Crewe Toll

BAE Systems at Crewe Toll, Pilton
©2020 Gazetteer for Scotland

BAE Systems at Crewe Toll, Pilton

An area of NW Edinburgh, Crewe Toll is centred on a five-way roundabout which connects Ferry Road, Telford Road, Crewe Road North and South, situated 2 miles (3 km) northwest of the city centre. The area takes its name from the small settlement of Crew, comprising a farm, a smithy and a toll-house, which lay on the road junction until it was reshaped as a roundabout in the 1920s. This name was most likely derived from the Brythonic word 'cryw' meaning a crossing point, in this case of the Wardie Burn. Around 1900, the name seems to have been modified from Crew to Crewe in homage to the English railway junction, on the basis of the triangular railway junction which existed here between lines built by the Caledonian Railway in the 1860s.

St. Cuthbert's Poorhouse moved to a site a quarter-mile (0.5 km) to the south in 1868 and developed to become the Western General Hospital. The Leith Public Health Hospital for Infectious Diseases opened just to the east in 1896. This eventually became the Northern General Hospital but closed in 1996. Patients were transferred to nearby Ferryfield House and a large supermarket was built on the site.

The electrical engineering firm Ferranti set up a plant here in 1943 to manufacture gyro gunsights for the Spitfire fighter aircraft and scientists here were responsible for the early development of radar. A further brick building, designed by D. H. Bamber in the International-style, was added in 1954 to house laboratories. This occupied a prominent roadside site and was B-listed in 1998. The company was bought by GEC, then BAE Systems and finally Italian multi-national Leonardo S.p.A. BAE Systems decided to replace both buildings in 2001-03 with startlingly modern glass-fronted structures, although the brick tower on the laboratory block was retained and sympathetically incorporated into the new structure. These buildings, Crewe Toll West and East, were sold by BAE for £94 million in 2006, but remain tenanted by Leonardo.

Specialising in defence avionics, gyro gun sights remained in production until 2018, but the company has also provided the radar for the Eurofighter Typhoon, lasers for the US Army's Apache helicopter and the navigation system for Arianne space rockets. Outside is an unusual stainless steel sculpture, depicting five miniature fighter jets fanning out from a central point.


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