Crayford shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|– Charing Cross||13.7 mi (22.0 km) WNW|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Bexleyheath and Crayford|
|London Assembly||Bexley and Bromley|
An Iron Age settlement existed in the vicinity of the present St Paulinus Church between the Julian and Claudian invasions of Britain, from roughly 30 BC to AD 40. Roman ruins have been discovered and Crayford is one of several places proposed as the site of Noviomagus, a place mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary as being on the Roman equivalent of the later Watling Street. Crayford is also plausible as the site of the bloody battle of Crecganford ("Creeksford") in 457. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle written around 400 years later describes how Hengist and Aesc defeated the "Brettas" at the site.
Crayford is mentioned in the Domesday Book, which was compiled just prior to 1086, as a settlement within the Hundred of Litlelee with a church, three mills, and a relatively large population of 27 regular householders (villeins) and 2 smallholders. Its overlord was not a private individual or the king but Christ Church, Canterbury.
As a (civil/combined) parish (before 1920) it included the hamlets of Northend, Perry Street and Slade Green which lie to the north. In 1831, the population of the parish was 2022 people. For centuries it was strongly associated with brick-making, the printing of silk scarves, ties and calico cloths, and for a short period carpet-making.
There were two main Manor Houses in the area during the Middle Ages, Newbery Manor on the site of what is now Crayford Manor House, and Howbury Manor next to Slade Green. Roger Apylton had served Kings Henry V and Henry VI as auditor, and resided at Marshalls Court, Crayford. Late in the reign of Elizabeth I Henry Partich sold Newbery Manor to Henry Apylton of Marshalls Court, and Apylton built May Place close by. Hall Place, which lies alongside the River Cray, was built for Lord Mayor of the City of London Sir John Champneis in around 1537. There was also an Iron Mill, which was later replaced by a saw mill (in 1765), which produced the timber for the floor of Buckingham Palace. In 1551 Francis Goldsmith bought a 'Great tenement called The Place' next to the bridge in Crayford, and between 1556 and 1586 purchased substantial amounts of local farmland and the Old Bell Public House.
In 1623 most of the parish of Crayford was purchased by Merchant Taylor Robert Draper including Newbery Manor, Howbury Manor, Marshalls Court and May Place, where his family took up residence. Draper's wife Anne was the daughter of Thomas Harman who lived at Ellam House which subsequently passed to the Drapers. The ownerships subsequently passed to Robert Draper's son William, who was selected to be the Sheriff of the County of Kent but died in 1650 before taking office, and then to Robert's grandson, parliamentarian Cresheld Draper. On the death of Cresheld Draper in 1694, his heirs sold all the properties to Sir Cloudesley Shovell'.
Crayford Manor House was rebuilt in the eighteenth century, at the time essentially a farmhouse until it was remodelled in 1816 for the The Rev. Thomas Barne. Historic England state it was built piecemeal over several periods, with a porch and Italianate features being added to the 1816 building.
Other notable 19th-century local houses included Shenstone (built around 1828 and demolished 1974, the site is now Shenstone School, with Shenstone's former grounds now being Shenstone Park), Stoneyhurst (which became Stoneyhurst Convent High School and is now the site of St Catherine's Roman Catholic School for Girls), Martens Grove and Oakwood - the latter two designed by architect John Shaw, Jr. and built by George Locke of builders Locke & Nesham with each occupying one of the houses.
In 1819 the former saw mill site became a flour mill, and another major employer was the silk works set up by Augustus Applegath and later run by David Evans. The Maxim Nordenfeldt Gun and Ammunition Factory was also a major employer, until taken over by the Vickers Company in 1897. Vickers built military aeroplanes and armaments and became the dominant employer, building homes, a theatre and a canteen close to many workshops. The canteen (built during the First World War) became the town hall of the Crayford Urban District Council and remains a major landmark in municipal use.
Until the creation of Greater London in 1965 which was effectively an expansion of the County of London, the character and attributes of the place fell just short of town status in the United Kingdom and it was until shortly before the Second World War little more than an average sized village in Kent with relatively short journeys possible to London and 19th century and early 20th century industrial employment areas such as Dartford and Croydon.
Another former major employer in Crayford was Dussek Brothers (part of Burmah-Castrol since the 1960s) who operated their oils and waxes blending business on Thames Road from around 1928 until the site was bought by BP and subsequently closed down in 2001. The entire site was demolished in early 2010, and is awaiting a buyer. The David Evans silk works is another recent closure, in 2002.
