Parishes: Crawley

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1940.

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'Parishes: Crawley', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes, ed. L F Salzman( London, 1940), British History Online [accessed 20 July 2024].

'Parishes: Crawley', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes. Edited by L F Salzman( London, 1940), British History Online, accessed July 20, 2024,

"Parishes: Crawley". A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 7, the Rape of Lewes. Ed. L F Salzman(London, 1940), , British History Online. Web. 20 July 2024.

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Crauleia, Craule, Crawle (xiii cent.).

Crawley parish has an area of 780 acres and consists of two small portions of land on the north-western borders of the rape. The town, which is mostly in Ifield parish, is situated at the crossing of the main road from Brighton to London and that from Horsham to East Grinstead, and a strip of parish, barely ½ mile wide, and with an elevation of about 200 ft., extends north on the east side of the main road. A little farther south, on the west side of the road, is a detached portion, in parts a mile broad. This continues south through Pease Pottage Forest, sloping upwards to Buchan Hill, 400 ft., and including Shelley Plain, south of it, which reaches an altitude of 468 ft.

Crawley has a railway station on the branch-line from Three Bridges to Horsham, which runs just north of the road from that town. There is a Roman Catholic Church and Capuchin Franciscan monastery there, established in 1861, and there are Congregational and Baptist chapels, a Salvation Army Hall and a Gospel Hall. The ecclesiastical parish of St. Peter, West Crawley, was formed in 1901 from the parish of Ifield, which has now been amalgamated with Crawley. (fn. 1)

The soil is clay and marl, and the subsoil clay. The chief crops are wheat, barley, and oats.

The house known as 'the Priors' House' (fn. 2) now a café and shops, on the east side of the High Street, is a timberframed building erected about 1450. It had a great hall of two bays of c. 10 ft. and solar and buttery wings with projecting upper stories on the west front. The usual upper floor was inserted in the hall in the 16th century and the central chimney-stack built in, in the northern bay of the hall. A wing was added behind the south wing probably early in the 16th century. The west front shows the timbers of the hall and has next to the north wing a doorway with a four-centred and square head with the spandrels carved with shields and foliage. The projecting upper stories have plain bressummers on the ends of heavy joists, and curved brackets: only one bracket, next to the doorway, is ancient, and much of the framing appears to be modern. (fn. 3) Framing in the north side-wall and at the back of the hall block is also exposed. The roof is covered with Horsham slabs and the central chimneystack is of the usual rebated type.

The lower part of the middle block has a 16thcentury floor showing stop-chamfered beams and joists in the ceiling of the lower story. The moulded posts of the middle truss of the hall show in the side walls and support a highly cambered tie-beam, also moulded, which had curved braces forming a four-centred arch below it: above the tie-beam is another arch, of the full width of the hall, below the collar beam. The south bay, the one complete, has moulded wall-plates and sidepurlins reinforced by curved wind-braces that form four-centred arches. The south wing has a king-post and central-purlin roof of the usual 15th-century type. Over the north wing is a cambered tie-beam supported by curved braces, but the construction above it is hidden by the ceiling. There are two 16th-century fire-places in the central chimney-stack, towards the north wing, one to each floor, with moulded jambs and flat fourcentred arch in a square head, the spandrels carved and the top of the stone head corbelled. The staircase next to the central chimney-stack is of the 16th century and of semi-winding form: at the top are symmetrically turned balusters. The lobby, on the other side of the chimney-stack, into which the front entrance opens also has ancient four-centred doorways in its north and south walls. The early-16th-century south-east wing has a chamfered cross-beam to the ground-floor with curved brackets under the ends and some of the ceiling joists are original wide flat timbers. The fire-place in this room is 9 ft. wide. Set in the south wall is a 10½-ft. length of a beam, 1 ft. 4 in. deep, which has a late15th-century moulding along the top and a series of six cinquefoiled pointed arches cut in the lower part as panel-heads, with traceried spandrels. It is presumably not in its original position but is said to have always been here in living memory. The building is said to have once been the White Hart Inn and this chamber was its tap-room.

