CRANLEIGH HERITAGE TRAIL

Uncover fascinating stories of the past on the bustling High Street of Cranleigh in Surrey.

Follow this family-friendly trail between 15 heritage points in the centre of the village. Each heritage point is numbered and marked on the map below.

Start at the Village Hospital Cottage (1), at the eastern end of the High Street, and stroll to Stocklund Square (15), the site of an old railway station. On the way discover evidence of royal processions, World War II defences, and revolutionary healthcare.

Scroll down for more details of village life through the ages, revealed by the buildings you pass.

Village Hospital Cottage
(Built in 1446. Opened as a cottage hospital in 1859)

Dating back to 1446, this is one of the oldest buildings in Cranleigh.

In 1859, it became England’s first cottage hospital and inspired an approach to community healthcare that spread across the country.

Patients are no longer treated in the cottage, but the Cranleigh Heritage Trust is working to ensure it will be re-opened to serve the people of Cranleigh in a new role.

This small cottage was built for a member of the St. Nicolas clergy. Its timber frame is clearly visible from the outside – each beam made from an oak tree felled in the summer of 1445.

The room in the middle of the building would originally have had no upper floor. Instead it was dominated by an open fire used for cooking and heating. The chimney and fireplace were not added for another 150 years, so smoke would have drifted upwards and escaped through small openings at either end of the roof. These can be seen today as triangular sections sealed with tiles.

A first for English healthcare
In 1859, the Reverend Sapte (rector of St. Nicolas) granted permission for the building to be used by local doctor, Albert Napper, for the benefit of the community. Sapte would not have been able to give the cottage away, so instead rented it to Napper for a shilling a week and then donated the money back to him.

Dr. Napper opened England’s first cottage hospital here. It provided care for local people in a familiar environment and close to home, where patients paid what they could. Despite its small size, the hospital was equipped to perform surgical operations – often amputations due to farming accidents – with the theatre set up on the first floor in the room furthest from the street.

This new model of community healthcare inspired the opening of 240 cottage hospitals across England.

Not to be confused with Cranleigh Village Hospital, which was built up against it, the cottage was transferred to the newly formed NHS in 1948 and used until 2010 as a meeting space.

Cranleigh Heritage Trust is working to repair and re-open the building.

Did you know?

The age of Village Hospital Cottage was revealed by carefully counting and analysing the tree rings in its oak wood beams – a technique known as dendrochronology.

Before you walk on, look to your feet to find the T. Crapper manhole cover. Thomas Crapper is, perhaps, the UK’s most famous plumber – he installed toilets for royalty and his manhole covers grace Westminster Abbey.

The Three Horseshoes

While their horse was being shod at the blacksmiths on Luck’s Green (next to the Obelisk), the farmer would sit and drink at the Three Horseshoes.

Parts of the pub date back to the 1600s, with a new frontage added in the 1920s. It would have opened as an ordinary home with the residents licensed to sell alcohol – usually home-brewed – to their visitors.

By the late 1800s, the pub was owned by neighbouring Bruford’s Brewery, which used the Three Horseshoes insignia to brand its beer bottles.

Cranleigh’s steam brewery was established by George Bruford in 1876 and produced a wide range of beers, spirits, and mineral waters. You could buy a pint bottle of pale ale for thruppence – just over 1p in modern money.

Did you know?

The village stocks stood outside the Three Horseshoes until 1840. Being locked into the stocks was punishment for petty crimes. They held a person in place by their ankles (compared to a pillory which secured a person’s wrists and neck) granting them the slim chance of dodging objects thrown at them.

Little Manor Service Station Shop (~1450)

From brewer’s cottage to motor company to service-station shop, this Grade II listed building has survived many reinventions – and came close to being knocked down.

Built around 1450, it is nearly 600 years old and is arguably the oldest petrol station shop in England.

By the early 1900s, the cottage was surrounded by Bruford’s Brewery and was rented out to its barrel-maker for £26 a year.

When the brewery was closed and dismantled in 1913, the cottage came back into view… only to disappear once again behind Cranleigh Motor Co. Ltd.

The motor car was introduced to the village in the early 1900s. As cars grew in popularity, Frank Osbourn, who had run a local cycle company, expanded into motor vehicles from this prime position on the High Street.