Residents of note
Noteworthy residents include Thomas Harman, author of a work about vagabonds and rogues in 1566, who resided in Crayford from 1547; William Claiborne from Crayford, who from 1621 was the surveyor of Jamestown in the Virginia Colony and in 1631 established the first permanent European settlement in Maryland, on Kent Island where his own residence was called Fort Crayford and then establishing New Kent County, Virginia in 1654; Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, who lived at May Place between 1694 and 1707, and Sir Frederick Currie who also lived at the Manor House, May Place
Inventors Augustus Applegath (who built Shenstone House), Sir Hiram Maxim (who moved his works to Crayford in 1884 and lived in Stoneyhurst from then until 1889)  and Jack Wall, inventor of the Crayford focuser, which is incorporated into many modern telescopes were also residents.
George Locke who lived in Crayford was (with his partner Thomas Nesham) the builder of prisons, churches (including All Saints Belvedere) and various other buildings in the mid-nineteenth century such as the Royal Naval School at New Cross (now part of Goldsmiths College), the Great Western Railway's Engine House at Kensal New Town and Littlehampton Fort. Some of their works were designed by John Shaw, Jr. They also undertook public works such as the South Lambeth Waterworks and the Southwick Ship Canal.
Crayford-born sportsman Derek Ufton played both cricket and football professionally, for Kent County Cricket Club and Charlton Athletic respectively. Ghost story writer, journalist and broadcaster Algernon Blackwood lived in Crayford Manor House between 1871 and 1880 as a child, and the house features in his work 'A Prisoner in Fairyland' as 'Crayfield Manor House'.
According to the 2011 census, 84% of the population is White British.
Crayford is now well known for a different theatre (home of the New Theatre Group) and a greyhound racing track. The theatre was named in honour of Geoffrey Whitworth who played a key part in developing a British tradition of amateur drama and in building political support for The Royal National Theatre erected at Waterloo, London after his death. The new Crayford Community Centre, located above the library, is the venue for many groups.
Nearby Hall Place is a scheduled ancient monument lying between Crayford and Bexley. It has gardens with the River Cray running through and a plant nursery, a cafe and restaurant plus the silkworks shop formerly located in the David Evans factory.
Leisure facilities include "The Bear and Ragged Staff" public house well known as a venue for live pop/rock bands, and Crayford Stadium is one of the three remaining greyhound racing stadia in London, besides Romford Stadium and Wimbledon Stadium.
There are six other pubs in the town centre - 'The Charlotte' in Station Road,'The Duke of Wellington' on London Road, 'The Crayford Arms', 'The Duke's Head' and 'The One Bell' (which footballer Jimmy Bullard bought for his father in 2009), each on or adjoining Crayford High Street, and the latest venue - a micro-pub - The Penny Farthing, on Waterside.
The large Sainsbury's supermarket situated next to stadium was claimed by Sainsburys to be the world first's use of technology which heats the store using natural energy captured through boreholes buried hundreds of metres beneath the ground and was at the time of its expansion (2010) the largest Sainsbury's in England.
The Tower Retail Park opposite Crayford Town Hall comprises stores used by Poundland, Boots, the Carphone Warehouse, Currys, Thomson Holiday Hypermarket, Game, Hobbycraft, Next with Costa Coffee, Pets At Home and Sports Direct Superstore, plus eateries run by Nandos and McDonald's. Opposite Tower Retail Park is the electronic and gadget store Maplin Electronics and interior furnishing store Topps Tiles.
The High Street is partly one-way for motor traffic and has a few shops and services including a Mace/sub-Post Office, doctors' surgery (now located in the revamped Town Hall), nail bar, golf store, Iceland, florists, takeaway shops, several betting shops and hair salons. The new Crayford Island Retail Park will open in 2016 in the centre of the one way system, with the largest store being an Aldi supermarket.
Crayford Motors in London Road is a Citroen car dealership. Bexley Garage in Bexley Lane is a family owned motor works.
On its way from Erith to Old Bexley, the "London LOOP" walk follows the River Cray across the Crayford Marshes and through the town centre. This section of the LOOP is based on an earlier signed walk, the Cray Riverway, and many of the signposts along it still carry the older route's name.
- VCD Athletic Football Club compete in the Isthmian League Premier Division ('VCD' stands for Vickers, Crayford and Dartford). They play at Oakwood stadium, on Old Road, Crayford, which they share with Kent Football United F.C..
- Crayford Arrows Sports Club is a local football team, established in 1981.
