Cranbrooke (St. Dunstan)

CRANBROOKE (St. Dunstan), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Cranbrooke, Lower division of the lathe of Scray, W. division of Kent, 7 miles (E.) from Lamberhurst, and 48 (S. E. by E.) from London; containing 3996 inhabitants. This place, anciently Cranebroke, derives its name from its situation on a brook called the Crane. When the manufacture of woollen-cloth was introduced into England by Edward III., it was principally carried on in the Weald of Kent; and Cranbrooke, situated in the centre of that district, became, and continued to be for centuries, a very flourishing town, and the chief seat of the clothing trade, by the removal of which into the counties of Gloucester and Somerset, within the last seventy years, its trading importance has been almost annihilated. The town consists chiefly of one wide street, extending three-quarters of a mile in length, from which a smaller street branches off at right angles; it is indifferently paved, but contains some well-built houses, is lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water. The trade is now principally in hops and corn, which are sold to a considerable extent; and there is a small manufactory for making hop-bagging, sacking, &c. The Staplehurst station of the South-Eastern railway is a few miles to the north. The market is on Wednesday, and there is also a cattle market on alternate Wednesdays. The market-house, a neat octagonal building, supported on double columns at the angles, and surmounted by a cupola, was erected by the late William Coleman, Esq., a great benefactor to the town. The fairs are on May 30th and Sept. 29th, for horses and cattle; the latter being also the great hop-fair.

The parish comprises 9862 acres, of which 2100 are in wood. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £19. 19. 4½.; patron, the Archbishop; appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury. The great tithes have been commuted for £994, and the vicarial for £64. 16. 5.; the appropriate glebe consists of 52 acres, and there is one acre of vicarial glebe, with a house. The church is a spacious handsome structure, in the later English style, with a square embattled tower: in the year 1725, one of the columns giving way, a part of the church fell down; it was repaired at an expense of £2000. A church dedicated to the Trinity has been erected in the hamlet of Milkhouse-street, by subscription, aided by a grant from the commissioners, and endowed with more than £1000; it was consecrated in Sept. 1838, and the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of Trustees. There are places of worship for Particular Baptists, Huntingtonians, Independents, Wesleyans, and Unitarians. The free grammar school was founded in 1574, by Simon Lynch, and endowed by Queen Elizabeth with land producing at present about £140 per annum, which has been augmented by benefactions to £300 per annum. The poor law union of Cranbrooke comprises 6 parishes, and contains a population of 13,163. In Milkhouse-street are the remains of an ancient chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity. There are several mineral springs in the vicinity, similar to those of Tonbridge-Wells. Sir Richard Baker, author of the English Chronicles, was born in the parish, about the year 1568, at Sissinghurst Castle, which was used as a receptacle for French prisoners during the late war; and William Huntington, founder of the sect called Huntingtonians, who died in 1813, was born at a place in the parish named "The Four Wents."

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.