Crewe is well known for its connections with the railways, especially the manufacture of locomotives, but this has declined, along with the steel industry, over the last 30 years. However, new and innovative industries are being encouraged through developments such as the Science and Technology Park.
A Brief History of Crewe
Crewe originally started out as the village of Coppenhall, but it was the railways that put it on the map when, in 1843, the Grand Junction Railway Company opened their engineering works there. The town was already a major railway junction by this time, linking together the triangle of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. The influx of workers meant that Crewe changed from village to town within the space of a few years. Other heavy industries followed, including Rolls Royce and Midland Rollmakers (makers of steel rolls for rolling mills).
Rolls Royce acquired the Bentley marque and both eventually became part of Vickers in 1980. When Vickers sold the factory to Volkswagen in 1998, they sold the Rolls Royce marque separately to BMW. Hence the factory is now the sole producer of Bentley, while Rolls Royce production has moved to new premises in the south of England. Sadly, Midland Rollmakers closed in 2004 and there is a question mark over the future of Crewe Railway Works (now owned by Bombardier).
Crewe is consolidating its position as a university town. Manchester Metropolitan University is in the process of moving its entire South Cheshire operation there. In the Further Education sector, South Cheshire College has been awarded 'Beacon College' status, as it's considered a centre of excellence.
Features and Heritage
The town still has some interesting(ish) features: firstly, it is the home of Bentley Motors, now owned by Volkswagen; secondly it has The LimeLight, one of the best live music venues in the Northwest; thirdly it has Crewe Alexandra, a small football club that has dragged itself up by the boot straps, within touching distance of the highest league of the land. In 2004 they kicked off in England's second league - The Championship; and fourthly, it has The Lyceum, a beautiful Edwardian theatre, which seems to be perpetually in financial crisis.
Unfortunately, Crewe suffered from planning blight during the 1960s and '70s, which meant a lot of its heritage was lost to the bulldozer. Buildings demolished include: the Chetwode (a beautiful half-timbered pub); the Art Deco-style Odeon cinema and the Town Hall. Images of old Crewe can be found at the Family History Society of Cheshire. In the 1980s there was an opportunity to build a railway museum next to the station. However, Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council decided that the town needed another supermarket. As a consequence of this lack of vision, the Railway Age heritage centre is hidden behind a retail development. This does little to draw in the crowds and is known locally as 'Pete Waterman's1 train set', as it is where the impresario services his collection of steam trains. It's also the final resting place of the Advanced Passenger Train, the ill-fated forerunner of today's tilting trains.
Golf and the Aristocracy
On a personal note, this Researcher's grandfather (deceased) used to be the golf pro at Crewe Golf Club, in the village of Haslington just outside the town. This was before the days of big money tournaments and he earned a crust teaching the game to those who could afford it. This included the last Lord Crewe. The Crewe family ran out of money, after WW2 and sold the ancestral pile to the Welcome Foundation. During the years that followed, it became part of a light industrial development. Thankfully, the hall didn't suffer any structural alterations and it is now an up-market hotel.
Sadly, there is a dearth of real ale pubs, but if you are in the vicinity of the Railway Station, you could do worse than the British Lion, affectionately known to the locals as the 'Pig'. Other real ale pubs include the Borough Arms and The Gaffers Row, both located in the town centre.