Last month I spent a long weekend staying just outside Crawley. I actually live in Crawley, but this is a different Crawley. My home town is in West Sussex, and is situated in the south-east of England, about half-way between London and Brighton. (Brighton is on the south coast, established and favoured by the Hanoverian kings as their seaside holiday home.) Crawley in Hampshire, is a few miles to the north-west of Winchester, at the western end of the South Downs about an hour south-west of London. I had never visited the Hampshire village before, and I was curious to see what it was like, so we made a little detour, and had a drive through.
Both habitations started out as small villages, but Crawley in Hampshire has remained a small village. From the large village pond, the road climbs up past picturesque thatched cottages, past the Fox and Hounds pub and the war memorial until it reaches St Mary’s Church. Like most villages, the buildings are a mixture of styles, some brick and flint, many with thatched roofs, and some with Elizabethan timber frames. I believe there is a modern housing estate beyond the church, but we didn’t get quite that far. The small Hampshire village we saw was quiet, and rather quaint, and a far cry from its namesake in Sussex.
Crawley in Sussex, boasts an old High Street, where you can still imagine 18th century stage coaches coming to a stop at the George Hotel. The hotel had been built in the 16th century, so was already old when it was extended to become a large, popular coaching inn on the turnpike road from London to Brighton. In 1947, the village was designated a New Town, designed to accommodate the overspill from London, and has since become a major town with a population of over 100,000. It is modern and diverse, and seems to be ever expanding.
It was interesting to visit the village in Hampshire, but I think I prefer living where I do in Crawley, Sussex, with its mixture of old and new. Its historic roots are evident, but we also have the advantages of many modern facilities, good shopping and entertainment, whilst still retaining a countryside feel in gardens, parks and open areas. What I fear is that these country parks and open areas will gradually be swallowed up, and we will end up as an urban jungle. But for now its a good place to live.