Until the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) company chose Crewe as the site for its locomotive works and railway station in the late 1830s, Crewe was a village with a population (c. 1831) of just 70 residents. Winsford, 7 miles (11 km) to the north, had rejected an earlier proposal, as had local landowners in neighbouring Nantwich, 4 miles (6 km) away. Crewe railway station was built in fields near to Crewe Hall and was completed in 1837.
A new town grew up, in the parishes of Monks Coppenhall and Church Coppenhall, alongside the increasingly busy station, with the population expanding to reach 40,000 by 1871. GJR chief engineer Joseph Locke helped lay out the town.
The works, which were established in 1843, gradually grew, until they became the largest Railway Works in the world. They gave employment to 7,500 persons; and to these may be added over 700 engine drivers, firemen and others at the steam sheds at Crewe Station.
The Company built and owned 845 workmen’s cottages. They manufactured and supplied gas, not only to their own Works, but to the whole town of Crewe, and they also supplied water to the works and town, the supply being derived from the red sandstone at Whitmore, about 12 miles distant from Crewe.
The ground upon which the Works stood is about one-and-a-half miles long, and its area is 137 acres, of which 48 are covered in.
The Works are in close proximity to Crewe Station, the most important junction on the London and North Western Railway, and 158 miles from London; they are divided into three main groups, which are spoken of as the ‘Old Works’, the ‘Deviation Works’, and the ‘Steel Works’.