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History of Cranbrook

Cranbrook comes from the Old English ‘cran’ meaning a ‘crane; probably also a heron or similar bird’ with ‘brōc’ as a ‘brook, stream’; therefore, a ‘brook frequented by cranes’. 


Cranbrook parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Dunstan. It dates to the 13th century, with alterations and extensions in the following 300 years. In 1604, there is a record of five bells in the tower. Two years later Joseph Hatch cast and hung a ring of five bells in a new frame. However, in 1715 Richard Phelps recast them into a ring of six and recast them again in 1718, this time into a ring of eight. In 1798, Edward Hasted described the Cranbrook church as ‘very large and handsome. It consists of three isles and three chancels. The pillars on each side of the middle isle are beautifully slender and well proportioned. The west end has a gallery over it, ornamented with printing. The pews are uniform, and made of wainscot, and the pavement black and white marble. The high chancel is well ceiled, and decorated with paintings. The east window is full of fine stained glass, many of the rigures of it being entire, and richly ornamented as to their drapery…. At the west end is a square tower steeple, in which are eight bells and a set of chimes’. The Victorian architects William Slater and Ewan Christian restored the church in 1863.


Early in the 13th Century King John, made
Cranbrook a Hundred with its own court. Later that century Edward I granted a charter giving the right to hold a twice weekly market and two annual fairs, which continued until the 19th Century. 

Following Edward III’s encouragement to Flemish weavers to re-locate to Kent,
Cranbrook became the centre for the manufacture of fine broadcloth. 

Cranbrook railway station opened on the South Eastern Railway’s branch line from Paddock Wood to Hawkhurst, on 4 September 1893. The line closed on 12 June 1961 due to a lack of traffic.


Union Mill, built by Henry Dobell in 1814, is one of the last working windmills in England. Following Dobell’s bankruptcy in 1819, the creditors ran the mill until sold to the Russell family in 1832. In 1960, Kent County Council purchased it, and, following extensive restoration, returned it to full working order.