Crewe // (Welsh: Cryw) is a railway town and civil parish within the borough of Cheshire East and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. The area has a population of 71,722. Crewe is perhaps best known as a large railway junction and home to Crewe Works, for many years a major railway engineering facility for manufacturing and overhauling locomotives, but now much reduced in size. From 1946 until 2002 it was also the home of Rolls-Royce motor car production. The Pyms Lane factory on the west of the town now produces Bentley motor cars exclusively. Crewe is 158 miles (254 kilometres) north of London and 35 mi (56 km) south of Manchester.
The modern urban settlement of Crewe was not formally planned out until 1843 by Joseph Locke to consolidate the "railway colony" that had grown up since around 1840–41 in the area near to the railway junction station opened in 1837, even though it was called Crewe by many, from the start. Crewe was thus named after the railway station, rather than the other way round.
Crewe was founded in the township of Monks Coppenhall which, with the township of Church Coppenhall, formed the ancient parish of Coppenhall. The railway station was named after the township of Crewe (then, part of the ancient parish of Barthomley) in which it was located. Eventually, the township of Crewe became a civil parish in its own right also named, rather confusingly, Crewe. This civil parish changed its name to Crewe Green in 1974 to avoid confusion with the adjacent town, which had been made a municipal borough in 1877.
The railway station remained part of the civil parish of Crewe, outside the boundary of the municipal borough until 1936. So, throughout its history, the town of Crewe has neither been part of, nor has it encompassed first the township of Crewe, later the civil parish of Crewe, and later still the civil parish of Crewe Green adjacent to it, even though these places were the direct origin of the name of the town via the railway station which was also not part of the town before 1936. An old, local riddle describes the somewhat unusual states of affairs: "The place which is Crewe is not Crewe, and the place which is not Crewe is Crewe."
Until the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) company chose Crewe as the site for its locomotive works and railway station in the late 1830s, Crewe was a village with a population (c. 1831) of just 70 residents. Winsford, 7 miles (11 km) to the north, had rejected an earlier proposal, as had local landowners in neighbouring Nantwich, 4 miles (6 km) away. Crewe railway station was built in fields near to Crewe Hall and was completed in 1837.
A new town grew up, in the parishes of Monks Coppenhall and Church Coppenhall, alongside the increasingly busy station, with the population expanding to reach 40,000 by 1871. GJR chief engineer Joseph Locke helped lay out the town.
The town has a large park, Queen's Park (laid out by engineer Francis Webb), the land for which was donated by the London and North Western Railway, the successor to the GJR. It has been suggested that their motivation was to prevent the rival Great Western Railway building a station on the site, but the available evidence indicates otherwise.
The railway provided an endowment towards the building and upkeep of Christ Church. Until 1897 its vicar, non-conformist ministers and schoolteachers received concessionary passes, the school having been established in 1842. The company provided a doctor's surgery with a scheme of health insurance. A gasworks was built and the works water supply was adapted to provide drinking water and a public baths. The railway also opened a cheese market in 1854 and a clothing factory for John Compton who provided the company uniforms, while McCorquodale of Liverpool set up a printing works.
During World War II the strategic presence of the railways and Rolls-Royce engineering works (turned over to producing aircraft engines) made Crewe a target for enemy air raids, and it was in the flight path to Liverpool. The borough lost 35 civilians to these, the worst raid was on 29 August 1940 when some 50 houses were destroyed, close to the station.
The railways still play a part in local industry at Crewe Works, which carries out train maintenance and inspection. It has been owned by Bombardier Transportation since 2001. At its height, the site employed over 20,000 people, but by 2005 fewer than 1,000 remained, with a further 270 redundancies announced in November of that year. Much of the site once occupied by the works has been sold and is now occupied by a supermarket, leisure park, and a large new health centre.
There is still an electric locomotive maintenance depot to the north of the railway station, operated by DB Schenker Rail. The diesel locomotive maintenance depot has recently reopened as a maintenance facility for a private steam company and has undergone major structural repairs.
The Bentley car factory is on Pyms Lane to the west of town. As of early 2010, there are about 3,500 working at the site. The factory used to produce Rolls-Royce cars, until the licence for the brand transferred from Bentley's owners Volkswagen to rival BMW in 2003.
