The historic market town of Cranbrook in Kent, England

In Counties, Days Out, Kent, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

The picturesque ‘Capital of the Weald’

Every time we pass through Cranbrook in the heart of Kent’s ‘High Weald’, I’m always astounded at how pretty it is. Black and white half-timbered homes, roses clambering along white picket fences, and local inns just tempting you in for an ale. Does Cranbrook get any more English?

Traditional Kentish Town houses on Cranbrook’s High Street with red tiled roof and facades and high chimney stack.  Picket fences edge the picturesque front cottage gardens.

Along the High Street in Cranbrook

To reach Cranbrook, you have to make a slight detour off of the main road. However, that’s one of the reasons why it has kept so many of its charming qualities. You have to search it out.

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The White Horse public house takes pride of place in the High Street of Cranbrook.  The windows are decorated with brightly coloured hanging baskets.

White Horse pub

Cranbrook is only around 15 miles (24km) east of the attractive spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, so just a hop, skip and a jump away.

The countryside all around this area of the High Weald is beautiful, so it’s no surprise that it has been classified as ‘AONB’ Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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A little history

Gary and I are fascinated with history, whether it’s local or overseas and Cranbrook certainly has its fair share.

The area of Kent that Cranbrook is located in is the ‘Weald of Kent’. And it’s in this region during the 14th century, that Edward III introduced Flemish weavers.

The Wealden cloth industry then began to flourish, and that’s why there are so many eye-catching half-timbered ‘Cloth Halls’ dotted around the county.

A black and white half-timbered Tudor period home with a cottage garden to the front.  One of the older houses in Cranbrook

Half-timbered homes in Cranbrook

An interesting read

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.


It still has its charm

What I also enjoyed about Cranbrook is that the old character of the High Street still remains. Even though a few ‘High Street’ chains have sneaked in, they have been seamlessly integrated into this wealthy little town.

Looking along the top end of Stone Street where a selection of independent stores find home in the half-timbered historic buildings of Cranbrook.

Independent stores along Stone Street in Cranbrook

You’ll find independent boutiques, family-run butchers, art shops, an ironmonger, a cookshop and tea rooms. If you’re looking for a quintessentially English town, Cranbrook is it.

An intriguingly named shop called Crane Books, a play on words for the town's name of Cranbrook.  The rather uneven shop shows the signs of age looking like a mix of styles from late Tudor to more modern times.

Crane Books

A quirky little shop in Cranbrook High Street.

‘Maisie K’ Boutique

Visit some of Kent’s coastal towns?

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns, particularly along the Kentish coastline. Take a peek at some we’ve visited, Hythe, Deal, Folkestone, Margate and Sandwich.

Town with character

Along with Cranbrook’s half-timbered buildings, you also keep stumbling upon the lovely white weatherboarded dwellings. Many still with their traditional features and quaint little front gardens.

White picket fences in front of two traditional white weather boarded Kentish homes With the red tiled roof.  There is a driveway running between them wide enough for possibly a horse and cart.

White weatherboarded house along the High Street

Strolling around Cranbrook, you’ll probably also spot the Union Windmill. This lovely smock mill stands proud overlooking the town. It was built in 1814 after the Napoleonic Wars and has survived for more than 200 years.

Looking along the top end of the High Street where a selection of independent stores find home in the half-timbered historic buildings of Cranbrook.

Union Windmill

A street sign pointing out all the places of interest in Cranbrook including the museum, vestry Hall and the tourist Information Centre.

Which way now?

The windmill is open to the public at the weekends during the spring and summer months.

Tempted to?

Discover more of the Great British Isles, why not jump in a car and tour the country at your own pace. You can do it all on a road trip, SIXT car hire cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Big Ben’s little brother

St Dunstan's church in Cranbrook is fascinating, it has so many interesting links to the past. It is known locally as the ‘Cathedral of The Weald’.

Walking the path between the gravestones towards the main entrance of Saint Dunstan's church in Cranbrook on a beautiful sunny day

St Dunstan's church, Cranbrook ‘Cathedral of The Weald’

Although it isn’t actually a cathedral, it echoes the prosperity of the historic town during the growth of the Flemish weaving industry in the 1330’s.
 
Majority of the church dates back to 1550, although there has been a church on these grounds since the 11th century.

The bell tower and clock face of Saint Dunstan's church in Cranbrook Surrounded by headstones from the graveyard

St Dunstan’s Church tower

Inside the simple interior of St Dunstan's church.  The high vaulted wooden roof catches your eye as you look alone the path between the pews

Interior of St Dunstan’s Church

Then we come to the tower, which was built around 1425, with the upper storey being added 100 years later. Interestingly the clock mechanism that was installed in 1855 within this tower, is the prototype for ‘Big Ben’ in London.

A view over the graveyard towards the apex end the Saint Dunstan's church in Cranbrook on a beautiful sunny day

St Dunstan's churchyard

Parts of the organ in St Dunstan’s church were originally designed for use in the Great Exhibition of 1851 at The Crystal Palace.

Enjoyed Cranbrook?

If Cranbrook was tempting you, take a look at our post on Tenterden, another jewel in the ‘Garden of England’, and only 8 miles east of Cranbrook.

Something to make your travels easier?

The George Hotel

The George Hotel in the heart of the town is a late medieval inn. It was initially built as a cloth hall around 1400. It has certainly had a chequered past. As, it has been frequented by many different walks of life over the centuries, from Royalty to ne’re-do-wells.

The outside of the historic George hotel in the High Street of Cranbrook

The George Hotel

In 1573 Queen Elizabeth I arrived here, and then during the 18th-century smugglers from the notorious Hawkhurst Gang patronised here.

The Hawkhurst gang hatched their plans from many inns around Kent and Sussex, another particular favourite of theirs, was the Mermaid Inn in Rye.

A green plaque from the Cranbrook Heritage society recognising the George hotel as a late medieval inn where Queen Elizabeth the 1st was received in 1573. A further plaque denotes the Hawkhurst Gang smuggler's trail.

A very special visitor

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Inspired to visit Cranbrook?

Why not stay at the George Hotel in Cranbrook, then sit back, relax and sample the local ales.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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