A small house farther north on the east side of the road, now known as 'The Old Punch Bowl Cafe', was once a farmhouse called Mitchells: another name seems to have been 'Black Dog Farm'. (fn. 4) It dates from the early 15th century and had a hall of two unequal bays, 12 ft. and 8½ ft., with a north solar wing and south buttery wing. The wings have projecting upper stories on the west front and the eaves of the hall block is brought out to the same plane, the eaves-beam being supported by curved braces, from the sides of the wings. The south wing has been underbuilt with 18th-century brickwork. By the side of the north wing another wing parallel with it was added in the same century: it also has the upper story jettied on the west front. The house has been partly reconditioned, but many of the original timbers remain in the walls of the hall and two north wings: those of the south wing are later repairs. One half of the original pointed doorway to the screens next the south wing remains in position. The present entrance in the north solar wing is modern. Two of the upper windows have 16th-century mullions, and inside one are seen the mortices of the triangular mullions of an earlier window. An upper floor was inserted in the hall and the chimney-stack (partly of stone) built in, on the site of the screens, in the 16th century: it has an 8-ft. fire-place, and the room has an opentimbered ceiling. The middle truss of the hall has double-chamfered posts supporting a cambered tiebeam that has lost the braces below it. It carries the usual king-post with longitudinal braces below a central purlin. In the closed north wall the tie-beam has the curved braces—one partly destroyed for a doorway—and the king-post is strutted from the tie-beam. The south wall—now skeletonized—was similar. Similar king-post and central purlin construction is continued over the two north wings; the roof of the south wing has been altered. One of the two doorways—now blocked—to the buttery from the hall, with a segmental arch, is still in place at the back or south side of the chimney-stack, and another to the solar at the east end of the north wall. The roof is tiled and the central chimney-stack is of the local rebated type.

Two other (separate) buildings on the same side of the street south of the Prior's house have 17th-century chimney-stacks but have otherwise been completely disguised by modern alterations.


The manor of CRAWLEY is not mentioned in Domesday Book, but at an early date formed part of the possessions of the Poynings family. It appears to have been held of the Earls Warenne, and later of their descendants the Earls of Arundel. (fn. 5) Michael de Poynings in 1202–3 received licence to hold a market there every Friday, for which he gave the king a good Norway goshawk. (fn. 6) In 1279 his descendant Luke de Poynings claimed not only a free market on Fridays, but a fair on the eve and day of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist (fn. 7) (Aug. 28).

Crawley descended in that family in the same manner as Twineham (fn. 8) (q.v.) until 1545, when it was conveyed by Sir Robert Southwell and Margaret his wife to Edward Shurley (fn. 9) of Isfield. At Edward's death in 1558 Crawley descended to his son Thomas Shurley, (fn. 10) who died in 1579, leaving the manor, with market and fair, to his son John. (fn. 11) At Sir John's death in 1631 Crawley came to his daughter Jane the wife of Walter Covert, on whom it had been settled at her marriage, (fn. 12) and it then descended in the Covert family, in the same manner as Slaugham (fn. 13) (q.v.), until it came to Anne daughter of John Covert and wife of Sir James Morton, who conveyed it in 1707 to Leonard Gale. (fn. 14) At the death of the latter his estates were divided between his three daughters and their husbands, Sarah and Samuel Blunt, Elizabeth and Henry Humphreys, and Philippa and James Clitherow, who were holding thirds of Crawley manor in 1750 and 1756. (fn. 15) Eventually the whole manor devolved upon Philippa's husband James Clitherow, and their son James, who were holding it in 1791. (fn. 16) The younger James died without issue, and the lordship passed to Colonel Clitherow, who was holding it about 1834. (fn. 17)

The Manor House, and probably also the manorial rights, were later acquired by Mrs. H. F. Montefiore. She died in 1915 and the Manor House was then bought by M. Jacques Mend de Coste, but no manorial rights could be shown to have been conveyed to him when, after his death, early in 1934, Sir Francis Montefiore, son of the former owner, repurchased the estate. On the death of Sir Francis the Manor House, together with such interest as he had possessed in the manor of Crawley, was bought late in 1936 by Mrs. Brown. All manorial rights appear, however, to have lapsed. (fn. 18)


The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST (fn. 19) consists of a chancel with an organ-chamber and vestry north of it, nave, north aisle, and a west tower. The only ancient parts of the structure are the south wall of the nave, probably of the 14th century, and its roof, a good example of early-16th-century construction. The west tower was added c. 1470, but at the top of the west front is the inscription 'Rebuilt 1804'. Evidently the old material was largely re-used, but the rebuilding must have been complete from the ground, as the moulded top member of the plinth is now set upside down. The church was restored in 1845 and again in 1880 when the north aisle was added.