Saved by the village
In 1988, the dilapidated cottage emerged as the motor works were demolished around it. The people of Cranleigh saved it from the same fate by filing for Grade II listed status.

The cottage, looking much as it has for the past 600 years, now serves as the shop for the village petrol station. The original oak beams, set in a low ceiling, will undoubtedly catch your attention, if not your forehead, when paying for fuel or snacks.

Did you know?

Look up at the windows in the upper storey and you’ll notice how small they are. When the cottage was built glass was not yet used in windows, so they are small and tucked under the eaves for shelter.

Little Manor

The Obelisk (~1820)

A popular local landmark, the Obelisk commemorates a toll road that was opened through Cranleigh in the 1820s.

The direction plates mark 31 miles to both Windsor and Brighton – and the halfway point for the Prince Regent (later King George IV) as he travelled between his two palaces.

Roads through Cranleigh were rough, muddy tracks, criss-crossed with streams that frequently flooded. The Prince Regent found the journey between Windsor Palace and the Royal Brighton Pavilion extremely uncomfortable.

A turnpike road – paved and operated as a private enterprise with a toll required to travel along it – was finished in the 1820s and passed through Cranleigh. It led to Rudgwick where it connected with the road to Brighton.

Travelling became easier for the Prince Regent, but more expensive for villagers.

Toll gates
There were two toll gates in Cranleigh, one at Gaston Gate and the other by the Common. A traveller paid to pass according to their vehicle and the goods transported. Villagers were not keen, and generally not able, to pay and found longer, alternative routes. The Cranleigh turnpike never made a profit.

By the end of the 19th Century the tolls were removed, but the Obelisk remained as a significant village landmark.

Built on seashells
The Obelisk’s distinctive design was inspired by the monuments of ancient Egypt – the nation, in this period, was gripped by ‘Egyptomania’.

The middle and upper levels are local sandstone, whilst the base is Sussex Marble, commonly known as ‘winklestone’. Look closely and you can’t miss the hundreds of fossilised shells.

Did you know?

An early painting of the Obelisk show a pineapple mounted on its top. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this feature was ever added to the finished monument.

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Cranleigh Arts Centre
(Village School 1847-1964)

Cranleigh’s first official school was built in 1847 from yellow sandstone quarried from Pitch Hill. It was funded by local landowners, with encouragement from the Reverend Sapte of St. Nicolas, to allow greater access to education for all.

Education was not compulsory in the UK until 1880 – and then only until age 10 – but the village school grew rapidly and more classrooms were added in 1871.

Lessons have not been held here since 1964, but the tower for the school bell still stands.

School life
The National School, as it was called, opened with just two classrooms, one for the boys and the other for the girls. As well as the traditional subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, boys were taught wood- and metal- work, and the girls needlework and cookery.

There was no central heating and warmth was from a coal brazier, with the children at the front being toasted and the ones at the back frozen. The toilets were outside with no hot water.

To create space for four more classes, wings were added on either side of the building in 1871.

Lessons in the war
In August 1944, Cranleigh was hit by a flying bomb that blew the school roof off and destroyed the Infant School up the road. Thankfully the strike was on a Sunday and there was no-one in the buildings.

Lessons stopped for only two days and children were back in classes held in the Village Hall, and church rooms up and down the high street.

A new role
With the opening of new primary schools across the village, the last lesson was taught here in 1964 and the building sat empty for years.

The Cranleigh community worked together to raise sufficient funds, supported by a Heritage Lottery Grant, to transform it into the thriving Cranleigh Arts Centre it is today.

Did you know?

Sir Harry Secombe (a member of the popular radio comedy ‘The Goon Show’) was the first patron of Cranleigh Arts Centre. Julie Walters (star of the Harry Potter series, amongst many other films) lives locally and is a current patron.

St. Nicolas Church (1170)

As the oldest standing building in Cranleigh, St. Nicolas Church has been a constant within the growing and changing village community for over 850 years.

The striking cedar tree in front of the tower was brought back from Lebanon as a seedling by the Reverend Sapte (rector of Cranleigh from 1846 until his death in 1906). It is nearly 180 years old.

