History

Between 1971 and 1981 the population of Crawley down doubled from less than 2000 to well over 4000 inhabitants. With this massive increase in population in the late 1970’s came the need for more community amenities in the village. There was only the village hall and parish room available for clubs and organisations to meet or for individuals to hire for weddings, parties and other social functions.

It was realised that the village needed a much larger, multi functional modern community centre, so in about 1980 the Crawley Down Community Centre was registered with the Charities Commission. Its sole aim was to provide a community centre for the residents of the village as quickly as possible. Incorporated in this community centre would be a village social club.

A local architect drew up plans for the community centre to be constructed on the north side of the Haven Sports Field in Hophurst Lane. Outline planning permission was granted by Mid Sussex District Council. The estimated cost at that time was in excess of a million pounds. The CDCCA had no funds to start with. Some backing was promised by the parish, local and county councils.

For the next few years a small dedicated team of volunteers organised a vast number of fund raising events: plant sales in the spring, gymkhanas, race nights, sponsored walks, Grand Christmas Draws etc.

Negotiations were ongoing with MSDC for them to provide more tangible backing to the project. Although funds were being raised it was nowhere near the amount required to proceed with the planned construction.

At this time West Sussex County Council education department finalised their plans to build a new Junior School in Hophurst Drive adjacent to Burleigh Infants School. This was to replace the ageing school on the Turners Hill Road next to All Saints Church. As a Church of England school it was owned by the diocese of Chichester. The Earl of Chichester agreed that once vacated it could be converted into an interim community centre and social club for Crawley Down village and then sold for development with most of the proceeds being gifted towards the cost of the new community centre. Finally in 1987 the CDCCA and Crawley Down Social Club had their own premises, albeit a Victorian school well over a hundred years old.

The small dedicated team of volunteers now had a fresh task to face; converting an old school into a functioning community centre/social club. With ingenuity, craft (in both senses of the word) cajoling, and a lot of hard work the conversion was completed in a remarkably short space of time. What had been one of the classrooms was converted into the social club (effectively a bar area).

An integral part of a bar is the bar (the wooden thing you lean on to sup your pint). They are crafted from large pieces of hard timber and polished to a high standard. Thus they are very expensive. This is where the social club had a stroke of luck. British Airways had their own social club “The Wingspan” located on the southeast corner of Gatwick Airport. The area in which it was situated in was designated for redevelopment. With their resources BA were able to build a new club in Crawley and could therefore walk away from their old club. Coincidental with this was the formation of Crawley Down Social Club.

One cold autumn morning in 1987 about a dozen volunteers from the village met at the Wingspan Club. The bar, along with a considerable amount of fittings was manually moved from inside the club and on to the back of a van for transportation to Crawley Down. Considering the size and weight this was a considerable achievement.

A couple of weeks later Crawley Down Social Club was ready to open. It was an historic day for the village. The Earl of Chichester performed the opening ceremony along with Dorothy Hatswell, Chairman of the CDCCA since its formation nearly ten years before.

The club quickly became popular with the villagers. The bar was small but very cosy and intimate. It was manned entirely by volunteers and only opened at limited times. It proved so popular and too busy for volunteers to run it that it was decided to appoint a Club Steward. As there was no accommodation the breweries agreed to grant a loan to the club to buy a house for the steward, with option of selling it at a profit when the new centre was built.

The adjacent community centre hall was regular used for functions on Saturday nights. One of the regular DJs was Pete Williams who still provides discos in the club some 20 years later.

It was this point that the CDCCA began to accumulate more substantial funds towards the dream of building the new community centre. The main source of income was from the social club which thrived. Mid Sussex District Council now showed real interest. They could see that, if Crawley Down was able to build and successfully operate a community centre with little council funding then other villages could be encouraged to undertake similar ventures. They gave a monetary grant to the centre as did WSCC and Worth Parish Council. Other grants were procured including the Sports Council. MSDC were also able to negotiate the necessary mortgage to provide the necessary amount required to commence building, along with a loan from Barclays Bank.

The original architect’s plans had to be substantially revised. Despite these revisions the cost was still in excess of a million pounds. This did not include any fixtures or fittings in the Social Club. A local builder, Longleys, signed the contract to construct the new building. The footings were laid in 1989. Villagers watched with keen interest as the building work progressed. Despite the income from the Social Club other fund raising activities continued. Because of the location of the old community centre on the Turners Hill Road, for three consecutive years refreshment was provided in mid June for cyclists in the London to Brighton bike ride.

The construction of the building was completed in the spring of 1991 Now came the task of furnishing the property. The club received a great deal of advice from their brewery suppliers. Two brewery loans, totalling £75,000 were obtained for fixtures and fittings against a guaranteed barrelage purchase over a 10 year period. Because of the popularity of the club these loans were actually paid off in eight years.

It was announced in early 1991 that the official opening of The HAVEN CENTRE would take place on Monday 24th June 1991 and would be performed by HRH Princess Alexandra. There was great excitement in the village as the opening day neared. Dozens of volunteers were involved in the planning of this landmark day in the history of Crawley Down.

Monday 24th June 1991 was warm but wet. It rained most of the day. At 2 p.m. precisely the royal car arrived. Despite the weather a large number of villagers had gathered in the car park to see Princess Alexandra arrive. She was accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex and Nicholas Soames M.P. She was greeted at the entrance of the community centre by Dorothy Hatswell, Chairman of the CDCCA. She was given a conducted hour long tour of the new building and introduced to many of the key figures involved in the planning of the past decade.

The final part of her tour was Crawley Down Social Club. Tony Clements, the club Chairman, introduced her to many of the people active in running the club, including a very young Kirsty Kirkpatrick (as she was then) the Club Secretary.

During the early part of 2017 and due to spiraling debts an emergency meeting was called with all the social club members to decide on it's future and at the meeting it was decided to close the social club and take it into administration. A short while later in an effort to protect the existing staff and keep a bar facility within the village a proposal was put to the CDCCA committee to re-open the bar as a facility within the community centre. The proposal was accepted and after a huge effort from the staff and volunteers the bar facility re-opened over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Since re-opening the Kitchen has been completely refurbished and a cafe / coffee shop has been opened which has proved very successful and is being enjoyed by the local community and visitors and customers of the community centre. There is an ongoing schedule of works to improve the facility.