Crawley Blue Plaques — Roger Bastable

Kev Neylon
4 min readFeb 21, 2024

Roger Bastable was born in 1950, he was a teacher, local history researcher and author and spent most of his life in Crawley and became one of the leading experts on Crawley’s past. He left Crawley in 1969 for a history degree at Newcastle University, but returned to become its chronicler. He was born as Crawley was being re-born a “new” town, to “old Crawley” parents who ran a fishmongers there.

After university, he got a job teaching history at Holy Trinity, Crawley, the first Church of England comprehensive school, where he spent his working life. He had a reputation as a strict teacher, but one who put his Christian faith into action, leading his tutor group in prayer each morning and insisting on a wooden cross being hung in the staff room. But at the same time was said to fun too, and he loved teaching. He was also a governor of his old primary school, St Margaret’s. He led tours to Ypres taking students from Holy Trinity School from the late 1970s.

To Roger, Crawley was steeped in history, its neighbourhoods named after manor houses and ancient villages. He began publishing books on the history and transition of a much-changed community: Crawley — A Pictorial History (1983), The Making of a New Town (1986), Guide to the Church of St. John the Baptist, Crawley (2000), and Crawley: Then and Now 1: Crawley High Street In Photographs 1869–1999(2003).

In 1986 he co-founded the Crawley Festival. He was a founder member of the Crawley Museum Society, and in 1991 founded the Mark Lemon Society, which organised quarterly gatherings of Victorian entertainment. Mark Lemon was the co-founder and first editor of Punch magazine, and he lived on the High Street and was a friend of Charles Dickens (and has his own blue plaque).

Roger was churchwarden for many years of the church of St John the Baptist in Crawley town centre, a 13th-century building on the London to Brighton stagecoach route. He contributed to setting up Turning Point, a Saturday-morning open house at the church which serves as a lifeline for the lonely.

To mark the new town’s 50th anniversary, Roger gave a presentation in which the church was filled to bursting point, while his historical walks during the Crawley festival were legendary.

Roger died of cancer aged fifty-six, in 2007.

He was known as ‘Mr Crawley’ and was honoured with Blue Plaque on Crawley High Street by the town’s arts council. The plaque, the 20th in the Crawley Blue Plaque Scheme and Heritage Trail, is situated above Fox & Sons Estate Agents in the High Street which, in 1950, served the community as Bastable’s, the family fishmongers. Roger lived above the shop for the first months of his life. The unveiling was attended by the Mayor of Crawley, Councillor Brian Quinn, and his wife Sue, who is a cousin of Roger Bastable, along with other members of the Bastable family, including Roger’s mother Janet and members of the Crawley Arts Council Executive Committee.

Mayor of Crawley, Councillor Brian Quinn, said: “I was delighted to unveil the blue plaque. Roger was a huge presence in Crawley and dedicated himself to researching Crawley’s history and building the community. The plaque is a wonderful way to honour him.” Paul Castle, treasurer of Crawley Arts Council, added: “Roger Bastable was a Crawley man through and through and did so much to advance the town’s heritage. We are very pleased to commemorate him in this way.”

He bequeathed his local history collection to Crawley Library, and the collection has more than nine-thousand photographs and pictures mainly of Crawley New Town photographs from the 1940’s to 1970s, plus articles, books, ephemera, maps, newspapers, pamphlets, and his unpublished PhD thesis. Around one thousand photographs from the Roger Bastable collection can be found on West Sussex Past Pictures. Images from the Roger Bastable exhibition held at Crawley library are also available on Flickr, including online Galleries of images from Broadfield.

Plaque Details

Location — High Street, Crawley. RH10 3NS

Dedicated to — Roger Bastable

Dedication Text — Author, local historian and co-founder of the Crawley Festival Roger Bastable (1950–2007) lived here above the family fishmongers 1950–1951.

Dedicated by — Crawley Arts Council

Date Installed — 2018

For other Crawley related pieces check out the list below

Crawley Wanderings

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Kev Neylon

Writing fiction, travel, history, sport, & music blogs. Monthly e-zine with all kinds of writing at www.onetruekev.co.uk. All pictures used are my own.