St. Nicolas was built around 1170 as a simple rectangle, which remains today as the nave (the central area for the congregation).  It provided space to gather farm labourers from the scattered settlements nearby – although any sermons would have been in Latin and unintelligible to those that came to worship.

Walking around the church, its expansion to meet the needs of a growing community is evident. The impressive tower was added in the 14th century and houses eight bells, one of them dating back to 1552.

Turning a barren land rich
On the outer south wall of the nave is a large plaque dated 1630. It is dedicated to the man who discovered the impact of lime on the fertility of the local clay soil. He is credited with making the ‘barren land rich’ and allowing agriculture, upon which Cranleigh was built, to thrive.

Smugglers’ secrets
In the early 1800s, Cranleigh was a stop-off on a well-travelled smuggler route from Shoreham in Sussex. Headed for London, contraband like tea, tobacco, and alcohol would be stashed in the tombs in the St. Nicolas churchyard. Villagers, and the rector, turned a blind eye, receiving the occasional bung of cheaper goods.

Impacts of war
A ‘doodlebug’ bomb hit the church shed to the east of St. Nicolas in August 1944. It destroyed the shed and shattered the grand east window, along with ten others filled with stained glass. Thankfully there were no casualties.

Repairs were made with plain glass, filling the church with light. If you look carefully, there are a few surviving sections of the original stained glass.

Find out more about St. Nicolas Church on its website.

Did you know?

The arches at the end of the aisles on either side of the church are decorated with stone heads. One is a man, likely a bishop, and the other a cat. Is this wide-mouthed creature the inspiration for the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland?

Lewis Carroll was a frequent visitor to Guildford, but no-one knows if he ever visited this church.

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stnicholas

The Village Hall (1933)

Following the Great War, the community wanted to build a meeting place for the village. In this lean post-war period fundraising was difficult but, through donations from local people and benefactors, the Village Hall eventually opened in May 1933. It cost a total of £4,000.

The metal sculpture outside the Hall was added in 2000 to mark the Milennium. Beneath the paving lies a time capsule filled with memories and artefacts for future historians to discover.

Bringing the community together for nearly 100 years
The very night the Village Hall opened it was filled for a performance of Haydn’s Creation by local musicians. The following day it was host to a card competition, known as a whist drive, and later a dance. Since then, the Hall has been used as the welcome point for World War II evacuees, for plays, for wedding receptions, and for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Distinctive design
The Village Hall was designed by Thomas Wade, a local architect responsible for several buildings along the High Street and the Common. Look out for the mock-Tudor, half-timbered, design he favoured.

Did you know?

A special Cranleigh carnival was held in 1930 to boost the Village Hall fund. The crowd-puller event was a game of Pushball on the Common – imagine a football match with a huge, 6ft tall, ball which the players pushed or lifted through their opponent’s goalposts.

Kent House (~1600)

At first glance, this is an unassuming row of shops. However, the building behind the modern retail frontage dates from around 1600 – when Elizabeth I was still on the throne, Shakespeare was writing his famous play Hamlet, and the people of England had yet to try a banana.

Built for industry
The top floor likely housed weavers and their looms, whilst a cloth merchant traded their wares below. Inside the modern-day shops, it is still possible to see a substantial wooden beam running from left to right across the building. Most supporting beams of the time would be squared timbers, but this one has rounded edges known as mouldings. A moulded beam was expensive and would have been used to show-off wealth and status. Softening the sharp angles is also thought to have helped reduce the impact of a bumped head!

Tea & coal
The lefthand end of Kent House became Frank Winser’s Tea Rooms in the early 1900s. Mr Winser also ran a coal yard next door, delivering to his customers by horse and cart. Cooking and heating in the village were mainly through coal-fired stoves until gas was brought to the village at the end of the 19th Century.

Did you know?

The central hemispherical window, on the first floor, would have been added in the 18th Century when glass became more commonly used in windows.

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Oliver House (~1560)

A timber-framed cottage, built over 460 years ago, that may once have housed the troops of Oliver Cromwell.

It was ‘modernised’ in the Victorian era by its owners, who ran the local building firm. They added dormer windows and clay hanging tiles in keeping with the fashions of the time.

Cromwell in Cranleigh?
Oliver Cromwell is celebrated by name several times across the village, including this house and neighbouring Cromwell Cottage (absorbed into the Manns Building in the 1920s).

