Cranbrook, Kent

Coordinates: 51°05′48″N 00°32′08″E / 51.09667°N 0.53556°E / 51.09667; 0.53556
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

White windmill and white wooden houses in Cranbrook
Cranbrook is located in Kent
Location within Kent
Population6,717 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceTQ775365
Civil parish
  • Cranbrook and Sissinghurst
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtTN17
Dialling code01580
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
UK Parliament
List of places
51°05′48″N 00°32′08″E / 51.09667°N 0.53556°E / 51.09667; 0.53556
John Baker
Baptist Chapel
The former Providence Baptist Chapel

Cranbrook is a town in the civil parish of Cranbrook and Sissinghurst, in the Weald of Kent in South East England. It lies roughly half-way between Maidstone and Hastings, about 38 miles (61 km) southeast of central London.

The smaller settlements of Sissinghurst, Swattenden, Colliers Green and Hartley lie within the civil parish. The population of the parish was 6,717 in 2011.


The place name Cranbrook derives from Old English cran bric, 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.[2][3]

There is evidence of early activity here in the Roman period at the former Little Farningham Farm where a substantial iron working site was investigated in the 1950s. In 2000 the site was the subject of a Kent Archaeological Society fieldwork project to establish the extent of the site and the line of the Roman road from Rochester to Bodiam, which was published in 2001.[4] The site had earlier produced a number of clay tiles bearing the mark of the Roman Fleet, or Classis Brittanica who may have been overseeing the work.

Edward III brought over Flemish weavers to develop the Wealden cloth industry using wool from Romney Marsh; Cranbrook became the centre of this as it had local supplies of fuller's earth and plenty of streams that could be dammed to drive the fulling mills. Iron-making was carried on at Bedgebury on the River Teise, an industry which dates back to Roman times. The tributaries of the River Beult around Cranbrook powered 17 watermills at one time. In 1290 the town received a charter from Archbishop Peckham, allowing it to hold a market in the High Street.

Baker's Cross on the eastern edge of the town is linked to John Baker, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Queen Mary, a Catholic.[5][6][7] Legend holds that he was riding on his way to Cranbrook in order to have two local Protestants executed, when he turned back after the news reached him that Queen Mary was dead. Different versions of the legend have it that he heard the parish church bells ringing, or that he was met by a messenger. The place where this happened was, in the words of biographer and historian Arthur Irwin Dasent, "at a place where three roads meet, known to this day as Baker's Cross".[5][6][7]

Popular legend also has it that Baker was killed at Baker's Cross; although in fact he died in his house in London.[8][9]

The town developed around the "King's High Road" (now named as High Street, Stone Street and Waterloo Road) until the Second World War. Following the war, additional housing was built adjacent to the historic centre - the Wheatfield Estate to the north and the Frythe Estate to the south. In the 1970s, a Conservation Area was designated in the town centre.[10] Most of the buildings on High Street, Stone Street and The Hill are listed.


In 1974 Cranbrook Rural District was merged into the Borough of Tunbridge Wells. In 2010 Francis Rook of the Liberal Democrats won one of the three council seats in the Benenden and Cranbrook ward from the Conservatives to become one of only 6 non-Conservative councillors out of 48 in the borough.

The name of the parish council was changed from Cranbrook Parish Council to Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council in 2009.[11] The parish council is based in the Old Fire Station on Stone Street.[12]


Located on the Maidstone to Hastings road, it is five miles north of Hawkhurst. Baker's Cross is on the eastern outskirts of the town.

Cranbrook is on the Hastings Beds, alternating sands and clays which are more resistant to erosion than the surrounding clays and so form the hills of the High Weald.[13] The geology of the area has played a major role in the town's development, deposits of iron ore and fuller's earth were important in the iron industry and cloth industry respectively.


