If you have any information or photos on the history of Crawley’s past estates and you would like us to feature it on this website, please contact us.
The Tilgate Park Estate was first recorded in 1647 and covered a large part of the South of Crawley, up to the edge of Three Bridges and Ashdown Forest. It covered an area that would later become the neighbourhoods of, among others, Maidenbower and Furnace Green. The estate was situated in the parish of Worth, and was a heavy industry area in the 17th century. The ironworks and furnaces were replaced by one of Crawley’s largest landed estates.
In 1861 the estate was purchased by George Ashburner for £55,000. Ashburner developed a French style mansion on the site of the original old house, and his mansion remained there until its demolition in 1966. Ashburners daughter married John Hennings Nix in 1865 and the estate was left to her when her parents died.
On 7th September 1939, four days after Britain’s declaration of war with Germany, all 2,185 acres of the estate, along with the mansion house, were put up for sale. The estate was split up for the sale, and the mansion house was demolished around 1966. All that remains of the original house, is the stable block, which is now several residential dwellings.
The three lakes within the estate were probably constructed to serve the medieval iron industry, but after the industry declined the lakes were used for ornament and recreation. The main lake was also used by World Water Speed Record holder Malcolm Campbell in the 1940's for flotation trials for his water speed craft, following which it was known locally as Campbell's Lake.
Like many of Crawley’s early farms, Crabbet Farm was named after one of the many varieties of tree that could be found in the area when there was first settlement, the crab apple tree. It first features in Crawley’s history from 1698 when it was purchased by Leonard Gale Jr.
The estate was passed to the Blunt family and in 1872 Wilfrid Blunt rebuilt the manor house in late 17th century style. Blunt and his wife Anne made a career out of travelling and buying Arabian horses, mainly in Arabia, to import to Crabbet.
In 1904 the estate was passed to Lady Wentworth who, in 1916, began to break up and sell off various parts of the estate. She retained the manor house to continue the successful breeding of horses. Included in the sale was Ridley’s Corner cottage and Woolborough Farm, which later became part of Northgate. Crabbet Park House remained the property of Baroness Wentworth until her death in 1957. The estate was then sold off, although the Crabbet Arabian Stud continued. Even today a discerning Arab horse buyer will always look for the 'Crabbet Lines' in a pedigree.
In the early 1970’s, the M23 cut through meant that the area was extremely desirable to housing developers. Crabbet Park housing estate was built around Wentworth Drive and The Ridings. Crabbet Park House first became a boys school, then flats and finally offices.
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