Some have suggested that Cromwell met with Richard Onslow at Knowle House to gather his support in the Civil War. If so, his soldiers would have stayed in the village – possibly at Oliver House or Cromwell Cottage.

Two annual fairs
We can’t be sure that Cromwell visited Cranleigh – although the Onslows would have had dealings with him as they fought on the side of Parliament in the Civil War. What is certain is that Oliver Cromwell, as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, granted ‘Cranley’ permission to hold two fairs a year.

Fairs were valuable events, bringing trade to the village, as well as entertainment with showmen and musicians.

Did you know?

Cromwell also granted the village the right to gather a court to judge disputes and petty crimes. This was known as a “piepowder” court. The name comes from the French pied poudre, meaning dusty feet, as these courts were often held outdoors.

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The Manns Building (Department Store 1847-2021)

In 1887, David Mann was 32 and bought a failing general store in a small section of this building. The ironmongers he opened could serve only two customers at a time, three was a squeeze. The business expanded rapidly to meet the demands of Cranleigh’s growing population and embraced its marketing slogan of ‘the complete home furnisher’.

David Mann took over the whole site in 1905,  adding the full retail frontage that is still visible today. He eventually added neighbouring Cromwell Cottage too, removing the alleyway between the buildings.

Before Manns, the premises had housed the village doctor, the post office, a saddler, John Champion’s forge (who cast the mileage plates for the Obelisk), and several other retail operations. In the 1840s, it included a small school, with at least 16 paid boarders.

Trading for over 130 years, Manns was one of the longest-serving independent department stores in the country.

Did you know?

In the early days of operation, Manns built their own brand of bicycles, called Enterprise. First with solid tyres and then pneumatic ones.

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The Richard Onslow

There has been a pub on this site for at least 200 years. It is named after Sir Richard Onslow whose family lived at Knowle House and were renowned politicians, including Speakers of the House of Commons.

The building has expanded over four stages, with the earliest sections from the 16th Century. You can warm yourself by an inglenook fireplace in a room dating back to the 1500s.

The most significant expansion was in the 1860s, with the arrival of the railway and the hope of new customers. The Onslow Arms Hotel, as it was then known, offered stabling for horses, a coach house, and carriages to and from Cranleigh’s train station.

The Onslow family
The Onslows were significant landowners in the village from 1559 to the end of the 17th Century and would have been important figures in the lives of local people. During the Civil War, the second Richard Onslow (1601-1664) led the Surrey troops on the side of the Parliamentarians.

Defence against invasion
By World War II, Cranleigh was within reach of enemy action. It was nominated a Nodal Point – a designated strong point that, in the event of a land invasion, would block the use of the roads and help protect London. The centre of the village was reinforced with roadblocks and tank traps – evidence of which can be seen outside the pub.

Did you know?

The pub was once called the Six Bells, which was the number of bells in the St. Nicolas Church tower. The church now has peal of eight after two bells were added in 1908.

The name of the pub was changed to The Onslow Arms (and later The Richard Onslow) after the King, in 1801, granted the Onslows an earldom and coat of arms. This was despite the Onslows no longer living in Cranleigh.

Ivy Hall Farmhouse (~1600)

Above the shop fronts is Ivy Hall farmhouse, dating back to the 1600s and Cranleigh’s agricultural roots. It was part of a working farm up until the 1880s, and has housed retail or food outlets ever since.

Farming on the high street
Ivy Hall was one of the farms that worked the land around Cranleigh. The cricket ground was grazing for cattle and a huge cow barn dominated the west of the village, where the War Memorial now stands.

The old barn, having been deemed an eyesore, was demolished in 1887 for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

By 1890, part of Ivy Hall farmhouse was Cranleigh’s Post Office and, soon after, Rowland’s grocery store opened across the rest.

Stephen Rowland – one of the founders of modern Cranleigh
Stephen Rowland purchased Ivy Hall Farm in the 1890s and set-up Rowland’s Stores. He added the shop frontage, including the decorative scroll features that can still be seen today.

From modest beginnings, Rowland became a major investor in the village. He secured both a gas and public water supply and, in 1894, created much of the New Park estate.

