of stuffed animals as decoration. The trend had been stimulated in part by the large stuffed creatures at the 1851 Great Exhibition, including an elephant. Charles Dickens kept a pet raven called Grip, which he had stuffed.

In Sussex, taxidermy was taken to the heights of Victorian ‘taste’ by the Bramber artist Walter Potter (1835-1918), who became famous for his tableaux: stuffed kittens taking afternoon tea, bunnies at their schoolwork, and squirrels drinking, smoking and playing cards. This sort of thing was hugely popular, so someone like Russell working on even a small scale, would have had a ready market. He also lists himself as agent to ‘G. Salter & Co., Dyers, Plumassiers’: a plumassier being a dealer in ornamental plumes and feathers.

The family business of the Russells in Crawley was clearly hairdressing/barbering. Following a long, poetic list of his services and items for sale, an advertisement for the Emporium stated:

‘I also shave men (not the ladies) and lather um … I cut the hair of ladies and gentlemen, little boys and girls, schools and families of more than twenty by contract, and not by the new fangled machinery … Make up ladies own hair, titivate gentlemen’s wigs, like my great prototype FIGARO, the original ‘largo al factotum!’ (3).

It is in his capacity as a hairdresser/barber that the best-known story about Russell arose. The exact date of the incident is uncertain, but it involved a local dignitary named Major Pipon. It appears that Russell was working at the Old White Hart (Ancient Priors) when he had an argument with Maj. Pipon, who objected to something Russell said and verbally attacked him, whereupon, Russell packed up his things and left Pipon sitting half-shaved!

It is most likely that this was Maj. Arthur Thomas Manaton Pipon, J.P., who had married into the family of Admiral Lord Rodney, owner of the Deerwood estate and Lord of Manor of Ifield in the 1880s.  

Manaton Pipon was known to be a martinet – a strict disciplinarian – who was also chair of Ifield vestry meetings and was notorious for ignoring democratic process to get his own way in matters of local government.

The story sheds light on Russell’s character and views. He seems to have been a supporter of reform in the 1880s, especially when in came to land ownership, condemning the way in which both the wealthy and public corporations such as the railways, allowed land to lay unproductive. This suggests that Russell may have looked politically toward Gladstone’s Liberal Party, which proposed land reform in the 1880s and 1890s, and was the favoured party of the skilled craftsman and small shopkeeper in this period (4).

Crawley was part of the normally Conservative-voting Horsham Parliamentary Constituency, which had voted Liberal in both the Reform elections of 1865 and 1868, and in 1875 and 1876(5). Russell’s antipathy to inherited wealth, especially when combined with personal arrogance, may be seen in the Pipon incident, or perhaps they just didn’t like each other!

Russell was also very much a part of the organisational growth of Crawley in the early to mid-Victorian period. He served was Secretary and Collector for Crawley Fire Brigade for 20 years from its foundation; was Chairman of the Crawley Building Society; was a founding member of the Volunteer movement in the town (a forerunner to the Territorial Army); he served on the parish vestry committee; and was active in writing for at least two local newspapers. Around 1886, Russell published some stories by Mark Lemon as ‘Tales of Serena Woritts’.

Furthermore, when the Crawley Gas Company was registered in 1858, Russell invested in a £10 share. In Kelly’s Directory of 1874, he is listed as a managing director of the company, along with Richard Caffyn the butcher, and Dr.TH Martin the local physician.

Frederick Russell died on 11 January 1888, an important if not particularly wealthy or socially prestigious member of Crawley society. His business was carried on for a time by Isabella Russell, wife of his brother Thomas. He is buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist, his headstone now resting against the south wall of the church – ‘Until the day break and the shadows flee away.’

Notes:

(1) Hygate records Russell as telling this to William Denman in 1882.

(2) The faster connections between towns such as Crawley and Horsham with London, meant that there was increased competition from cheaper goods, although a comparison of trades listed in Kelly’s between 1852 and 1874 does not suggest this made a big initial impact on Crawley businesses.

(3) for the full advert see Hygate/Denman p.28.