The headquarters of Focus DIY plc, which went into administration in 2011, was in the town. Off-licence chain Bargain Booze is also Crewe-based. It was bought-out in 2018 by Sir Anwar Pervez' conglomerate Bestway for £7m, putting drinks retailing alongside its Manchester-based Well Pharmacy.
Several business parks around the town host light industry and offices. Crewe Business Park is a 67-acre site with offices, research and IT manufacturing. Major presences on the site include Air Products, Barclay's Bank and Fujitsu Services Ltd. The 12 acre Crewe Gates Industrial Estate is adjacent to Crewe Business Park, with smaller industry including the ice cream van manufacturer Whitby Morrison. The Weston Gate area has light industry and distribution. Marshfield Bank Employment Park is to the west of the town, and includes offices, manufacturing and distribution. There are industrial and light industrial units at Radway Green.
The town has two small shopping centres: the Victoria Centre and the Market Centre. There are indoor and outdoor markets throughout the week. Grand Junction Retail Park is just outside the centre of town. Nantwich Road provides a wide range of secondary local shops, with a variety of small retailers and estate agents.
The Market Centre is the largest shopping centre in Crewe. It is situated in the heart of the town centre with 22 national retailers including River Island, Wilkinsons, Argos, Iceland and Dorothy Perkins. There are three large car parks nearby and Crewe Bus Station is a five-minutes walk from the shopping centre. It has a weekly footfall of approximately 100,000 visitors.
A planned redevelopment of Crewe's town centre, including the current bus station and main shopping area were abandoned because of "difficult economic conditions" during 2008.
There were also plans to revamp the railway station which involved moving it to Basford. This was pending a public consultation by Network Rail scheduled for autumn 2008, but no such public consultation was done. The plan was abandoned and maintenance work was carried out on the current station instead.
Cheshire East Council developed a new regeneration master plan for Crewe, which included the opening of a new Lifestyle Centre, with a new swimming pool, gym and library.
Crewe railway station is less than a mile from Crewe town centre, although it was not incorporated into the then Borough of Crewe until 1937. It is one of the largest stations in the North West and a major interchange station on the West Coast Main Line. It has 12 platforms in use and has a direct service to London Euston (average journey time of around 1 hour 35 minutes), Edinburgh, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Chester, Wrexham and Holyhead for the ferry connections to Dublin Port. Many other towns and cities also have railway connections to Crewe.
The main bus company in Crewe is D&G Bus following the reduction of funding given to Arriva North West, who still run longer distance services to Chester, Northwich, Macclesfield and Winsford. Other operators include BakerBus and First Potteries who operate a single service running into Stoke-on-Trent.
Crewe Heritage Centre is located in the old LMS railway yard for Crewe railway station. The museum has three signal boxes and an extensive miniature railway with steam, diesel and electric traction. The most prominent exhibit of the museum is the British Rail Class 370 Advanced Passenger Train.
The Grade II-listed Edwardian Lyceum Theatre is in the centre of Crewe. It was built in 1911 and shows drama, ballet, opera, music, comedy and pantomime. The theatre was originally located on Heath Street from 1882. The Axis Arts Centre is on the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) campus in Crewe. It relocated from the university's Alsager Campus when it closed. The centre has a programme of touring new performance and visual art work. The Axis centre closed at the end of the spring 2019 season with the withdrawal of MMU from the Crewe campus. The Box on Pedley Street is the town's main local music venue.
Both the Lyceum Theatre and the Axis Arts Centre feature galleries. The private Livingroom art gallery is on Prince Albert Street. The town's main library is on Prince Albert Square, opposite the Municipal Buildings.
The Jacobean mansion Crewe Hall is located to the east of the town near Crewe Green. It is a grade I listed building, built in 1615–36 for Sir Randolph Crewe. Today, it is used as a hotel, restaurant and health club.
There is a multiplex ODEON cinema on Phoenix Leisure Park on the edge of the town centre, as well as a bowling alley.
Queen's Park is the town's main park, and is currently undergoing a £6.5 million transformation. It features walkways, a children's play area, crown green bowling, putting, a boating lake, grassed areas, memorials and a café. Jubilee Gardens are in Hightown and there is also a park on Westminster Street.
Crewe Carnival does not take place each summer now due to lack of funding by CEC.
