Crayford is a town and electoral ward in the London Borough of Bexley that was an important bridging point in Roman times across the River Cray, a tributary of the River Darent, which is itself a tributary of the River Thames.
Crayford is mentioned in the Domesday Book as having a church and three mills, and a population of 27 villagers and 2 smallholders. As a parish (pre 1920) it included the hamlets of North End, 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 near Slade Green. Near to Newbery Manor was May Place, built for the Appleton (Apylton) family who served Kings Henry V and Henry VI. Nearby Hall Place 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 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 World War I) became the town hall of the Crayford Urban District Council and remains a major landmark in municipal use.
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 David Evans silk works is another recent closure, in 2002.
Famous people connected with the town include Rear-Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, who lived at May Place between 1694 and 1707, and inventors Augustus Applegath, Sir Hiram Maxim and Jack Wall, inventor of the Crayford focuser, which is incorporated into many modern telescopes. Sportsman Derek Ufton, who played both cricket and football professionally, was born in Crayford.
Crayford is now well known for a different theatre (home of the New Theatre Group), a small astronomic observatory 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.
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.
The main leisure facilities are Crayford Stadium greyhound race track and "The Bear and Ragged Staff" public house well known as a venue for live pop/rock bands;
Crayford Stadium is popular with a reasonable viewing area and races every Monday and Saturday nights. The stadium includes a bar, cafe and restaurant with ample parking. Crayford Stadium is one of the four remaining (besides Romford Stadium, Walthamstow Stadium and Wimbledon Stadium) of its kind in London from an original 33.
The best pub to visit for a relax with friends and a bit of class, is "The Charlotte", Station Road. Under new management and newly refurbished in November 2007, The Charlotte now has a restaurant that serves great food daily. With a wide selection of local and international beers, wines and coffees The Charlotte is a great place to visit.
"The Bear and Ragged Staff" is the liveliest public house in the town centre and it was briefly renamed "The Orange Kipper" in the mid-1990s, before public outcry convinced the owners to reinstate the traditional name.
There are also four other pubs in the Town Centre the Duke of Wellington on London Road and the Crayford Arms, Dukes Head and The One Bell all on the Hill of Crayford High St. There is also a pub on Thames Road called The Jolly Farmers.
The key shops are a large Sainsbury's supermarket and adjoining Homebase situated next to stadium.
There is also the Tower Retail Park opposite Crayford Town Hall boasting Next, Currys, Comet, First Choice Travel Supermarket, Hobbycraft, Boots, Pets At Home, Sports Superstore, The Bed Post, Game, Nandos and McDonalds. There is plenty of parking and the retail park was constructed during the late 1990s on the old Royal Mail site.
The high street is divided by the unpopular one-way system and has a small array of shops and services mainly hairdressers/barbershops/cafes/beauty saloons, although there is a Londis/Sub-Post Office, Barclays Bank, Peacocks and Iceland.
The high street shopping experience at Crayford is spoilt by the one-way system which has created an island, which is used as vehicle storage and workshop for British Gas, this sits between Sainsburys and the High Street and is an eye sore with its galvanised metal perimeter fencing and bridge linking the island to further vehicle storage behind Sainsbury's Petrol Station.
Crayford Motors are nearby and are a successful Citroen dealership.
There are a few Indian, a Chinese and Mediterranean Restaurants with plenty of fast food takeaways covering Fish & Chips, Pizza, Fried chicken and Kebabs.
Opposite the Bear and Ragged Staff there is a small parade containing a few small shops and public gardens which the River Cray passes through.
Jeffrey Veal, Entrepreneur, property designer and developer lived in Bramley Place
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 Kent League and were runners-up for the league title in 2006/07. They play at Oakwood stadium, on Old Road, Crayford. ('VCD' stands for Vickers, Crayford and Dartford).
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 London. It is possible speedway was staged at the venue in the pre-war years.
St Barnabas Church, Tile Kiln Lane, Joydens Wood
St Paulinus, Manor Road
St Mary of the Crays Catholic Church, Old Road
Crayford railway station is just a short walk from the high street up the hill of Station Road.
Access to the station is only available from Lower Station Road, although Bexley Council has discussed a bridge linking Sainsbury's, Homebase, Crayford Stadium and the West of the town with the station.
Trains go west to London and east towards Dartford.
The station is in Travelcard Zone 6 and is covered by the Transport for London Overground Network(ON) and Metro schemes with trains to London at least 4 times an hour from 6.00am to 8pm.
It is operated by Southeastern (train operating company).
The Ticket Office is situated on Platform 1, towards London on Lower Station Road where there is a privately operated car park.
There is also a ticket machine outside the station that takes coins, notes and credit cards which can be used for single, return, travelcard and weekly season tickets. There is also a Permit to Travel machine.
The station is step free for services from Platform 1 to London, but services from London, on platform 2 require use of a faily steep stepped bridge.
There are reliable computerised display boards showing the next three services as well as the number of cars in the next train.
There are shelters on both platforms and a Toilet on Platform 1.
Trains are operated by South Eastern recently franchised to Govia.
Nearly all services stop at London Bridge, where some go to London Charing Cross via London Waterloo East and others to London Cannon Street. Approxinately every other train will stop via Lewisham.
London Bridge is between 30 to 40 minutes and there are some peak fast services that run to/from London Charing Cross in less than 35 minutes. These fast services do not stop at London Bridge and are fast to/from New Eltham with some stopping at Mottingham and Lee.
Off peak and weekend services loop to/from London via Slade Green and Greenwich in addition to direct trains to Dartford, Gravesend and Gillingham.
Trains are a mix of the older refurbished Networker Trains introduced in the eighties and more modern class 376 trains with more capacity and automated train announcements.
Reliability has recently improved significantly, with the poor service discount for season ticket holders withdrawn.
Peak services between 8.30 and 9.00am and 5.30 and 6.30pm, are generally 5 to 10 minutes late due to congestion in the Lewisham and London Bridge areas. This is caused by the complex points joining different branch lines. The older networker trains do suffer from slippery rail conditions when the tracks are wet and due to leaves in the autumn. This causes additional small delays.
Services have historically been very poor and the first franchise given to the private French company Connex was terminated early around 2001 and returned to public ownership. Services under Connex was unreliable with dirty trains and poorly maintained stations.
Services are reasonably safe to use, especially during peak hours, although all South Eastern Metro trains suffer badly from vandalism, mainly window etching and occasional spray painting.