St. Dunstans Church
The village of Cranbrook is in the heart of the Weald of Kent, the garden of England. It is a quaint, old fashioned place of perhaps four thousand inhabitants, set in the midst of a rolling country filled with great hop and wheat fields. If one goes there from London by railroad, it is necessary to change at Tunbridge Wells, and again at Paddock Wood, to a leisurely little branch, which winds slowly through the rich fields, and finally leaves the traveller nearly two miles from his destination. It is a pleasant walk to the town, however, and conveyance is available. The village consists practically of one street branching into a Y at the farther end. To the left, somewhat above the street level, is the Church of St. Dunstan. Most of the buildings are old, some of them dating back five centuries. Many are halftimbered. There are examples of architecture, it is said, "embracing nearly every style during the last five-hundred years,"
The George Hotel is a fine, old-fashioned, British inn. Queen Elizabeth stopped there in her trip through Kent in 1573.
Edward III (1327-1377) conceived the idea of bringing Flemish weavers to England to manufacture their famous broadcloths, instead of exporting the wool to Flanders for weaving there. Many Flemings came over at his invitation. Cranbrook was found to be an excellent location for the work, having good water power, an ample supply of timber, and a good quality of the marl used in cleansing the cloth. The town became famous for its product and was prosperous for many years. When Queen Elizabeth visited it the weavers laid down on the street a carpet of broadcloth half a mile long for her to walk on.
The use of machinery in spinning and weaving gradually put an end to this hand manufacture, for Cranbrook was too far from the sources of supply, and too difficult to reach. Asa result it settled down into a quiet, rather sleepy, trading centre for the farming district that surrounds it.
To a visitor the Church of St. Dunstan is the main attraction. It dates from a very early period. It seems probable that a church existed there before the Norman Conquest; at any rate, traces of Norman work are found in the present building. Even though it has been completely rebuilt most of the present structure is from four to five centuries old. The tower was erected between 1414 and 1443 and the middle aisle completed in 1530. In 1725 the undermining of a column wrecked the aisle, which had to' be rebuilt. The tower is square and plain, and rather heavy in effect. The aisles of the church are rather low and when viewed from the rear are not at all pleasing. The view at an angle is more satisfactory. The church is of considerable size, 170 feet long, and 70 feet wide. The tower is 90 feet high.
In the tower is a small room said to have been used as a jail for Protestant prisoners during the persecution under Mary. To the right of the south door is the tablet erected in accordance with the will of Robert Henry Eddy in commemoration of William Eddye. It contains the Eddy Arms with the inscription;
"This Tablet and these three windows were dedicated by Robert Henry Eddy of Boston in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, U. S. A., to the memory of his ancestor, the Reverend William Eddye, M.A.,Vicar of this church from 1591 to 1616. Whose sons John and Samuel and whose daughter Abigail were among the Pilgrim settlers of New England and there implanted for the benefit of a numerous posterity the religious principles here taught them."
The three windows (by C. E. Kempe) illustrate the doctrine of the Incarnation. The window to the west contains the figures of David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah; the window to the east of the door has the figures of St. Luke, St. Paul, and St. John; and the other window, St. Stephen, St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Alban. These figures occupy the upper parts of the various windows. Below, respectively, are the Salutation and Visitation; the Appearance of the Angel to the Shepherds, and the Visit of the Shepherds to Bethlehem; and the Magi.
There are other stained glass windows erected by local families or by popular subscription. There is also a very interesting baptismal font built about 1710, about four feet square and eight or ten feet high, for the use of those who desired baptism by immersion. This was formerly known as the "Dipping Place." Other features of the interior are interesting, especially to the antiquary.
The old churchyard lacks the trimness and regularity so much sought after at the present time. The graves are irregularly placed and many of the monuments are in very poor condition. Steps have been taken to secure new cemeteries at some distance from the town, and as a result the churchyard will be closed to further burial. The earliest legible date to be found on any stone is 1608, though probably some of the memorials are of even greater age.
Those who have no historical interest in Cranbrook may well enjoy its beautiful scenery and its quiet restfulness. As a vacation centre for short walking trips and excursions it has many advantages. Several artists have established studios there, attracted by the picturesque surroundings. But the industrial conditions that have weighed so heavily upon England of late years have affected Cranbrook severely. The dense population supported by the hand weaving of former days cannot be sustained by the agricultural labors of the present so that economic problems are difficult. That prosperity may return to it in fl measure is the wish of all the descendants of William Eddye.