(4) Liberal policy in the 1880s and 1890s was to revive the parish, rather than the Poor Law Union, as the main unit of local government. This was intended to swing power in the countryside away from the squire and clergy toward working villagers and labourers. This didn’t happen until the mid-1890s, and even then, the old power-brokers took control of the new parish councils.

(5) Before the passing of the 1872 Ballot Act, the constituency of Horsham was notorious for electoral corruption, bribery and drunkenness. The Liberals took the seat in 1875, and regained it in a by-election in 1876 after the first election was declared void following a petition which had reduced the winning margin of the Liberal candidate from 5 to 2. It returned to the Conservatives in 1880, a year of Liberal victory nationally.

It seems that Frederick Russell was affluent enough to have had the vote under the 1867 Reform Act, giving the franchise to householders worth £12 in the counties. Many of his neighbours would have remained without this right until the 1884 Act extended the franchise to the majority of adult men.

Sources:

Haines, S (2005). Horsham. A History. Phillimore.

Hygate N. (1993) Wayfarer Denman’s Crawley Revisited. Performance Publications.

Lowerson J (ed) (1980). Crawley. Victorian New Town. CCE, University of Sussex.

Porter, V (1994). The Village Parliaments. Phillimore.

Thompson FML. (1988). The Rise of Respectable Society. Fontana Press.

Information from Kelly’s Directory from transcripts in Crawley Museum research library.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horsham_(UK_Parliament_constituency)

All the Bright Company of Heaven – free pdf version!

Book Cover of 'All the Bright Company of Heaven - The forgotten story of the Cook family, Crawley and the Great War' by Renny Richardson

In these strange and unprecedented times, local author Renny Richardson is offering a free of charge electronic version of his first book via Crawley Museum.

All the Bright Company of Heaven, first published in 2011, and long out of print tells the story of another dark time in Crawley’s history – the Great War.

The book reveals the heartbreaking suffering endured by the town and how when the war came to an end the townspeople set about rebuilding shattered lives and erecting the memorials around which we still gather during Remembrance.

Just click the link to open the pdf copy of the book!

All the Bright Company-2

Crawley’s Collections Revealed

Display cabinet with teddy bear, milk bottle, cruet set, trophy and toy robot, with handwritten labels.

In 2019 Crawley Museum was awarded a grant from Arts Council England for a new project – Crawley’s Collections Revealed.
This 18 month project runs from November 2019 until April 2021.
It has been doing two main things:

1 Going through our collections to identify things that are not relevant to the history of Crawley. We will offer them to other museums. This will make room for more objects which reflect the history of Crawley and its communities.

2 Working with members of the community to select items from our collections that are not currently on display. Project participants have been creating their own text labels. The items are being exhibited in a project display cabinet. There will also be an exhibition about the project in 2021. Members of the community will help to create this.

Because the museum is currently closed to the public due to Covid-19 we are posting images of the objects online. We are inviting people to create labels by commenting. We will then use these comments to create a display.

We are looking forward to being able to run more face to face sessions at a later date!

Crawley’s Collections Revealed – label an object! (1)

Crawley’s Collections Revealed – label an object! (2)

Crawley’s Collections Revealed – label an object! (3)

Crawley’s Collections Revealed – label an object! (4)

Crawley’s Collections Revealed – label an object! (5)

Crawley Rent Strike 1955

(Written by Graham Crozier, 2019)

Painting of rent strike - crowds with banners
Painting of the Rent Strike from Crawley Museum’s collection.
Painted by J.E. Fuller, 1955, Crawley.
90cm x 78cm.

The Rent Strike of October 1955 has all but disappeared from the awareness of people living in Crawley today. However, it can be seen as representing an example of community action in the face of frustration at a perceived lack of progress in the fulfilment of the promise of the New Town project. The actual issue of a rise in the cost of renting from the Crawley Development Corporation (CDC) by two shillings and sixpence per week, was a catalyst for wider concerns about the quality of life in a place seen as lacking the security and stability of the London communities which most of the newcomer population had left.