The chancel is entirely modern. It has an east window of three lights and tracery. The nave has a modern arcade of seven bays. In the south wall are three modern or completely restored windows. The middle window is of two plain four-centred lights under a square head; the other two of two cinquefoiled lights under a segmental-pointed head. Between the first and second windows is a plain segmental-pointed doorway, now blocked, probably of the 14th century. In the reveals are sockets for a draw-bar.

The tower is of three stages and is built of ashlar with a moulded plinth and embattled parapet. At the west angles are heavy diagonal buttresses, gabled at half-height. The east angles have square buttresses. The segmental-pointed archway, 9 ft. wide, opening into it from the nave, is moulded on its west face and rebated for a pair of doors on its east face: the hooks for the hinges remain in place. The inner reveals and reararch are chamfered: the former have broach basestops. The west doorway, of late-15th-century date, has moulded jambs and a high segmental-pointed arch in a square head with traceried spandrels and a moulded label. The door, mainly reconstructed, retains the original styles and arch of the framing: these are enriched with running tracery. The west window above is of three cinquefoiled lights and vertical tracery in a two-centred head: it is modern except for the reararch. There are also modern north and south windows of two lights. In the second stage are reset three shallow niches, one above the other; the lowest and smallest is modern and contains a small figure of a man wearing a doublet down to the knees and having his hands crossed in front of him. Below it in the string-course is a shield in which is a circle enclosing a sort of eight-pointed Solomon's seal, perhaps a merchant's mark. The middle niche has a trefoiled ogee head and spandrels with balls, in a square head with a label. In it is a small man with a large head and a pleated and belted doublet, his hands to his sides. The top niche has a trefoiled four-centred and square head with a moulded label having headstops: at the sides are pilasters, now almost formless. In it is a figure of St. John the Baptist holding a dish. Above it is a small window with a label, and there are similar windows to the north and south sides, all with two-foiled heads.

The bell chamber has four square-headed windows of two trefoiled lights. Above the western is a skeleton clock-face behind which is the inscription mentioned above.

At the south-east angle is a stair turret entered by a segmental-headed doorway and lighted by loops.

The nave-roof is of three and a half double bays divided by braced and moulded tie-beams (three). The easternmost is carved with an inscription in blackletter divided into two parts by a central floral device. The inscription reads: 'Man yn wele be war, for war[l]dly good maketh man blynde: be war be for whate comyth be hinde'. The three intermediate trusses have collar-beams with arched braces below them, and moulded principal rafters: under the ends of these are panelled wall-posts on corbels; most of the posts are treated with detached small shafts forming niches with cinquefoiled ogee-heads and open sides, and in the solid over them are shields. The westernmost of these on the north side is carved with an interlacing monogram and that opposite is charged gules three crowns or. The corbels are mostly moulded, those on the north side being modern. One on the south side is carved with a grimacing head. The roof has side-corbels supported by arched wind-braces.

The 15th-century font, in the tower, has an eightsided tapering bowl of marble with slightly panelled faces, and a cylindrical stem surrounded by four shafts with moulded capitals and bases, and a moulded main base. North of the west doorway is a holy-water stoup with a half-destroyed basin. The pulpit dates from the 17th century.

In the nave floor are two brasses. (fn. 20) One set in a Petworth marble slab, 5 ft. 2 in. by 2 ft. 2 in., is the small figure of a lady in early-16th-century costume; she wears a pedimental head-dress with embroidered lappets, bodice with tight sleeves and fur cuffs, and a full skirt below which her feet appear, and an embroidered girdle with a pendant end: the inscription is missing. The other, set in a Petworth marble slab, 4 ft. 11 in. by 2 ft., is an inscription to William Blast, 1438–9.

