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Celebrating Crewe's 175th birthday

Crewe Station

The 4th of July is a very significant date, you know. Not only if you’re an American celebrating

Independence Day. It’s the birthday of a train station which gave birth to a town a few years down the line. It’s a train station which came to connect six different train lines, enabling easy connection with Shrewsbury, Birmingham, Stoke and Derby, Manchester, Liverpool and Chester on to North Wales.

This major transport hub: the historic railway station of Crewe has its 175th birthday on 4th July 2012. Celebrations and events include its slightly younger town.

The first train passed through the new station in 1837, the town following in 1843 with the relocation of the Edge Hill railway works to Crewe, roughly in the middle between Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool. The importance of Crewe quickly grew along with its population; so much so that the Crewe Chronicle wrote on December 29th 1900 “A little more than half a century ago Crewe was described as a wayside station where a spare engine was kept.

"To-day it is the great locomotive centre of the L. and N.W. Railway Company, with a population estimated at 44,000, all of whom are more or less dependent upon that great company for their subsistence...

"Crewe has come to be regarded as the most important junction not in the kingdom only, but in the whole railway world".

Crewe was a single industry town. Either directly or indirectly, everything relied on The Works.

A further article in the Chronicle in 1902, worrying over the rumoured departure of the Chief Mechanical Engineer from Crewe works articulates that: “It must be remembered that Crewe is part and parcel of the London and North Western Railway Company - not largely, or chiefly, or practically, as other towns may be said to be connected with certain business firms or industries; but absolutely, entirely, and in every sense of the word...

"Let the London and North Western depart tomorrow, and Crewe would perish out of the list of living towns as completely as Nineveh or Pompeii. The grass would grow in its streets, its houses would stand in empty rows, its churches would become nesting places for the rooks and owls, its people would fly from it; and pasture fields for sheep and oxen, dotted with, perhaps, half a dozen peasant homesteads, would take the place of one of the most progressive and flourishing towns of modern England.”

Obviously Crewe hasn’t perished but mercifully diversified greatly as the connection with railway industry has diminished. Just a few prominent examples of the spread of industry: Mornflakes has been milling in the area since 1675. Rolls Royce aerospace arriving in Crewe in 1938 is now Bentley Motors, making top end of range luxury cars. The world renowned Chester Barrie tailor (of Savile Row) has had a factory in Crewe since 1939. Whitby Morrison have been manufacturing ice cream vans in Crewe since 1962, celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Just a few factors to make the town’s ongoing diverse history and heritage something to celebrate.

July 4th sees “Strange at Crewe” 175th birthday tours of Crewe Station, then July 7th kick starts “Crewe 175”, which is a summer packed full of events through the town centre and Crewe Heritage Centre. It’s the Heritage Centre’s 25th anniversary this year, and Manchester Metropolitan University celebrates one hundred years of higher education in the town with an extensive schedule of events. Full details will appear in the press and media. This will be a year to remember for Crewe Heritage, a history to celebrate.

This article is copyright Tim Prevett. Tours are bookable through Web Ticket Manager here or phoning 07905 597 242.