At the 2011 census, Cranbrook had 6,717 residents.[14] The Kent Structure Plan calls it the smallest town in Kent,[15] although Fordwich has a town council and just 381 residents.[16]


Since the decline of the cloth trade, agriculture became the mainstay of the economy.[17]

The first bank was opened in Cranbrook in 1803 by Samuel Waddington. It closed in 1805. In 1804, the Cranbrook Bank was opened. It changed its name to the Weald of Kent Bank in 1812 and then to Bishop & Co's Bank in 1813 before being declared bankrupt in October 1814.[18]

The Tooth family of Great Swifts, near Cranbrook, established a brewery at Baker's Cross. A large part of their trade was the export of beer to Australia. Subsequently, John Tooth emigrated to Australia in the early 1830s, traded for a time as a general merchant, and then in 1835, with his brother-in-law, John Newnham, opened a brewery in Sydney. He named the brewery Kent Brewery, which continued to 1985. Meanwhile, the brewery at Cranbrook had been sold to one William Barling Sharpe, whose daughter had married the local estate agent, William Winch. The brewery Sharpe & Winch was established in Baker's Cross at some point prior to 1846 by William Barling Sharpe (who is buried with his wife, Ann, in the cemetery at Westwell, and his daughter, Elizabeth Louisa, who married William Francis Winch). The brewery assumed the name Sharpe & Winch in 1892, and was purchased and taken over by Frederick Leney & Sons Ltd, a Wateringbury company, in 1927.[19][20][21][22] The brewery were responsible for the mock-Tudor extension to the 18th century Baker's Cross House (a Grade II listed building).[23][24]

Culture and community[edit]

During the 19th century, a group of artists known as the "Cranbrook Colony" were located here. The Colony artists tended to paint scenes of domestic life in rural Kent – cooking and washing, children playing, and other family activities.

Queen's Hall Theatre, part of Cranbrook School, sponsors many theatre groups, including the Cambridge Footlights and Cranbrook Operatic and Dramatic Society (CODS). Cranbrook Town Band, founded in the 1920s, is a British-style brass band, which performs regular concerts in the Queen's Hall, St Dunstan's Church and around Kent.

There have been many plans to create a community hub, starting with a proposal to convert the old council offices. The focus then switched to a £2m building planned on Wilkes Field, next to the Co-op carpark. As of 2013 plans included small community rooms and three large day rooms which could convert into a hall for 300 people, along with a day care centre, council offices, public toilets and even the police station.[25] In April 2016 residents voted against the parish council taking out the £2m loan required for the project, but in September 2016 the Borough Council approved a £20m regeneration plan that would create shops, flats and a community centre.[26]

Cultural references[edit]

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".[27]

"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


There are many medieval buildings in the area. At Wilsley Green, to the north of the town, is a Grade I-listed Wealden hall house and cloth hall that dates to the late 14th century.[28] There are a number of medieval cloth halls around the town - the George Hotel is in one dating to 1400,[29] there are two more further down the High St on the north side dating from the late 15th century[30] and 16th century.[31] There are 15th century examples at Goddards Green Farm on Angley Rd,[32] Hill House on The Hill,[33] and on Friezley Lane.[34]

Glassenbury Park is a late-15th-century manor house on the road to Iden Green with a 1730s front block, remodelled in 1877-79 by Anthony Salvia.[35] Wilsley Hotel was originally built in 1864-70 as a home for the Colony artist John Callcott Horsley, designer of the first Christmas card twenty years earlier. The architect was Richard Norman Shaw in his first important domestic commission.[36] The war memorial was erected on Angley Road in 1920.[37]


Union Mill

Over the years there have been four windmills in and around Cranbrook of which only the Union Mill survives and dominates the local skyline. It was built in 1814 for Henry Dobell, who went bankrupt five years later. Then 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.[38]

Cranbrook Common smock mill had common sails and was winded[39] 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.[38]

Windmill Hill is thought to have been a smock mill that was moved to Sissinghurst c. 1814. It stood ¼ mile (400 m) west north west of the church.[38] This mill was marked on Emanuel Bowen's map of Kent (1736) and also on Andrews, Drury and Herbert's map of Kent, 1769. The latter also shows a mill at Saint's Hill, 1 mile 5 furlongs (2.6 km) north east of the church.[38]


The junction of the A262 (Lamberhurst – Biddenden) and the A229 (RochesterHawkhurst) pass near Cranbrook. Cranbrook is served by Arriva Southern Counties buses.

The Hawkhurst Branch Line ran a short distance from the town, but Cranbrook railway station, which was 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of the centre, stopped operations on 12 June 1961.[40] The nearest operating station is at Staplehurst.