Did you know?

In the 1870s, Cranleigh held a fair every year in June. It took place on the common outside Ivy Hall Farm with stalls selling gingerbread, penny toys, and whelks. There was also fortune tellers, shooting galleries, side shows, and dancing.

The Fountain (1889)

The iconic structure in the centre of the village was built in 1889 and is dedicated to Arthur Hibbert Bradshaw. It was a drinking fountain, with a trough for horses, but the taps have long since been turned off.

The Bradshaw family of Knowle gifted the drinking fountain to the village in memory of their third son. The roof is tiled with Horsham stone and supported by four columns of local sandstone. On the peak of the roof is a long-necked bird – a crane – perched on the edge of a willow basket.

Basket-making was an important cottage industry in the area and an ancient osier bed, where willows were planted and coppiced, still grows in Knowle Country Park.

The fountain is positioned on the common land that came right into the heart of the village.

When the great barn, belonging to Ivy Hall Farm, still stood, a fair was held here every June with food stalls and entertainment. Today, Fountain Square is still a gathering place for the village, with food and drink, and travelling markets.

Did you know?

The crane, sitting on the roof of the fountain, has become a symbol of the village. Cran is an old word for crane, with nearby Vachery Pond a possible breeding ground for the birds. Leah is a clearing or glade. Hence Cranleya woodland clearing visited by cranes.

The spelling was changed to Cranleigh in 1867 to avoid confusion with Crawley.

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The War Memorial (1920)

The Memorial was funded and built between the Wars with donations received from the community. The design reflects the Cenotaph, Britain’s national war memorial in London.

World War I
Many Cranleigh families lost at least one of their young men in the First World War. Some lost more – the three Greenfield brothers were killed within weeks of each other at the Battle of the Somme.

When peace was declared, the village needed a place to grieve and remember them.

The memorial was designed by Waterhouse, the London firm that created the Natural History Museum. Local builder, H.F. Thorpe, constructed it from Portland stone – the same used for the Cenotaph.

The memorial was unveiled on the 5th of December 1920 by Brigadier-General C.E Corkran, with a firing party from the Coldstream Guards. It was dedicated by the Reverend Cunningham in front of a crowd of local people.

Villagers lost to conflicts around the world
The inscription on the front of the memorial was later covered by the names of those lost in the Second World War. A plaque was also added for Major Sean Birchall, killed on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009.

Civilian war dead
Miss Alice Fortune (A.P. Fortune) and Mrs Annie Ede (E.H.A Ede) are the only civilians named on the Memorial. 22-year old Alice died after an enemy plane machine-gunned the train she was travelling home on in December 1942. She had been Christmas shopping in Guildford.

Mrs Ede was a casualty of the V-1 bomb that, in August 1944, destroyed the largest gasholder at the works on the Common.

Did you know?

Have you noticed that one of the Stedman brothers had his name removed from the memorial? He was presumed dead but, thankfully, arrived home safely.

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Stocklund Square
(Cranleigh Railway Station 1865-1965)

This area of shops and cafes occupies, what was, the approach to Cranleigh train station. The Horsham to Guildford rail link was a driver of development within the village but closed after 100 years of operation.

On 2nd October 1865, the railway connecting Horsham and Guildford, via Cranleigh, opened with much fanfare. There was a special train decorated with flags and all the villagers were given one free ride (some took a few more!)

With easier access to London, the village grew as a commuter area and building trades flourished. An increase in mail and confusion with nearby Crawley, drove an appeal by the Post Office for a name change from the original Cranley. The new spelling was adopted in 1867.

However, the line was not used as much as expected and it was flagged as uneconomic in a 1963 report on British railways. It closed, along with Cranleigh’s station, on 12th June 1965, just shy of its centenary.

Nothing is left of the station, other than some of the original platform, used as a loading bay behind the shops.

The track bed of the old railway line is now the Downs Link footpath and has become a green corridor for wildlife and people.

Did you know?

There was a steam locomotive named ‘Cranleigh’. It was displayed at Cranleigh Station in the 1930s but was a mainline express and never used on the Guildford-Horsham line.

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Thank you to local historian Michael Miller for sharing his expert knowledge of Cranleigh, which has enabled us to create this trail.

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