Crewe is a railway town within the unitary authority area of Cheshire East and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. According to the 2001 census the urban area had a population of 67,683. Crewe is perhaps best known as a large railway junction and home to Crewe Works, for many years a major railway engineering facility for manufacturing and overhauling locomotives, but now much reduced in size. From 1946 until 2002 it was also the home of Rolls-Royce motor car production. The Pyms Lane factory on the west of the town now produces Bentley motor cars exclusively.
Although the name Creu first appears in the Domesday Book, the modern urban settlement of Crewe was not formally planned out until 1843 by Joseph Locke to consolidate the "railway colony" that had grown up since around 1840–41 in the area near to the railway junction station opened in 1837, even though it was called Crewe by many, from the start. Crewe was thus named after the railway station, rather than the other way round.
Crewe was founded in the township of Monks Coppenhall which, with the township of Church Coppenhall, formed the ancient parish of Coppenhall. The railway station was named after the township of Crewe (then, part of the ancient parish of Barthomley) in which it was located. Eventually, the township of Crewe became a civil parish in its own right also named, rather confusingly, Crewe. This civil parish changed its name to Crewe Green in 1974 to avoid confusion with the adjacent town, which had been made a municipal borough in 1877.
The railway station remained part of the civil parish of Crewe, outside the boundary of the municipal borough until 1936. So, throughout its history, the town of Crewe has neither been part of, nor has it encompassed first the township of Crewe, later the civil parish of Crewe, and later still the civil parish of Crewe Green adjacent to it, even though these places were the direct origin of the name of the town via the railway station which was also not part of the town before 1936. An old, local riddle describes the somewhat unusual states of affairs: "The place which is Crewe is not Crewe, and the place which is not Crewe is Crewe."
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.
The town has a large park, Queen's Park (laid out by engineer Francis Webb), the land for which was donated by the London and North Western Railway, the successor to the GJR. It has been suggested that their motivation was to prevent the rival Great Western Railway building a station on the site, but the available evidence indicates otherwise.
The railway provided an endowment towards the building and upkeep of Christ Church. Until 1897 its vicar, non-conformist ministers and schoolteachers received concessionary passes, the school having been established in 1842. The company provided a doctor's surgery with a scheme of health insurance. A gasworks was built and the works water supply was adapted to provide drinking water and a public baths. The railway also opened a cheese market in 1854 and a clothing factory for John Compton who provided the company uniforms, while McCorquodale of Liverpool set up a printing works.
During World War II the strategic presence of the railways and Rolls-Royce engineering works (turned over to producing aircraft engines) made Crewe a target for enemy air raids, and it was in the flight path to Liverpool. The borough lost 35 civilians to these, the worst raid was on 29 August 1940 when some 50 houses were destroyed, close to the station.
Crewe crater on Mars is named after the town of Crewe. Crewe was described by author Alan Garner in his novel Red Shift as "the ultimate reality". Bill Bryson described Crewe as "the armpit of Cheshire" in his 1995 book Notes from a Small Island.