Let me introduce you to one of the prettiest towns in the Kent High Weald, only three miles from the famous Sissinghurst Gardens created by Vita Sackville-West. You may enjoy the many types of weather-boarding and architecture, independent shops, the narrow medieval streets and some interesting buildings all within an easy walk of each other including a beautiful church and a smock windmill. It is the picture of a small English town and on a warm summer’s day with church bells chiming and white sails shimmering, let’s go for a stroll around Cranbrook.
Cranbrook means ‘brook frequented by cranes or herons’. The name is first recorded as Cranebroca in the Domesday Monachorum of 1070, but as the name of a stream, not a settlement.
Leave the car in one of the free car parks and head down the High Street to the Vestry Hall built in 1859 as Cranbrook’s court-house with the Old Fire Station below. Now the Weald Information Centre.
Head up the steps on the left to St Dunstan’s Church. Outside on the tower is a carved figure of Father Time. Local legend says that he comes down every night and scythes the churchyard grass to keep it neat and tidy.
Opposite the church is Church House, formerly Dence’s School, which was built in 1567 by Alexander Dence. It was used as an elementary school for 300 years.
Carry on around the church and through the churchyard which leads into another small car-park and back into the town.
Stop to look at the decorative bricks of the White Horse public house on the corner.
Straight on down Stone Street you will catch glimpses of the windmill ahead of you.
and lots of lovely shops…
On the right hand side several narrow passageways lead off Stone Street. One passage passes Hatter’s cottage, which was William Tooth’s water-powered hat factory.
Pop around the corner to see Cranbrook School. John Blubery (d 1518) bequeathed funds for “a frescole howse for all the poor children of the towne”. The school received a charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1574. It is now a co-educational grammar boarding and day school and still State-funded.
Retrace your steps and turn left onto St David’s Bridge where you will find a delightful Arts and Crafts House which used to be a restaurant. Originally a temperance coffee house with reading room the Old Coffee Tavern was built in 1890 by Clement Cramp (1816-1894) for working men.
Opposite is a row of white weatherboarded houses and The Chapel of Strict and Particular Baptists. Built in 1785, this is the oldest existing place of worship for Dissenters in the Parish.
Continuing up Hill Road with Hill House on the right. Dating from the late middle ages, when the town was the centre of a thriving woollen industry, Hill House is a medieval clothier’s house. Note its lovely door.
We have now arrived at Cranbrook’s windmill which is the tallest surviving smock mill in the British Isles. Built in 1814 it dominates the town. It is still in working order, grinding wheat regularly to produce wholemeal flour which can be purchased from the mill shop. The Windmill is usually open Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday afternoons in the summer. Note: not on a Monday.
Stepping into Cranbrook is like stepping back in time.
If you enjoy a walk, short or long, then you may enjoy visiting Jo’s Monday Walk where you are in for a treat.
60 thoughts on “Tilting at Windmills”
A most enjoyable walk, Jude. The windmill is so gorgeous, with all the flags fluttering in the breeze. The old school building is lovely, and the tower sets it off perfectly. 🙂
They don’t build schools like this any more, nice that it is still state funded and not a private school.
This is such a wonderful non-challenge, Jude – and you and Jo are an admirable pair at it ! I wish I had gorgeous places like this to wander around …
Aw, thank you M-R. I’m sure there must be gorgeous towns in Oz to wander in. When I come over I shall have to track some down 🙂
When you do, you must let me know … :-\
Know when I’m coming to Oz or know if I find a cute town? 😛
I was reacting in regard to the latter – but of course, the former !!!! 🙂
You’ve activated my patriotism! Have a look at http://www.52suburbs.com.au/ for a taste of what Sydney suburbs have to offer. And for a walk you can’t beat http://www.harbourtrust.gov.au/visit/north-head-sanctuary-manly. There are also a series of great walks round the foreshores from North Sydney. I’ll track down links when I finally stir from my torpor.
Where are you staying?
I’m off to Queensland early December. How about a few days at Potato Point?
Email me Meg via my contact link and then I will have your email so we can chat ‘offline’. I’m thinking off going north to the GC but Potato Point sounds good too. Once I know what the son has planned I’ll be able to be more definite. As long as I can get a bus/coach/train I’m more than happy to travel anywhere 🙂 Or even hire a car if that’s necessary.
You’ve captured it perfectly Jude 🙂
Thanks Sarah – you been there?
Quite a long while ago now! Simon’s mum and I were just talking about it yesterday 🙂 I was saying that I must go there with Sam and the kids sometime as they’re near Sittingbourne in Kent!
There are some lovely places in Kent.
There are indeed!
You find such interesting places to show us Jude. I must admit I miss all the old historic villages. Most places over here are quite new in comparison, even our old stuff is usually not much more than 100 years old.
There must be SOME interesting towns to explore. You seem to find a few on your wanderings. Not sure I’ll have much luck near Sydney though.
Sydney has LOTS of lovely walks.
I have found a few around the harbour – any interesting city parts to explore? (I have noted the places you went to on your recent visit).
I’ll ask Jack, he is a Sydneysider, and get back to you.
Thanks PP. I’ll have a week in Sydney on my own so looking forward to exploring new places. Even taking a bus further out maybe.
What a gorgeous treasure of a town, love the windmills too. Never heard of it so really enjoyed reading all about it and also, as always, enjoying your lovely photos. It looks so inviting and a lovely place to live. You certainly get about with all these places Jude, I’ve learnt so much about our country through you 😉 xx
Skirted around it a few times on the way to Sissinghurst but never stopped. I read something about the town and figured it was so close to where we were staying it had to be worth a look. Very cute buildings there! I do seem to be spending far more time in the UK now than abroad. Hopefully the end of the year will make up for it 🙂
Sure it will 🙂
What a treat this post was. Plenty of the things to delight in – some splendid brick buildings; the lightness and charm of the church; the windmill poised above the town; the shadows on the windmill in close-up. And a benign Father Time who scythes grass rather than lives. I’m suffering from pretty-town-envy.
“Never on Monday” should be incised on all travel plans. Even my local cafe is closed on Monday and I missed out on many things I wanted to see in my travels because I wanted to see them on Monday.
I’ve heard that Kent is a beautiful region and now I have a proof. Very gracious of you to show us so much in one post. I am particularly impressed with the photos of St Dunstan’s Church.
Thank you Paula, you will like the post that is all about St Dunstan’s: http://wp.me/pL5Ms-1Ss More details 🙂
What a pretty place in which to spend a day or two. I think my husband would like it if Father Time took up residence at our place and cut the grass every once in a while.
The Weald of Kent is very beautiful and there are a lot of beautiful gardens in the region if you like that sort of thing.
I will add it to my list.
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