The weekly Crewe Chronicle, the Crewe and Nantwich Guardian and the daily Sentinel newspapers all cover the town. Local radio stations are Silk 106.9 from Macclesfield, Signal 1 and Signal 2 from Stoke-on-Trent and BBC Radio Stoke. Nantwich-based RedShift Radio is a community internet radio station covering Crewe, Nantwich and South Cheshire. The Cat, based in South Cheshire College broadcasts on FM to Crewe, Nantwich and surrounding areas on 107.9FM and online as Crewe and Nantwich's first and only dedicated FM radio station.
Cheshire has adopted the comprehensive school model of secondary education, so all of the schools under its control cater for pupils of all levels of ability. Until the late 1970s Crewe had two grammar schools, Crewe Grammar School for Boys, now Ruskin High School and Crewe Grammar School for Girls, now the Oaks Academy (formerly Kings Grove School). The town's two other secondary schools are Sir William Stanier Community School, a specialist technology and arts academy, and St. Thomas More Catholic High School, specialising in mathematics and computing and modern foreign languages.
Although there are eight schools for those aged 11–16 in Crewe and its surrounding area, South Cheshire College is one of only two local providers of education for pupils aged 16 and over, and the only one in Crewe. The college also provides educational programmes for adults, leading to qualifications such as Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) or foundation degrees. In the 2006–07 academic year 2,532 students aged 16–18 were enrolled, along with 3,721 adults.
Manchester Metropolitan University's (MMU) Cheshire Faculty is based in Crewe, in a part of town which has been rebranded as the University Quadrant. The campus offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in five areas: business and management, contemporary arts, exercise and sport science, interdisciplinary studies, education and teacher training. The campus underwent a £70 million investment in its facilities and buildings in 2015. The campus was used as a pre-games training camp for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Crewe's local football club is Crewe Alexandra. During the late 20th century the club enjoyed something of a renaissance under the management of Dario Gradi, playing in the First Division – the second tier of the professional pyramid – for five seasons from 1997 to 2002. Crewe Alexandra currently play in League Two (the fourth tier), having been relegated from League One in the 2015/16 season. In 2013 the club also won its first-ever major silverware after beating Southend United 2-0 in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final at Wembley.
Crewe Alexandra has a reputation of developing young players through its youth ranks; since the early 1980s Geoff Thomas, Danny Murphy, Craig Hignett, David Platt, Rob Jones, Neil Lennon, Dean Ashton and Nick Powell have all passed through the club. Internationals Bruce Grobbelaar and Stan Bowles were also on the books at one time in their careers. Possibly their most famous home-grown player was Frank Blunstone, born in the town in 1934, who was transferred from "The Alex" to Chelsea in 1953, and went on to win five England caps.
Crewe's local rugby clubs are both based in or near Nantwich. The Crewe & Nantwich Steamers (formerly Crewe Wolves), who play in the Rugby League Conference, are based at Barony Park, Nantwich, while Crewe and Nantwich RUFC play their home games at the Vagrants Sports Ground in Willaston.
Speedway racing was staged in Crewe in the pioneer days of the late 1920s to early 1930s. The venue was the stadium in Earle Street which also operated in the 1970s. The Crewe Kings raced in the lower division – British League Division Two, then the National League – from 1969 until 1975. At the time the track was the longest and fastest in the UK. Amongst their riders were Phil Crump (father of Jason Crump), Les Collins (brother of Peter Collins), Dave Morton (brother of Chris Morton), Geoff Curtis, John Jackson, Jack Millen and Dave Parry. The stadium has since been demolished to be replaced by a retail park housing a number of national companies.
The Crewe Railroaders are the town's American football team, currently competing in the BAFA Central League Division 2 and the subject of the film Gridiron UK which premiered at the Lyceum Theatre on 29 September 2016.
Crewe also has its own roller derby team, Railtown Loco Rollers, founded in September 2013. They skate at Sir William Stanier Leisure Centre and compete with skaters and teams from all over the North West.
Crewe's main leisure facility is the Crewe Lifestyle Centre, which now houses Crewe's Swimming Pool after the Flag Lane premises closed in 2016. Other notable leisure facilities include Sir William Stanier Leisure Centre and Victoria Community Centre.
In Threads (1984), Crewe is destroyed by a single megaton Soviet Union nuclear weapon, given its strategic roles as a transport hub and manufacturer of small arms for the British Army. Fallout from the ground-burst blast contaminates Sheffield and other adjacent cities, worsening their existing problems after being hit in a fictional nuclear exchange between NATO and the USSR in this television docudrama.
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