On The Hunt For A Mythical Blue Plaque

Kev Neylon
9 min readMay 10, 2024

It has been a while since I’ve done a Crawley wander. What, with months of terrible weather, writing groups, football matches to attend, ill health, travel elsewhere, and general apathy, I haven’t been out with walking boots on, and camera slung around my neck around the town for quite some time.

But last Saturday there was no writing, no football, no travel, no plans in general, so boots were donned, camera was fired up, and off I went.

I had a mission. Find a blue plaque which is supposed to be somewhere in the vicinity of Broadfield Park to the Romano pits / remains that were there. I had been somewhat reliably informed it was there somewhere, but the Crawley Arts Council couldn’t say exactly where. The news of it intrigued me as I have found all the other Crawley blue plaques, and found mentions of them all online. But I had never seen a single mention of this one, and intensive searches for it online had turned nothing up. But I was going to look for it now.

I had only ever walked through Broadfield Park once before, and only a small part of it. So it was somewhere new to wander around.

On the way I was taking photos of places I walk by on a regular basis. Playing with the camera settings, getting some black and white shots to compare against the standard colour ones. Southgate parade, St Mary’s Church, The Downsman (under scaffolding), and Southgate Medical Centre.

Before going down the ramp to go under the underpass towards Broadfield Stadium. Where I stopped and added some single colour snaps to pick up on just the red, or just the green parts of the view to add to the colour and black and white ones.

I also thought I’d get some empty stadium shots ready for my piece on the game on Monday (OK, Tuesday now), only to be surprised by there being a hive of activity at the ground as they set up for a lunchtime Brighton Ladies game there.

I walked through the car park and out into Broadfield and up to Broadfield house getting closer to it than I had before, and taking photos safe in the knowledge it was closed for the weekend and there were no safeguarding issues to consider when taking photos.

From there I walked into the park and thought I had found what I came to find almost immediately. There was a plaque on a board opposite the side of Broadfield House. But it wasn’t blue, and it was to say these were Queen Elizabeth II Field.

The next hours was spent wandering every which way but loose in and around Broadfield Park. All the way around the lake.

Over the culvert with the stream where some moron had thrown the lifebelt down into it.

Around the open fields.

Back and forth along every path through the woods. Out and back in of every entrance to and from the park.

Through swampy ground and over rickety planks acting as a bridge over the upper stream.

And nowhere on this trek did I come across anything else that remotely looked like it was a blue plaque, or had ever had a blue plaque attached to it. with no evidence of it being there I am now very much the doubting Kev of the Crawley blue plaque world as to whether this mythical blue plaque exists, or ever did exist.

Having traipsed around everywhere twice I then left the park and into the estate of the larger house on Tollgate Hill. Driving up and down to the A23 to go to work three times a week, that stretch from the K2 to Pease Pottage roundabout doesn’t seem that far. Walking through the meandering streets of Tollgate Hill seemed to go on forever before I finally popped out at the top of the hill in a line with the strangely mainly faded Crawley attractions sign.

And well above the Welcome to Crawley sign a good quarter of a mile inside the borough limits.

I crossed the road and headed into Tilgate Forest. I hadn’t been into the top end of Tilgate, this close to the motorway in more than twelve years, back when I was training to do the Thames Path challenge.

There weren’t a lot of people out on this far outlying track. I only passed two dog walkers, both of whom had heavily panting springers. I passed more patches of bluebells in bloom than people.

The memory plays tricks, as I didn’t remember it being so far to the bridge over the motorway that goes off towards Parish Lane. I love a bridge as an opportunity to take pictures off in both directions. Even if, despite the head high metal fences preventing any chance of a fall, I felt the vertigo kick in as I looked out along the M23.

I didn’t cross all the way over and leave the borough. Instead I started down the hill. I hadn’t appreciated just how high up I was at that point until I looked down through the trees and watched the ground fall away. (The photos don’t do the slope and depth justice.)

I came down to the edge of the upper lake and went around the clockwise side of it.

There is a riot of colour going on in the park.

And a fully in bloom large bush of ‘pop out of beds.’

I have walked through the oriental gardens before, but I hadn’t noticed the memorial stones which sit either side of the little wooden bridge.

I had come this side of the lake on purpose. As I had been thwarted in my quest to find the mythical Broadfield Park blue plaque, I was going to get a picture of at least one blue plaque today, and so here was the one next to Tilgate Lake to Sir Malcolm Campbell.

There were a lot of people fishing around the lakes. More than usual. Turns out there was a match going on. Not a spectator sport though.

I got a soft drink from the lakeside café and continued across the golf course. Carefully watching out for any incoming missiles, but there weren’t lots of players out there.

Once across the golf course I got as far as the train tracks and then popped out into Furnace Green, along Marion Road, past the bridge out to Oriel school and Maidenbower beyond.

I kept the west side of the tracks and walked through the playing field, which were deserted apart from one dad with a son who were playing football somewhat unenthusiastically in one of the goals.

Then I was in Waterleas with its pairs of twin towers.

Dog walking memories surfaced as I crossed over the concrete culvert as I was always worried that the daft dog would jump off down into the stream.

Then walking past this bit of a bank, I remembered years before when I was less mobile than I am now, I had tried to follow the damn dog down it having come in from the other side only to come crashing down as I slipped and for the dog to look at me as if to say “what are you lying there for, we’ve got places to explore.”

Then I was back in civilisation and back to the colour vs black and white photos as I took them of Furnace Green parade, The Charcoal Burner, and St Andrew’s church.

I did the same once I’d walked up the hill and got to the Hawth.

The route planned in my head to take a second blue plaque in.

This one to Peter Young, who I did a piece on previously.

I had seen social media posts about the tree felling in Hawth Woods, but I was shocked at the extent.

I had intended to go round the side of the Hawth and through the woods along the path by the side of the railway track out into Southgate playing fields. But that is blocked off.

I went across and into the woods at the entrance to get to the amphitheatre.

Only to find even more devastation.

I did find a path going across the woods only for the way through at the end into the playing fields to be blocked off and it forced me to go up over more churned-up ground and back onto Hawth Avenue.

So I walked around the outside of Southgate playing fields and crossed over into the estate at the lights halfway down towards the railway bridge. I wanted a photo of how Malthouse Farmhouse looked now. They have been working on the (former?) locally listed building for a while. And it is totally unrecognisable to what it looked like before.

There was one more black and white vs colour shot to take, this time of more locally listed houses, these ones haven’t changed dramatically, and are in the conservation area of Malthouse Road.

Then it was the cut through back to Baker Close and home, and a rest for the legs after the twelve miles walked.

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.