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A Friday afternoon in Crawley

April 7th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

On Friday I had my last meeting at the Town Hall, a portfolio briefing to tie up some loose ends and approve a business case. After that I went out for some lunch with Jayne and we went to two new(ish) places in Crawley.

First of all we went to the new comic shop in the High Street. I had seen something in the local paper about it opening and wanted to see for myself what it was like. A colleague at work had told me that he goes there when his wife and daughter are shopping. I think they treat it like a ball pit for adults and leave him there to amuse himself then pick him up when they have finished. From what he was saying it sounded like there is a bit of a community growing up around the place and I think that is increasingly important to keep a shop viable. You can go in, buy a comic then buy a coffee and sit around reding your comic while you drink it. In fact we will probably reach the point where every shop will need its own coffee shop.

We first saw this when we visited New York and all the book stores had a coffee shop in them where you could browse books in comfort. Comics are not really my thing, but I do like that they exist and I can see the appeal so I hope this shop survivies and thrives. It has a decent range of merchandise as well as comics and books, plus a games room where you can rent a sofa by the hour and play on games consoles. A lot of the floorspace is taken up by big solid tables where you can sit with your coffee. Perhaps they should encourage people to linger longer by leaving some board games out?

It is worth a visit just to see the massive Incredible Hulk figure.

The other place we went to is the Crawley museum in its new home. I have to admit that I never visited the place in its old home. I am not really into local history. I have lived in the town over twenty years now and have never even seen the Ifield Mill, which is one of the most historic places in the town.

Despite my own lack of enthusiasm for local history and the fact that this isn’t really a place with a lot of history, they have done a very good job with the museum. It is well laid-out and feels quite informal. It is also a very trusting place: not everything is in glass cabinets and not everything is screwed down. There are signs on somethings asking you to not touch but that is it. It does deserve to be visited and in its new location it is a lot easier to access.

Before anybody kicks off about the comment regarding the lack of history locally, I should probably expand on that. I mean specific history, and the fact is that most places don’t have a lot of specific history. I come from Basildon and that has a similar lack of historical significance. Of course Crawley has a past, it is just that a lot of that past is the same as everywhere else. That is not to say it isn’t interesting to those who are interested in such things but displays about Crawley in Victorian times will not have much that is different to any other town that was around in Victorian times.

While there may not have been any major historical events like battles there are a couple of things unque to the town. The first is the London to Brighton veteran car run, which is suitably represented. The other thing is Gatwick airport, which is interesting because, and this is a generalisation, the locals who are most interested in local history tend to be the least enthusiastic about the airport and any expansion of it. It was good to see that the airport was covered, with reminders of just how significant the old Beehive building is, as the first ‘proper’ airport terminal building with all of its functions integrated into one place.

Of course, if you are really interested in the airport then you really need a trip to the Gatwick Aviation museum near Charlwood because that is absolutely crammed with memorabilia from the airport, as well as some decent airplanes to look at.

Apathy towards local history is something that I obviously share with most of the population because when we turned up we were the only visitors to the museum. As we were leaving there was a family just arriving, by coincidence it was somebody from my workplace, but six people in an afternoon is not great attendance. A shame because it it is a decent local museum, and better than most local museums I have visited, and I left the place a little more interested than I was.

Actually it isn’t totally true to say that I am not interested in local history because I am quite fascinated by the photos of the new town development. There are a couple of blown-up aerial photos of Manor Royal from the mid-60’s and mid-70’s hanging on a wall in the Town Hall that I always stop to look at. I think they deserve to be seen by more people and maybe they can move to the museum when the Town Hall is relocated.

But don’t take my word for it, pop in and have a look yourself. It is free and very child-friendly. One of the upstairs rooms even has a dressing up box where you can try out some period clothing.

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