There are two bells by Thomas Lester, 1742. (fn. 21)

The communion plate consists of a chalice with the hall marks for 1579; a paten of 1722; another chalice, flagon, and alms-dish, of silver, given in 1848. (fn. 22)

The register of baptisms begins 1653–4; of burials 1676; and of marriages 1688.


The advowson of the 'free chapel' or chantry of St. John the Baptist at Crawley early belonged to the lord of the manor. (fn. 23) At the time of the dissolution of chantries it was regarded as the parish church, and the priest had the tithes of the village. (fn. 24) In 1542 the living is referred to as a rectory, (fn. 25) and the presentation continued to descend with the manor, being attached as a chapelry to Slaugham. (fn. 26) Jane daughter of Sir John Shurley presented in 1638 with her second husband John Freake, and with her third husband Denzil Hollis in 1661. (fn. 27) In 1718 the king presented by lapse, but after that the advowson was again held by the lord of the manor, Leonard Gale, and continued with it, descending to the Clitherow family. (fn. 28) The living in 1924 had annexed to it that of St. Peter, West Crawley, formed in 1901 from the parish of Ifield, but the two livings were not held by the same incumbent until 1 January 1929. Presentation is made alternately by Lt.-Col. Thomas Claud Clitherow, D.S.O., and the Bishop of Chichester. (fn. 29)

On the south-west of Crawley was the ancient parish of Shelley, the rectory of which was closely associated with the manor of Woodmancote, in the rape of Bramber. In the reign of Henry III the advowson of Shelley was held by William de Hautentoft and Isabel his wife; their son Thomas died without issue and left as coheirs his three sisters Nichole, Lucy, and Olive, of whom Lucy died without issue. (fn. 30) Nichole married John de Hartridge (fn. 31) and had a daughter Elizabeth who married first John, son of George de Percy, who died in 1339 (fn. 32) leaving three children, William (then aged two) his heir, John, and Margaret. Elizabeth then married William de Burton and with him disputed the right of presentation to Shelley church with her cousin William de Northo, son of Olive, in a lawsuit which dragged on for at least ten years. (fn. 33) In 1341 William and Elizabeth settled their moiety of the advowson on themselves with remainder in default of issue to her children by her first husband. (fn. 34) In 1354 John de Farnebergh and Elizabeth his wife (perhaps a daughter of William and Elizabeth) made an agreement by which this half of the advowson should go after their deaths to William son of John de Percy and Mary daughter of William Filliol and their issue or the right heirs of William Filliol. (fn. 35) Sir William Percy died in 1407 and Mary in 1420, without issue, and the estate went to her nephew William son of John son of William Filliol. His wife Joan survived both him and her second husband Sir William Cheyne and died in 1434, when the advowson passed to her son John Filliol. (fn. 36) The other moiety had been settled in 1357 by Olive's son William de Northo and Denise his wife on themselves for life with remainder to Thomas de Grofhurst and Margery his wife (probably their daughter) and her issue, with contingent remainder to Sir Michael de Ponynges; (fn. 37) but no more is known of it.

The church of Shelley was valued in 1291 at £4 13s. 4d.; (fn. 38) but by 1341 about half the parish had been either imparked or allowed to go out of cultivation. (fn. 39) In 1404 it was among the benefices exempt from taxation through poverty. (fn. 40) Sir William Percy presented a rector in 1407, (fn. 41) but in 1428 there was only one householder in the parish, (fn. 42) and in 1478 Bishop Story reported that 'the church of Shelley is vacant because there are few inhabitants there, and the rector of Slaugham takes the issues'. (fn. 43) About 1510 the church became a chapel attached to that of Crawley, (fn. 44) in which parish Shelley Plain now lies, while the manor and park were absorbed into the parish of Beeding. The chapel of Our Lady continued in use till the suppression of the chantries, and in 1585 Richard Smallam, then aged 97, could remember helping to serve mass there and that 'Our Ladies coate was decked with both sylvor and golde sowen theron'. (fn. 45) The name was still coupled with the rectory of Crawley in 1631. (fn. 46)


Jessy Goss by will proved 1 Jan. 1926 gave to the Trustees of the Congregational Church of Crawley her cottage known as Princess Cottage. The cottage has been sold and the income of £12 15s. a year from the proceeds of sale is paid towards the general funds of the church.