Concern about housing reflected the insecurities of both the new and existing population. People moved down to Crawley on the understanding that not only was their standard of living going to be much better, but that the costs associated with it were going to be affordable. Early migrants had believed that their rents would be at a fixed level. The actions of both national government and the Development Corporation seemed to be proving them wrong.

This was against a background of a major campaign by the Labour government in the late 1940s to publicise the advantages of moving to one of the New Towns being built around London, in particular the prospect of people having their own, modern home. This, plus the promise of stable employment, was the reason that Crawley’s first ‘settlers’ endured the hardships of poor facilities and the unforgiving clay soil. There was very much a sense that the New Town represented part of the dream of a better, socialised way of life held out by the Attlee government. This, plus the new demographic of the town, accounts for the strong support enjoyed by working-class organisations in Crawley in the 1950s.

However, another factor affecting the issue of housing in the town was that those who lived in Crawley before 1947 could not gain access to new accommodation. The remit of the CDC, the unelected body charged with designing and building the New Town, was to house people moving out of London, not pre-existing residents. This was an obvious source of local resentment, as was the fact that the CDC had the power to compulsorily purchase property and land within the ‘designated area’ that would comprise the heart of the new urban development, including older properties mainly in the High Street. Council housing for those already living in the area remained in the hands of the elected local authorities.

The issue of rents was partially down to the policies of central government. Despite coming to power in 1951 on a programme including investment in house building, the Conservatives moved to remove rent restrictions and security of tenure for council tenants. The physical devastation of the war still being a major issue across the country, Conservative policy was to give encouragement to private construction firms to meet building targets, rather than support local authorities in building social housing.

Rent increases were partly a result of the higher cost of building materials due to shortages of supply. This had an impact on the ability of the CDC to meet its house building targets. By 1952 average rents in Crawley were some six shillings higher than in other local authority areas. Crawley rents were among the highest in the country, with only 5% of authorities charging more. This was at a time when wage levels in Crawley were generally lower than those in London, where rent levels were often capped at pre-war levels.

As an appointed body, answerable to central government and with specific targets to be met, the CDC was very much an instrument for the application of central government policy. Government loans were subject to high interest rates, and the CDC was required to run a balanced budget, with housing income a major source of revenue. This argument for increasing rents did not sit well with the largely left-wing membership of the Crawley Tenants Association (CTA), who argued that housing should be seen as a social service, as much as health and education.

By 1953, the demands being made on working people meant that paying the rent was leaving people with less and less disposable income, with an impact on general standards of living. A newsletter sent out by the CTA portrayed rent increases as a drag on the economic development of the town. Many families were dependent on overtime earnings to make ends meet. This at a time when many firms were forced put their employees on short-time or flat week working due to a general downturn in the economy.

However, it is also the case that the general standard of living of people in Crawley was much higher than they had before moving from London, even before the war, and many were able to benefit from the availability of modern consumer goods, albeit financed through hire purchase.

By mid-1952, Crawley rents were some 50% higher than those for London County Council properties. The fact that many ‘New Towners’ regularly returned to their families in London made the comparison all the starker. However, housing shortages and a lack of jobs in London made a return to their old neighbourhoods impossible for most.

In November, 1952, a Rents Committee was set up by the CTA. This Committee was supported by a wide range of trades unions representing workers on the industrial estate, by the Crawley Trades Council, Crawley Co-operative Women’s Guild, and by the local Labour and Communist parties. The 1950s saw very high trade union membership in Crawley firms; the decade between 1947 and 1957 saw the peak of working-class migration to Crawley, as the infrastructure of the New Town was developing. The CTA was led by Vic Pellen, a local schoolteacher and socialist, and by the Labour parish councillor and local magistrate, Hephzibah Carmen.

