Why is Crawley called Crawley?

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Updated: June 3, 2015

Imagine fields and green forest, tall trees on which the blackest of crows built their nests…you are imagining a place called ‘Crow’s Leah’ (pronounced ‘lee’). Named by The Saxons, ‘Crow’s Leah’, meant a crow infested clearing or Crow’s Wood, but over time became to mean a clearing and finally a field. The present spelling, ‘Crawley’, wasn’t to be used until the 14th century. The first written record to be found of our ‘Crawley’ was a reference to a licence for a weekly Wednesday market, issued by King John in 1202 – let’s hope that market had a bit more hustle and bustle than our current weekly one!

Other words within the names of our Crawley boroughs are ‘hurst’, which meant woodland – as in Ewhurst Place – ‘Wick’ as in Gatwick which meant a farm and was known as Goat Farm, as well as Hazelwick which was a farm close to the hazel trees. ‘Worth’ simply meant ‘a clearing’ and was apparently the only one around when it was named, so it didn’t need any other description. Around 150 years ago, Gossops Green was shown as a piece of land adjacent to Ifield but was then called Goose Green, and finally, Hogs’ Hill Farm in Southgate is said to have gained its name because of the high population of pigs in the area!

Too many of those trees have now disappeared along with the old coaching houses that had their visitors coming from London or Brighton by horse and carriage. Farms, mills, market places, inns and green spaces have given way to houses, shops, schools, cinemas, hotels, airport space, roadways and other essential amenities needed to service a busy town now called ‘Crawley’. It has grown from a small country village to a busy, ever growing town with it’s thirteen residential areas and busy business parks surrounding its main centre.

Although one thing that remains is the presence of crows, so next time you see or hear a crow up high cawing in an old Crawley tree, sit back, close your eyes and picture our ‘Crow’s Leah’ as it was back in the day! Fortunately we have a number of historical sites in Crawley, ranging from Ifield Mill to other great locations such as St Margaret’s Church. Make sure you pay them a visit to find out more.

So why is Crawley called Crawley? Crow’s Leah!