Rainbow Pre-school provides early years education in the centre of town. Cranbrook Church of England Primary School has been on its current site in Carriers Road since 1985; it was placed in special measures from November 2013 until June 2015.[41] Colliers Green Primary School also lies within the parish, to the north-west of Cranbrook. Dulwich Preparatory School (3–13) at Coursehorn to the east of town, is a legacy of the World War II evacuation of Dulwich College Preparatory School from London. Alumni include Sophie, Countess of Wessex and its buildings include two cloth halls, one dating from the 15th century[42] and one from the 16th century.[43]

Cranbrook School (13–18) is a voluntary-aided grammar school, dating back to 1518. A third of the pupils are boarders. The schoolhouse built in 1727 is now the Headmaster's House.[44] The school's observatory is named after alumnus and NASA astronaut Piers Sellers; it houses the 22.5 inch Alan Young telescope operated by the Cranbrook and District Science and Astronomy Society (CADSAS).

High Weald Academy (11–18), formerly known as Angley School, was a comprehensive school. It was formed by the merger of Mary Sheafe Girls' School and Swattenden Boys' School in the 1970s and became Kent's first specialist sports college in 2000.[45] In September 2012 it was taken over by the Hayesbrook Academy Trust (now the Brook Learning Trust) who run the Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge. The school closed in 2022.

St Dunstan's parish church, the "Cathedral of the Weald"

Religious sites[edit]

St Dunstan's Church is known as the "Cathedral of the Weald";[46] 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.[46]

Cranbrook Strict Baptist Chapel was built in 1787 and is the only survivor of two Strict Baptist chapels within a short distance in the village centre; Providence Chapel is now closed. Cranbrook Congregational Church was built in Neo-Gothic style in 1857,[47] replacing an earlier chapel. It remains Congregational, having stayed outside the United Reformed Church denomination. The Catholic St Theodore's Church opened in 1958.


In 1652, a court case brought at Cranbrook by church authorities against John Rabson and others refers to "a certain unlawful game called cricket", one of the sport's earliest references. The court, however, ruled that the game was not unlawful.[48] Kent County Cricket Club played two first-class cricket matches on School Field, Cranbrook in the 1850s and two on Swifts Park, an estate just north-east of the town, in the 1860s.[49]

Cranbrook Juniors Football Club (CJFC) play in the Crowborough & District Junior Football League. Home matches are played on the Rammell Field, Cranbrook on Saturday mornings.

Cranbrook Rugby Club (CRFC) play their home matches on the various rugby pitches situated around the town, including the Jaeger and Scott fields. The clubhouse is based at the Cranbrook Rugby Club, on Angley Road. Age groups range from Under 7s to the senior adult teams.

The Weald Sports Centre has indoor and outdoor facilities, including tennis courts, an indoor sports hall, a swimming pool and a dance studio.[50] Cranbrook joggers club runs routes around Angley Woods and Bedgebury Forest.

There was an open-air swimming pool on the Frythe Estate, which closed when the Weald Sports Centre opened in 2000.

Notable people[edit]


The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb" (Marine West Coast Climate).[58]

