Things to do in Cranleigh - village life

PUBLISHED: 12:35 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:44 14 August 2014

The name of the town is likely to derive from 'a clearing in the woods visited by cranes'...

The name of the town is likely to derive from 'a clearing in the woods visited by cranes'...

Pete Gardner Photography

Believed to be the largest village in England, there is certainly much to enjoy around this leafy setting…

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Village voice

Retired journalist Alan Golden has lived with his wife Janet in Cranleigh for nearly 40 years, and their daughter grew up in the village, attending local schools.

“Cranleigh is pretty much ideal when it comes to raising a family, with good schools and plenty going on, certainly for younger children,” says Alan. “However, it also has just about everything you need as you get older.

“It was sad when the cinema closed, but the leisure centre is still here and the arts centre is a real boon – fantastic for family activities and showing films as well as providing a venue for top-class stand-up comedy and the sort of live music acts that are the envy of many a larger town.

“Sadly, some smaller traders have been forced out in recent years because of rising rents, but we are still lucky enough to have a first-rate independent butcher’s, fishmonger’s and bakery, as well as a couple of larger stores and plenty of decent places to eat and drink like The Richard Onslow, Cromwell’s Coffee House and Take It To The Table, to name just a few. And if the village itself is a bit on the flat side, the Surrey Hills are right on the doorstep too.”


Did you know?

• Over the years, there have been several versions of the village name – Cranlea, Cranelega and Cranele – believed to derive from the Old English words meaning a clearing in the woods visited by cranes. This reference is taken up with the figure of a crane perched on top of the clock in Stocklund Square, on the old fountain opposite and as a weather vane on the village hall.

• While we are on the subject of names, apparently the village was known as Cranley until around the middle of the 1800’s when the Post Office, worried about letters going to Crawley by mistake, managed to get the name changed.

• The splendid stone obelisk at the far end of the High Street was erected some time around the end of the 18th century. Originally marking the turnpike road through the village, it is now a Grade II listed building.

• When you’ve finished looking at the obelisk, pop into the grounds of St Nicolas and marvel at the gigantic ‘Cedar of Lebanon’ tree in front of the church. Planted as a sapling by the Reverend John Henry Sapte in 1846, it is now easily 100 feet high.


Grabbing a bite...

Strolling along the High Street, you suddenly realise just how many tearooms, cafés and places to eat there are in this village. Among them are Tiffins Tea Rooms (breakfasts, snacks and sandwiches); Truffles (a bakery and tea rooms); Take It To The Table (a delicatessen offering, among other things, the most gorgeous selection of chocolates); One Forty (see details below); and The Richard Onslow (chestnut, mushroom and artichoke pithivier anyone?). There are also no less than three Indian restaurants within a naan bread’s throw of each other.


What to take home...

Located right in the middle of the village, Manns of Cranleigh opened back in 1887 – the same year as Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It is an astonishing shop that is a bit like Dr. Who’s Tardis – far bigger inside than out – and selling everything from a coal bucket to a reproduction gramophone and even a huge portrait of a cow. Well, we did say everything...

Another popular shopping spot in the town is the lifestyle store One Forty with clothing, homeware, gifts and even a café.

Just outside the village, you’ll also find an interesting collection of small independent shops and workshops at Smithbrook Kilns.

One example is jewellery maker Jon Dibben, who has been creating unique pieces for almost 25 years and specialises in Fairtrade gold and platinum (

There’s also free car parking at Smithbrook Kilns, so make sure you leave enough time to browse.


Dates for the diary...

The big one is the famous Cranleigh Show on Saturday August 2 – a traditional country show with everything from spectacular displays in the show ring to traditional livestock and equine classes, a dog show and over 200 trade stands.


In the headlines...

These days, it is generally accepted that, although a self-appointed title, Cranleigh is ‘the largest village in England’. 
Whatever your view on the matter, the locals will be happy to argue the point forever.

Interestingly, Cranleigh was the only Surrey branch line to suffer under Dr Beeching’s axe. It closed in 1965, just four months before its 100th anniversary. The village was one of eight stations along the Guildford to Horsham line, which was originally opened in October 1865.

As for celebrities, music legend Eric Clapton lives not far away, as does former Beatle Ringo Starr. Plus, with Hurtwood Park Polo Club just up the road (chairman none other than 
rock star Kenney Jones), you 
can expect to see a few well-known faces doing their weekly shop at Sainsbury’s…


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