Cranbrook, Kent

Cranbrook, Kent

Coordinates: 51°06′03″N 0°32′04″E / 51.1007°N 0.5345°E / 51.1007; 0.5345

Cranbrook High Street - - 108310.jpg
Stone Street, Cranbrook
Cranbrook is located in Kent

 Cranbrook shown within Kent
Population 5,358 
OS grid reference TQ775365
District Tunbridge Wells
Shire county Kent
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district TN17
Dialling code 01580
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Maidstone and The Weald
List of places: UK • England • Kent

Cranbrook is a small town in Kent in South East England which was granted a charter in 1290 by Archbishop Peckham, allowing it to hold a market in the High Street. Located on the Maidstone to Hastings road, it is five miles north of Hawkhurst. The smaller settlements of Swattenden, Colliers Green and Hartley lie within the parish. Baker's Cross is on the outskirts of the town.


Origin of name

The place name Cranbrook derives from Old English cran broc, meaning Crane Marsh, marshy ground frequented by cranes (although more probably herons). Spelling of the place name has evolved over the centuries from Cranebroca (c. 1100); by 1226 it was recorded as Cranebroc, then Cranebrok. By 1610 the name had become Cranbrooke, which evolved into the current spelling.[1][2]


In medieval times, Cranbrook was a centre of the Wealden cloth industry; and iron-making was carried on at Bedgebury on the River Teise. The church here was dedicated to St Dunstan. Called the "Cathedral of the Weald",[3] its 74 feet-high tower, completed in 1425, has a wooden figure of Father Time and his scythe on the south face. It also contains the prototype for the Big Ben clock in London.[4]


Union mill.

Cranbrook had a number of watermills and windmills over the centuries. There were about seventeen watermills around Cranbrook, all on tributaries of the River Beult.

There were four windmills in Cranbrook over the centuries, one of which survives today.

Windmill Hill

This mill was marked on Emanuel Bowen's map of Kent (1736) and also on Andrews, Drury and Herbert's map of Kent, 1769. It is thought that the mill was a smock mill, and that it was moved to Sissinghurst circa 1814. It stood ¼ mile (400 m) west north west of the church.[5]

Saint's Hill

This mill was marked on Andrews, Drury and Herbert's Map of Kent, 1769. It stood 1 mile 5 furlongs (2.6 km) north east of the church.[5]

Cranbrook Common

This was a smock mill with common sails and winded[6] by hand. It was marked on the Ordnance Survey map covering the area which was published between 1858 and 1872. The mill was last worked in 1876 and was demolished on 9 August 1902. The mill stood 1¾ miles (2.8 km) north north east of the church.[5]

Union Mill

One of the surviving Kent windmills, the Union Mill, was built for Henry Dobell in 1814. After Dobell went bankrupt in 1819, the mill was run by a union of creditors until 1832. The Russell family ran it for the next 128 years, when it was sold to Kent County Council, who have restored it. The mill is kept in working order to this day. It stands ¼ mile (400 m) southeast of the church.[5]

About Cranbrook

Cranbrook has around 7,000 residents. The junction of the A262 (Lamberhurst – Biddenden) and the A229 (RochesterHawkhurst) pass near Cranbrook.

The nearest railway station is Staplehurst, 5 miles (8 km) to the north. Cranbrook railway station on the Hawkhurst Branch Line served the town from 1892 to 1961. Cranbrook is the smallest town in Kent.[7]


There are two secondary schools in Cranbrook: Angley School (comprehensive, 11-18) and Cranbrook School, Kent (grammar, 13-18), both of which are co-educational.

Cranbrook Church of England primary school, is a mixed 4-11 school set in beautiful surroundings. It was originally located in a manor house. The house was said to have been visited by Queen Elizabeth I. After the original building burnt down, the school moved to a site to the north of the Church Yard and Jockey Lane. The primary school remained on this site for about a century. In 1985 the school moved to its current location in Carriers Road where it recently celebrated its' 25th anniversary of the new site and buildings.

Growth of the town's population and the collection of temporary classrooms and 1960s prefabs yielded to construction in 1985 of a new building at the end of Carriers Road, where the school remains. With the new school, all the pupils came together under one roof. Barely three years after its opening, growth in the town's population forced purchase of additional temporary classrooms. Almost all of the buildings of the old school were knocked down to make way for a development of sheltered accommodation for old people.

The only building to escape the bulldozer was the south wing, which had contained the three classrooms of the infant school (the first three years). This building was gutted and converted to a surgery for general practice. A family planning clinic was built west of it. Sadly the old school's collection of formalin-pickled amphibians, reptiles and soft-bodied sea creatures disappeared when the school moved to its new premises.

There is also a pre-school located in the centre of the town: Rainbow Pre-school, which provides early years education for those in the weald.


The Queens Hall Theatre, part of Cranbrook School, sponsors many theatre groups, including the Cambridge Footlights and Cranbrook Opera and Dramatic Society (CODS). The Showtimers pantomime group produces an annual show.

The Cranbrook Town Band, founded in the 1920s, is a British-style brass band, which performs regular concerts in the Queens Hall, St Dunstan's Church, and around Kent.


The Weald Sports Centre has indoor and outdoor facilities, including four tennis courts, an indoor sports hall, a swimming pool and a dance studio.

Cranbrook is raising funds to build a new Community Centre by 2012.[8]


During the 1800s, a group of artists who called themselves "The Cranbrook Colony", was located here. .

Public transport

Formerly served by the Hawkhurst Branch Line, Cranbrook railway station stopped operations in 1961. The nearest operating station is at Staplehurst.

Cranbrook is served by the following Arriva Southern Counties buses:

Notable residents

  • William Robert Fountains Addison VC, (1883-1962), recipient of the Victoria Cross in World War I
  • Harry Hill (1964-), comedian, born Matthew Hall, educated in Cranbrook
  • William Huntington S.S. (1745-1813), preacher and eccentric
  • Chris Langham (1949-), actor and writer
  • Robert Tooth, (1821-1893), prominent Sydney businessman and brewer
  • Arthur Tooth (1839-1931), Church of England priest imprisoned under the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874


Cranbrook is the name of a hymn tune written by Canterbury cobbler Thomas Clark around 1805, and later used as a tune for the Christmas hymn "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks". The tune later became associated with the Yorkshire song "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at".[9] Cranbrook British Columbia Canada was named by Colonel James Baker for his hometown of Cranbrook Kent UK.


"Cranbrook is a village giving the impression of trying to remember what once made it important."

—H.E. Bates, who knew Cranbrook well, -The Darling Buds of May


  • The Place Names of Kent, Judith Glover.
  • The Origin of English Place Names, P.H. Reaney.
  • The Dictionary of British Place Names
  • Dictionary of English Place Names, A.D.Mills.


  1. ^ The Place Names of Kent, Judith Glover ISBN 0905270 614
  2. ^ The Origin of English Place Names, P.H.Reaney ISBN 0710020104
  3. ^ Cranbrook A Wealden Town, C.C.R.Pile (1955)
  4. ^ Cranbrook A Wealden Town, C.C.R.Pile (1955)
  5. ^ a b c d Coles Finch, William (1933). Watermills and Windmills. London: C W Daniel Company. pp. 188–91. 
  6. ^ Turned to face the wind
  7. ^ Kent Structure Plan
  8. ^ "The Cranbrook Weald Centre Project". Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  9. ^ "While Shepherds Watched". Retrieved 2008-08-07. 

External links

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