The role of the Crawley Branch of the Communist Party in action over local concerns is interesting, because members of the CDC later portrayed the rent strike as the work of outside ‘agitators’ rather than a reflection of the genuine feelings of the local working people.
Crawley Communists saw the ‘displaced’ working class population of the New Town as a promising platform to foster widespread co-operation on issues like rent control. Communist activists were in the forefront of the campaign against rent increases from 1952.
Richard Vines was Convenor of Shop Stewards at APV and also on the Branch Committee of the CP. In an interview with an American academic, Jacob Fried, in 1972 he said that:
‘… people were very concerned that they would not live in Crawley under worse conditions than they had in London … they found mud, no street lights, lack of roadways … trade unions … were deeply committed to action in the community itself … Schools were just not being built and available for the great influx of people … People could express their needs through the Tenants Association … rather than the Labour Party or Communist Party … Neither I nor Alf Pegler (union Convenor at Edwards High Vacuum and not a member of the CP) was officially on it (the CTA) but always our friends were on it, and we could influence it.’

Indeed, the Secretary of the CTA, Joe Sack, was also Secretary of the Crawley CP; David Grove, a CP member who worked for the CDC, made the proposed rent increase known to Vines, Sack and others. This allowed them to prepare to oppose it, including a leafleting campaign that highlighted issues of interest rates, subsidies and building costs, in contrast to the military and colonial spending programmes of the Churchill / Eden Governments.

Concern about the influence of the far left would also undoubtedly have been expressed by Ernest Stanford, who represented the Labour Party on the CDC and was Chairman of Crawley Parish Council. Stanford had helped found Crawley Labour party in 1919. He had been the Labour candidate for the Horsham and Worthing constituency (which included Crawley) in the 1923 and 1924 General Elections. Thereafter, he had been instrumental in getting Communists out of the Labour party after 1925, and had been a staunch supporter of Macdonald as Labour Leader in the National Governments of the 1930s.

However, as a representative of local democratic institutions, Stanford’s voice was probably weak. It is fair to say that the leadership of the CDC was fairly dismissive of the ability of the Parish Council to run any services in the New Town. Fried describes both the County and Parish Councils as ‘timid, unimaginative, and hardly to be considered as equal partners in development’, perhaps a rather harsh judgement although it is certainly true that the demands of the New Town were far beyond anything that local authorities had had to deal with in the past.

In the spring of 1955 central government subsidies to support public sector house building were reduced, resulting in rent rises across the board. Requests to modify these policies fell on deaf ears.

Then, on 17 October 1955, 5,000 Crawley tenants were sent notices to quit by CDC, but with the offer of a new tenancy at higher rents. This unsurprisingly led to protests and demonstrations. A meeting outside the CDC offices in The Tree was broken up by the police. On 26 October, a march through Manor Royal lead to a stoppage on the industrial estate.

A meeting of some 5,000 people in the town centre led to agreement not to pay the rent increases, with the threat to shut down industrial production in some of the towns’ biggest factories, such as APV. Richard Vines told Fried:
‘At APV we decided to have a work stoppage on a certain day as a protest … APVs marching past factories, all the other workers trooped out to join us in the march – along with the building workers from construction sites … it was a marvellous thing to see the whole of the people march into the square in their working clothes protesting the rent increase.’

The protestors carried banners that encapsulated their grievances, including: ‘Hands off Housing Subsidies’, ‘We build them but we can’t afford to live in them’ and ‘Port and Pheasant are very Pleasant but We Can’t Afford the Rent at Present.’

Some of the participants may have remembered rent protests in London before the war, such as the 1938-39 Stepney rent strike, which was never resolved due to the outbreak of war; the sense of excitement in collective working-class action is palpable in Vines’ recollection of the event.

Reaction to the rent strike clearly reflected the political interests of the groups involved. Robert May (General Works Manager at APV during the strike and first chairman of Crawley Urban District Council on its formation in 1956), told Jacob Fried that:
“It went on for a few weeks and it was the women who paid up, in the end. They feared being turfed out, to lose their homes. So it was the women who undermined the Rent Strike. The men did not know and were militant.”

It should be noted that workers at APV were amongst the more militant supporters of the rent strike. May was certainly concerned enough about the loss of productivity at the firm to be included in the deputation to the CDC.

