SLIDESHOW: The tree house and the clock

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There can’t be many people left who remember the Crawley Elm.

And, looking at the pictures in this slideshow, it’s a shame it’s not still part of the town centre – it looks like something out of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

Crawley History: the Crawley Elm

Crawley History: the Crawley Elm

These pictures come courtesy of West Sussex Past Pictures ( and show the elm at various points in its history.

The elm stood next to The Tree, in the High Street, at almost exactly the point which is now the junction with The Boulevard.

It had a door in the base which led to a room in the trunk, which was believed to have been created in the early 19th century.

Historian Nadine Hygate said she thinks the base measured 65ft in circumference while the room inside was around 12ft across.

She said: “Children had Sunday School tea parties in there.

“It was much taller originally but it was struck by lightning and the top was killed and fell off.

“It was removed when they began to build The Boulevard.”

Miss Hygate said she believed that the elm was once home to two soldiers and was also shelter for a woman in childbirth stayed there in the 1800s.

While The Tree is still standing – and will hopefully house the town’s museum soon – the building which used to stand next to it was also sacrificed to make way for The Boulevard.

Known as Rectory Lodge, the building was made of brick and had a tiled roof and the upper walls were hung with tiles.

It and The Tree were enclosed by a white picket fence.

Do you remember the Crawley Elm and Rectory Lodge?

Then we have an old favourite – but it’s such a nice picture it’s worth looking at again.

The clock stood in Queens Square between 1965 and 1973, having been unveiled by Sir Thomas Bennett on Saturday November 6 1965.

According to county council records, the design for the clock was put forward by Miss Diane Hillman, a member of the New Towns Commission architectural staff.

It cost £2,880 - almost as much as a house at the time - stood 27 feet tall, weighed two tons and took three years to build.

It was provided and paid for by the New Towns Commission and was made by Messrs Thwaites & Reed Ltd, of London.

The London to Brighton theme was suggested by chief architect, Mr HS Howgrave-Graham in recognition of Crawley’s status as an official stopping point for cars on the Veteran Car Run, which had passed through the town every year since 1896.

When the clock struck the hour, the chimes played the theme from the film Genevieve and a series of electrically operated veteran car rally scenes were displayed.

The chimes were switched off between 10pm and 8am to avoid waking people up overnight.

Looking back. this seemed a tad optimistic as, according to townsfolk of the time, the clock always seemed to be broken!

The council moved the clock from Queens Square to Tilgate Park in 1973 – but it didn’t stay long and was sold to John Dew of Robins Cook Farm, Redhill, in July 1975 for £300.

He kept it in his front garden. Does anyone know if the clock is still there today?

Financially, the clock had proved to be a bit of a disaster but there are many 40 and 50-somethings out there with fond memories of playing at the foot of its long legs and waiting for the chimes to sound.