West Green Primary School

There has been a primary school in West Green since 1824. When the New Town was built, so was a new primary school. A temporary building was built in 1950, and the permanent buildings followed soon after. Here are some photographs from our archives of the New Town school. For memories of the old school in the 1940s see https://crawleymuseums.org/memories-west-green-school/

West Green Primary School - brick built 1950s school building, with three cars parked outside.
October 1951
West green Primary School - brick built 1950s school building with large windows
October 1951
Group of young children weeding a flower bed outside a school classroom.
West Green Primary school with children gardening, c1953. From Crawley Museum’s Collection.
Group photograph of 5 men and 6 women. Five of them are on chairs, 6 are standing behind. The men are wearing suits and the women are in summer dresses.
Group photo of teachers, 1959 or 1960

In the photograph of the teachers, we know that the man at the back on the left is Derek Slack, and the woman second from the right at the back is Sheila Parr. Molly Richards is front left. The man in the middle of the front row is the headmaster Mr Dennis. If you know who anyone else is, or would like to share your memories of the school please get in touch!

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

Rubbish – a poem

Rubbish

Rubbish under bushes, rubbish everywhere
Should I ring the council, do you think they’ll care?
Kentucky and McDonalds the take away meal treat
Don’t they know their wrappers are littering our streets?
‘Keep Britain Tidy’ was the slogan of the day
The old road sweeper with his brush to sweep the mess away
This sight is a hazy vision of how things used to be
The clean and well kept neighbourhoods once bright and friendly
Come on Crawley look around you must plainly see
That litter on our streets are not how things are meant to be
Just take a minute before you act discarding that old fag pack
Always do what you were shown, pick up your rubbish and take it home

By Maureen

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Sepia photograph of horse and cart, with two workmen wearing caps and long aprons.
Horse and workmen from Crawley and Ifield Parochial Company. Date unknown. From Crawley Museum’s collection.

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

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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

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)

Old Toll House, Northgate

The Old Toll House in Northgate was near the entrance to what is now Ifield Drive, at the junction with the High Street. As well as a photograph of it, we’ve recently been donated a watercolor painting, presumably based on the photo. There is no artist’s name on the painting.

According to Peter Gwynne’s book ‘A History of Crawley’ (1990) the photograph was taken around 1900, shortly before its demolition. The word ‘Crawley’ wasn’t written on the building itself, but was written on the photograph by the printer. We’d love to know who the girls in the photograph are – if you can help us, please let us know?

Sepia photograph of Northgate Toll House, with two girls standing outside. The word 'Crawley' appears on the roof of the house. Handwriting at the bottom of the photograph reads 'The Old Toll House. A relic of Crawley.'
The handwriting on the bottom of this photograph reads ‘The Old Toll Gate. A relic of Crawley.’
Watercolour painting of the old toll house.

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