1987 '“ the year an awful lot of things were built

Living in Crawley in the 1980s was, in many ways, like living in an ever-changing building site.

Artist's impression of The Hawth
Artist's impression of The Hawth

As one new neighbourhood was being completed, work on another was starting, there were ambitious plans in place for a big shopping centre, the town’s new theatre was almost finished, as was Gatwick’s new Terminal.

These pictures were published in the Crawley Observer in 1987 and give a fascinating look at how much the town has changed – and how much artist’s impressions can differ when it comes to the finished product.

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The shopping centre in question was, of course, County Mall – then known as TC6 – and it was originally going to look a lot different than it does today.

Councillor Jim Smith inside the half-finished Hawth in 1987

For a start, the entire central area was to be open-air, with only the shops either side under cover.

The idea, it was said, was to create “a high street atmosphere”.

Luckily, some one must have pointed out that such an atmosphere already existed – in the High Street – and the design changed to the indoor shopping centre we know and love.

Over at The Hawth – the name of the area but not yet the theatre – 14,000 bricks, 300 tonnes of steel, 1,500 cubic metres of concrete and 2,600 square metres of roofing tiles were beginning to take shape.

The Hawth was almost complete in 1987

The £6.7million centre was on schedule to open in spring 1988 and, it was reported, would “put paid to any belief that Crawley is a cultural desert”.

Also due to open in the spring of 1988 was Gatwick Airport’s £200 million North Terminal.

According to the report, the Terminal was built on land that had originally been earmarked for a second runway, once the agreement between Gatwick the West Sussex County Council expired in 2019.

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Artist's impression of County Mall

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Building an ornamental fountain in Gatwick's new Terminal in 1987
Gatwick's North Terminal building in 1987