  • 1. Kelly, Suss. Dir. (1938). For local government purposes Crawley is in West Sussex: Suss. Arch. Coll. lxxiv, 244.
  • 2. Ibid. lv, 12–16.
  • 3. Cf. ibid. frontispiece.
  • 4. Ibid. 16, 17; Suss. County Mag. vi, 139–43.
  • 5. Feud. Aids, vi, 525; Suss. Rec. Soc. iii, 91.
  • 6. Pipe R. 4 John, m. 10 d.
  • 7. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 755.
  • 8. Chan. Inq. p.m. 49 Edw. III, pt. 2, 1st nos, no. 22; Cal. Close, 1392–6, p. 315; Chan. Inq. p.m. 25 Hen. VI, no. 24; Suss. Rec. Soc. xx, 447.
  • 9. Ibid. xix, 239.
  • 10. Comber, Suss. Gen. (Lewes), 252.
  • 11. Suss. Rec. Soc. iii, 91.
  • 12. Ibid. xiv, 293; Comber, Suss. Gen. (Lewes), 253.
  • 13. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccclxvii, 187; ibid. cccclxv, 55; Suss. Rec. Soc. xx, 400; xix, 114.
  • 14. Recov. R. East 6 Anne, ro. 46.
  • 15. Add. MS. 5684, fol. 175; Suss. Rec. Soc. xx, 355; Recov. R. Mich. 24 Geo. II, ro. 472; ibid. Mich. 30 Geo. II, ro. 393.
  • 16. Ibid. Hil. 31 Geo. III, ro. 38; Burke, Landed Gentry.
  • 17. Ibid.; Horsfield, Sussex, i, 264.
  • 18. Ex inf. Messrs. Knight, Frank & Rutley, London; Messrs. Wood, Son & Gardner, Crawley.
  • 19. Suss. Arch. Coll. lv, 1-11.
  • 20. Ibid. lxxvii, 155.
  • 21. Ibid. xvi, 206.
  • 22. Ibid. liv, 249.
  • 23. Wrottesley, Ped. fr. Plea R., 409; Feet of F. Div. Co. Trin. 23 Hen. VIII.
  • 24. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxvi, 58, 171.
  • 25. Ibid. xix, 239.
  • 26. Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.); Lower, Sussex, i, 124.
  • 27. Ibid.; Comber, Suss. Gen. (Lewes), 253.
  • 28. Ibid.; Recov. R. Mich. 24 Geo. II, ro. 406, 472; ibid. 30 Geo. II. ro. 393; Horsfield, Sussex, i, 264; Suss. Arch. Coll. lxix, 209.
  • 29. Ex. inf. Rector of Crawley, the Rev. H. A. K. Baynes.
  • 30. Year Book 15 Edw. III (Rolls Ser.), 401–13: the church is here wrongly identified as Shipley.
  • 31. V.C.H. Berks. iv, 209.
  • 32. Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, 225.
  • 33. Year Book, loc. cit.; De Banco Mich. 24 Edw. III, m. 137.
  • 34. Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 1919.
  • 35. Ibid. 2136.
  • 36. Add. MS. 39504, fol. 423, citing Esch. Inq. 12–13 Hen. VI; Chan. Inq. p.m. 12 Hen. VI, 39.
  • 37. Fines, 2177.
  • 38. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 136.
  • 39. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 380.
  • 40. Reg. of Rob. Rede (Suss. Rec. Soc.), i, 40.
  • 41. Ibid. ii, 252.
  • 42. Feud. Aids, v, 165.
  • 43. Add. MS. 39345, fol. 179.
  • 44. Ibid.; Valor Eccl. (Recc. Com.) i, 335.
  • 45. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxvi, 8, 170.
  • 46. Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.).