Again, interviewed in 1972, Robin Clarke, assistant to Col. CAC Turner, General Manager of the CDC, saw the strike very much in political terms; for him the strike represented a struggle between the CTA on the left and the CDC on the right:

“…the Development Corporation was not a democratic organisation and there was no elected representative the tenants could go to complain … we could not be got at … The Corporation did not react to these pressures but only held its ground … just played it cool … After this, the Tenants Association faded away… We did not lose our nerve over all the fuss.”

As chair of the CDC, Thomas Bennett conducted most of the meetings with the CTA representatives. He held to the line that the rent increases were to remain, and that they were even fair. It should be noted that as a New Town, Crawley was given a higher central government housing subsidy than that given for local authority housing elsewhere. In Bennett’s interviews with Fried, he hardly mentions the role of the Tenants Association or the strength of local support for the strike, instead placing the blame on outside ‘agitators’.

The strike gradually weakened, from a highpoint of non-payment of 58% in the first week. It is clear that the non-representative nature of the CDC was an asset in adopting a hard-line position, with central government, along with rising costs, being held to blame for rent increases.

By the mid-1950s, central government policy had turned its attention to the costs of slum clearance and urban regeneration nationally, which resulted in a reduction in the subsidy for general house building. In a statement to the House of Commons in November, 1955, the Minister of Housing, Duncan Sandys, an aggressive free-marketeer, made it clear that using subsidies to keeping down rent levels was not possible, and indeed was seen as unfair to general taxpayers and ratepayers.

Sandys said he recognised that the New Towns were a special case when it came to subsidies because of the lack of low-cost pre-war housing that could be used to bring down the overall levels of rent.

Frederick Gough, the Conservative Member for the Horsham constituency, which included Crawley, praised the CDC for the progress it had made in building new homes in Crawley, and highlighted the fact that the majority of the New Town population were ex-Londoners: ‘We have gone nearly two-thirds of the way to completing our plans, but the new people who are coming to us may upset these plans … Is a new town to be deprived of that sort of help (subsidies) and assistance because it is managed, not by a local authority, but by a corporation?’ (This was clearly seen as a rhetorical question, as no reply was given by the Minister!). Gough had previously attacked the CTA for its ‘left-wing bias’.

In his annual address in April 1956, Thomas Bennett stated that the rent rises were ‘the lowest amount which would permit the Corporation to carry out its obligation of producing a balanced housing account.’

Richard Vines, unsurprisingly, saw the consequences of the strike from a different viewpoint:
‘It changed the Government’s outlook on New Town housing and from then onward they went to privately-built houses and this tended to rub out what the towns were built for – to accommodate by rental housing the working people … Now the split began between house-owners and renters.’

In the end, the Rent Strike did not achieve its main goal of keeping rents low. By Christmas 1955 77% tenants were paying the higher rent. By February 1956 everyone had moved on to the new rents. However, a three-year rent freeze had been agreed. Ultimately, the strike failed due to tenants’ fear of losing their homes rather than the claims of the CDC that rent increases were seen as reasonable by the majority of people.

The debate about the place of publicly-owned housing in socially equitable communities continues, while thousands across the country still live in high-cost, low quality private accommodation.

Sources:

Fried, J. (1972) ‘People and Events that Shaped Crawley’. Crawley Council for Social Services.

Fried, J. (n.d.) ‘Crawley New Town – Leadership and Community Formation in a Planned Community.’ Hopi Press.

Gray, F. ed. (1983) ‘Crawley, Old Town, New Town’. Centre for Continuing Education, University of Sussex. Occasional Paper No. 18.

Green, J & Allen, P. (1993) ‘Crawley New Town in Old Photographs’. Alan Sutton Pub. Ltd. (see chapter 4 for photographs of the strike demonstrations)

Osborn, F & Whittick, A. (1963) ‘The New Towns. The Answer to Megalopolis’. Leonard Hill Ltd.

Debate on Housing Subsidies Bill. Hansard HC Debate 17 November 1955. (Vol 546 cc 791-899).

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