Spotlight on: Cranbrook and Hawkhurst
PUBLISHED: 22:40 28 August 2014 | UPDATED: 22:40 28 August 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Packed with white weather-boarded buildings, Cranbrook boasts its own restored smock mill while Hawkhurst, the 'Crossroads of the Weald', has distinct 'old' and 'new' parts
Known as the Capital of the Weald, Cranbrook’s original prosperity dates back to the arrival of Flemish weavers in the 1300s.
For three centuries it was the capital of the wool industry until this trade declined and agriculture, hop and fruit growing filled the gap. In the 1840s six professional London artists established the ‘Cranbrook Colony’ of artists, and today the fine town museum has a room devoted to their work.
The Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers made the village famous during the early 18th century. Prior to that Hawkhurst (originally ‘Hawk Wood’) had been at the heart of the Wealden iron industry since Roman times.
It was home to William Rootes (who founded the Rootes car empire) and Sir John Herschel, the famous astronomer.
Cranbrook has lots of hills, permitting good views, with the church and Union Windmill both on relatively high ground, therefore visible from much of the town below.
The High Street meets Stone Street at a T-junction, where you’ll find the Vestry Hall, and up on the left is St Dunstan’s golden-coloured church, known as the Cathedral of the Weald, with its scenic churchyard.
Turning left at this T-junction leads to Carriers Road and along here is Cranbrook Museum (01580 712475, TN17 3JX), where exhibits include a collection of Victorian stuffed birds, local interest exhibits and Roman artefacts.
On Stone Street you’ll find the handsome 14th-century George Hotel, and other notable buildings are in The Hill, which leads on from Stone Street. Look out for the charismatic Particular Baptist Chapel (a cottage with gravestones!) and Union Windmill (01580 712948, TN17 3AH) the town’s most prominent landmark, now fully restored and open to the public on certain days (check website).
Hawkhurst is comprised of The Moor, the original village with a green beside St Laurence church and ancient cottages, and Highgate, based around the crossroads of Highgate Hill and the A268.
The latter’s most notable feature is the long, white, positvely continental colonnade, housing some lovely shops; near here is Sir Thomas Dunk’s Hall, a large house with adjacent almshouses.
Shop then dine
Cranbrook shops are along the High Street and Stone Street, most of them independents, including home design and renovation shops, antique shops, gift stores and ladies fashions. Buy your farm-fresh produce at Hartley Dyke Farm Shop.
There are several specialist shops, such as Alfie and Daisy (toys), and Stoneydale’s art and craft materials. Cranbrook Farmers’ Market is on the fourth Saturday of the month.
Hawkhurst’s main shopping parade is the colonnade building, with ladies’ fashions, greengrocers, a florist and a café among others in this attractive setting.
For dining options, Apicius (01580 714666, TN17 3HF) is a highly acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurant, and there is also dining at The George Hotel (01580 713348, TN17 3HE) and Campo Vecchio (01580 720555, TN17 3HF), while in Hawkhurst The Great House (01580 753119, TN18 5EJ) is excellent.
Good pubs serving great food include: The White Horse Inn (01580 720727, TN17 3EX) and The Oak and Ivy (01580 753293, TN18 5DB).
Buss Murton (01892 510222) is one of the oldest law practices in Kent, and can trace an unbroken line back to John Hassell, attorney in Cranbrook in 1713.
Consultant Solicitor Corinne Browne (above) is in the Property Department in the Cranbrook office and lives in Hawkhurst. “There are some interesting development projects in the pipeline,” she says. “The old Council Offices in Cranbrook closed some years ago and now the site’s being developed as upmarket sheltered accommodation for the elderly.
“Cranbrook is a lovely town to work in, it has a busy band of local residents and business owners. I can recommend the Oak and Ivy pub and the independent Kino cinema, both in Hawkhurst.
“My family and I also love visiting the Union Windmill, the museum, nearby Sissinghurst Castle and Bodiam Castle.
“Cranbrook is a lively friendly place, with plenty to do locally.”
Garden lover’s viewpoint
Jill Foster is the former membership secretary of the Cranbrook Gardening Club, and her husband John was show secretary.
The club began in 1938 and thrived until six years ago, when it ceased to operate due to lack of committee members (call the trustees on 01580 713117 if any local keen gardeners are interested in becoming active trustees, so that the club can be re-started).
John and Jill have lived in the Cranbrook area all their lives, and their son and his family also live nearby. “Cranbrook is such a lovely place and it’s so pretty,” says Jill.
“We love the Union Windmill, the church and museum, while Bedgebury Forest is great for walking. Sissinghurst village is very nice, as is the castle and the gardens.
“Cranbrook has changed over the past 40 years, but it’s still a very friendly town.
“I enjoy patchwork, quilting and spinning, and get a lot of my supplies from Stoneydale’s, while the toy shop sells the fine old traditional toys. There’s also a huge range of good restaurants and cafés.” n