- Crayford Jujitsu Club are a local self-defence martial art club, providing Jujitsu instruction to both adults (over 15 years of age) and children (frm 6–14 years old). It was formerly located in the sports hall adjacent to the Crayford Greyhound Stadium, but was re-established at the Europa Centre, on Vimy Way in 2012 after being closed for a number of years.
- Speedway racing was staged at Crayford Greyhound Stadium. The team raced in the inaugural 1968 British League Division Two as the Highwaymen before closing down. In later years the sport was revived and the team were known as the Kestrels. The track subsequently closed and the team moved to Hackney Stadium in East London.
- Secondary schools in the area include Haberdashers' Aske's Crayford Academy.
Places of worship
- Acts 2 Church Crayford, Haberdashers Askes Academy, Iron Mill Ln
- Crayford Mosque, Crayford High Street
- Crayford Baptist Church, Bexley Lane
- St Paulinus Church, Manor Road (Anglican)
- St Mary of the Crays Catholic Church, Old Road
Transport and locale
Crayford station serves the area with services to London Charing Cross via Hither Green, London Cannon Street via both Lewisham and Woolwich Arsenal as part of a loop service, and to Gravesend. Crayford is served by three Transport for London bus services, 96 to Woolwich via Bexleyheath and to Bluewater via Dartford, 428 to Erith and to Bluewater, and 492 to Sidcup via Bexleyheath and to Bluewater.
- Bexley Local Studies Note 22 'Crayford' accessed 28 November 2007
- Domesday Map Retrieved 2013-08-23
- Imperial Gazetteer quoted on 'Vision of Britain' website accessed 6 March 2008
- 'Pigots 1840', on website freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~shebra/pigots_1840 accessed 5 December 2007
- Bexley Local Studies Note 12 'May Place' accessed 6 June 2008
- British History Online version of Hasted's History of Kent Volume 2 accessed 10th February 2016
- Bexley Council 'Things to do in Crayford' accessed 30 November 2007
- History of Parliament page on Francis Goldsmith accessed 10th February 2016
- History of Parliament article on Cresheld Draper accessed 10th February 2016
- Facets of Froyle website articles on the Draper family accessed 10th February 2016
- Historic England assessmengt of Crayford Manor House accessed 7 February 2016
- Parks & Gardens website page on Shenstone Park accessed 7 February 2016
- Dartford Council website article on Hiram Maxim Accessed 7th February 2016
- Bexley Boroughs Photos website text accompanying picture of Stoneyhurst Convent High School accessed 9 February 2016
- Bexley Council article on Martens and Oakwood accessed 7 February 2016
- Rogues & Early Modern English Culture (University of Michigan Press, Craig Dionne & Steve Mentz, Editors ISBN 0-472-03177-5) page 106 shown at books.google.co.uk accessed 10th February 2016
- Clayburn Family website page about Thomas Claiborne accessed 10th February 2016
- Kent Island website history page accessed 10th February 2016
- Archives of Maryland biography of William Claiborne by Jennifer Copeland accessed 10 February 2016
- New Kent History Blog article on its establishment accessed 10 February 2016
- CrayfordHistory website article about May Place accessed 7 February 2016
- Bexley Council article 'Crayford' accessed 7 February 2016
- Bexley Council website article on Hiram Maxim Accessed 7th February 2016
- Bexley Local Studies Note 76 'Two Local Inventors' accessed 6 June 2008
- Description of the Crayford Focuser accessed 28 November 2007
- Littlehampton Fort website article about Locke & Nesham accessed 7 February 2016
- 'A Remarkable Sporting Life' - article about Derek Ufton on Kent Cricket website accessed 10 February 2016
- Services, Good Stuff IT. "Crayford - UK Census Data 2011".
- Crayford Community Centre website accessed 78th Fenruary 2016
- Sainsburys article on largest stores in England, Scotland and Wales accessed 7th February 2016
- Developer plans for new Crayford retail park
- "Crayford Arrows Sports Club: Football in the Community".
- "Acts2Church Crayford - A friendly, lively church in Crayford".
- "Acts 2 Church, Crayford".
- A description of Crayford in c. 1870 in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (from the 'Vision of Britain' website)
- Two maps of the area c.1800
- Maps of Crayford Parish in the past
- A diary listing musicians booked to appear at the Bear and Ragged Staff public house, 2 London Road
- North West Kent Family History Society - Crayford Parish Page
- Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society
- The brick-faced Town Hall, built as a canteen and offices for Vickers' staff and subsequently used for tea dances and other community events, now a clinic with flats above
- Summary of Vickers' mergers/acquisitions
- The Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre
- Crayford Tubes