Tilting at Windmills

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Carry on around the church and through the churchyard which leads into another small car-park and back into the town.

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Stop to look at the decorative bricks of the White Horse public house on the corner.

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Straight on down Stone Street you will catch glimpses of the windmill ahead of you.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Stepping into Cranbrook is like stepping back in time.

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If you enjoy a walk, short or long, then you may enjoy visiting Jo’s Monday Walk where you are in for a treat.

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Heyjude

I now live back in the UK, but spent several years travelling the world and then living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

60 thoughts on “Tilting at Windmills”

  1. Thank you for this gorgeous tour of such a pretty little town. I enjoyed the walk and the creativity of angles used in capturing the windmill. Always happy to learn from your expertise With a camera Jude.

    1. Hi Sue! Thank you for your lovely compliments, and I’m glad you enjoyed the stroll around this beautiful town which is so different from this side of the country.

  2. What a wonderful tour, Jude. The town is so pleasing I want to visit. I like quaint and whimsical architecture. This little town has it all. Thank you for all the pictures. They are terrific and give a good flavor of the place. ❤

    1. Thanks Tess. It’s a gorgeous little gem. I love these towns in the Weald, all that white weatherboarding is so bright and light. The houses are quite cottagey inside with beams and things 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed this tour of such a pretty little town. I love windmills, so right out of the gate with the stained glass windmill at the beginning, it was sure to be a favourite 🙂

  4. Here I am, full of pasta! 🙂
    I’d never heard of Cranbrook, Jude.(nearly called it cranberry- must be the food associations 🙂 ) What a nice little place! I love the windmill. I’d never heard the expression ‘smock mill’. Is that because of the ‘wraparound’ bit, d’you think?
    Again, many thanks for taking part. You get to bits I’d find very hard to reach. 🙂

    1. You can have too much of gardens Jo, so this was a little diversion on the way to Sissinghurst. A very pleasant town and interesting too. This type of windmill got its name from its resemblance to smocks worn by farmers!

  5. 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 …

      1. 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?

        1. 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.

  6. 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.

        1. 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).

        2. 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.

  7. 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

    1. 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 🙂

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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