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(Christmas Cards and Union Mill)
Cranbrook lies about 18 miles east of Royal Tunbridge Wells on the B2189.
It is an old town, which came to prominence in the 15th century as a centre
of the weaving industry, much like nearby Tenterden . In 1331 the export
of unwashed wool was prohibited by King Edward III. He encouraged
weavers from Flanders to settle here, thus bringing their
weaving and dyeing techniques to England. Many of the buildings
date back to this prosperous time, including the parish church, St Dunstans
which is known locally as the Cathedral of the Weald because of its size.
In 1381 a few of the local peasants took part in the Kentish Rebellion under
Wat Tyler . It would seem that as the town was a weaving centre and not an
agricultural one, that the number of poor people in the town was only a few.
Over the church porch is a small room known as Bakers Jail, where a
Protestant John Bland, convicted by the local magistrate Sir John Baker of
Sissinghurst, for being a Protestant was incarcerated before his execution
during the reign of Queen Mary I in 1554 .
Queen Elizabeth I stayed at the George Hotel in 1573 , during her Royal Progress
through Kent and Sussex. She was presented with a silver gilt cup by the people
of the town.
In the 1630's a number of the children of the Vicar of Cranbrook, William
Eddye sailed to the New England colonies together with Doctor Comfort
Starr , where they attained positions of importance.
Witchcraft came to Cranbrook in 1652 , when Anne Ashby , Ann Martyn ,
Mary Brown , Mildred Wright and Ann Wilson were convicted of witchcraft
and sentenced to death at Maidstone assizes.
1655 George Fox the founder of Quakerism visited the town and made a number of
conversions. Once the commonwealth was overthrown in 1660 and Charles II
regained the thrown things became more difficult for the puritans, William
Watcher a quaker from the town was accused of holding a meeting in the town,
and was arrested and sent to prison at Maidstone wheree he died 10 weeks later.
In the 1790's, Thomas Clark of Canterbury often visited friends at Cranbrook
He was the writer of hymn tunes, and with the help of John Francis, a school
master, he wrote one called Cranbrook . First publised in 1805, it became
famous, though not with the original words. The tune was adopted in 1877 by
the Yorkshire Glee Choir, and the tune was sung to the words of 'On Ilkley
During the mid 1800's John Callcott Horsley R.A. came to live in Cranbrook,
and together with George & Fredrick Hardy, Thomas Webster and George O'Neill.
They produced many of the best selling paintings of the day. Horsley who was
the drawing master to the children of Queen Victoria, is credited with the
invention of the Christmas Card.
Cranbrook boasts one of the most impressive windmills in the country - The
Union Mill. It was built in 1814 by James Humphrey for Henry Dobell. It is
an impressive Stock Mill, on a three storey brick base, standing 75ft high
it is the second tallest in the country. It fell into disrepair, and was
bought by Kent County Council in 1957.
| Cranbrook is a small market town with a shopping centre one can expect from
it size. A wide range of shops can be found in the high street.
It is on the main bus route from Maidstone to Hastings .
The main train service from Dover and Ashford to London can be caught at
nearby Staplehurst , about 5 miles to the north.
| Cranbrook has a very pretty old high street, which winds through the town.
The Union Mill Windmill is well worth seeing, and can be found on the Tenterden road.