Climate data for Cranbrook
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Average low °C (°F) 1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 64
Source: Weatherbase[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 20 October 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  2. ^ The Place Names of Kent, Judith Glover ISBN 0-905270-61-4
  3. ^ The Origin of English Place Names, P.H. Reaney ISBN 0-7100-2010-4
  4. ^ Aldridge, Neil. "Little Farningham Farm, Cranbrook Re-visited" (PDF). Archaeologia Cantiana. 121 (2001).
  5. ^ a b Dasent 1911, pp. 130
  6. ^ a b NQ 1859, pp. 142
  7. ^ a b Westwood 1985, pp. 85
  8. ^ King 1868, pp. 240
  9. ^ Cook 1882, pp. 475
  10. ^ Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (2010). "Cranbrook Conservation Area Appraisal" (PDF). Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
  11. ^ "Request to Change Name of Parish Council - Cranbrook" (PDF). Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Contact us". Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  13. ^ Zell, Michael (2004). Industry in the Countryside: Wealden Society in the Sixteenth Century Issue 22 of Cambridge Studies in Population, Economy and Society in Past Time. Cambridge University Press. p. 90. ISBN 9780521893060. Archived from the original on 23 January 2021. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  14. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 20 October 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  15. ^ Kent Structure Plan
  16. ^ Key Statistics; Quick Statistics: Population Density Archived 11 February 2003 at the Wayback Machine United Kingdom Census 2011 Office for National Statistics Retrieved 21 November 2013
  17. ^ "The History of Cranbrook". Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  18. ^ Lillitos, Nick. "Village's first bank was first in long line of failures". Kent Messenger (Weald edition). No. 27 July 2012. p. 12.
  19. ^ Barber 1994, pp. 44
  20. ^ Richmond & Turton 1990, pp. 209
  21. ^ Barling, Pat. "Barling Family — Egerton branch". Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  22. ^ Duncan 1920, Plot #41
  23. ^ Flanders 1984, pp. 184–185
  24. ^ "Baker's Cross House". British Listed Buildings. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  25. ^ Jones, Scarlet (27 February 2013). "Police station and cafe plan for new centre in Cranbrook". Weald Courier.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ McConnell, Ed (2 September 2016). "Plans for Cranbrook Community Centre, Wilkes Field, and Cranbrook Engineering site, Stone Street, approved". Kent Online. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  27. ^ "While Shepherds Watched". Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  28. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Old Wilsley (1338663)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  29. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Anderson And Sons Butchers Andreson And Sons Butchers Lemon Blue Gift Shop Oliver Fisher Estate Agents The Cornerhouse Flat The Cornerhouse Flats The Cornerhouse Offices The George Hotel (1075155)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  30. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Bangham's Electrical Shop Jeneleen Hairdressers Vegetare (1084827)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  31. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Shepherds (1336920)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  32. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Goddards Green Farmhouse (1084183)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  33. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Hill House (1084833)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  34. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Friezley And Weavers (1347912)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  35. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Glassenbury Park House (1101470)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  36. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Wilsley Hotel (1346269)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  37. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Cranbrook War Memorial (1346268)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  38. ^ a b c d Coles Finch, William (1933). Watermills and Windmills. London: C W Daniel Company. pp. 188–91.
  39. ^ Turned to face the wind
  40. ^ Butt, R. V. J. (October 1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199. OL 11956311M.
  41. ^ "Cranbrook Church of England Primary School" (PDF). Ofsted. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2016.[permanent dead link]
  42. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "The Old Cloth Hall (1084868)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  43. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Coursehorn (1336925)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  44. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Cranbrook School House And Walls To South (1084796)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  45. ^ "Sporting success". This is Kent. 21 December 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2016.[permanent dead link]
  46. ^ a b Cranbrook A Wealden Town, C.C.R. Pile (1955)
  47. ^ Historic England (12 October 2016). "Congregational Church (1084384)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  48. ^ Underdown, p. 15.
  49. ^ Grounds Records in Kent County Cricket Club Annual 2017, pp.210–211. Canterbury: Kent County Cricket Club.
  50. ^ "Facilities". Fusion Lifestyle. 2016. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  51. ^ Gliddon, Gerald (2014). VCs of the First World War: The Sideshows. The History Press. p. 138. ISBN 9780750957656. Archived from the original on 23 January 2021. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  52. ^ a b Rogers, Sarah (2022). 'A Maker of Matrons’? A study of Eva Lückes’s influence on a generation of nurse leaders:1880–1919' (Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Huddersfield, April 2022) External links
  53. ^ Matron’s Annual Letter to Nurses, No.5, Matron's Annual Letter to Nurses, 1894–1916; RLHLH/N/7/2, No.5, February 1898, 13; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  54. ^ Elizabeth Hamilton, RG13/774, 80; The General Record Office, The England and Wales Census 1901 for Cranbrook, Kent; The National Archives, Kew [Available at:, accessed on 18 September 2018].
  55. ^ Matron’s Annual Letter to Nurses, No.19, Matron's Annual Letter to Nurses, 1894–1916; RLHLH/N/7/2, No.19, April 1912, 33; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London.
  56. ^ Elizabeth Stirling-Hamilton, Register of Pupil Probationers; RLHLH/N/2/1, 84; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  57. ^ Elizabeth Stirling-Hamilton, Register of Probationers; RLHLH/N/1/5, 247; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  58. ^ "Climate Summary for Cranbrook, Kent". Archived from the original on 23 January 2021. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  59. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Cranbrook, Kent". Weatherbase. 2013. Archived from the original on 23 October 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2013. Retrieved on 19 April 2013.

Reference bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]