Cranbrook School, Kent

Cranbrook School, Kent
Cranbrook School
Established 1518
Type Selective
Headteacher Mrs Angela Daly
Location Waterloo Road
TN17 3JD
Local authority Kent
DfE URN 118888
Ofsted Reports
Students 757
Gender Coeducational
Ages 13–18
Website Cranbrook School

Coordinates: 51°05′48″N 0°32′18″E / 51.0968°N 0.5382°E / 51.0968; 0.5382

Cranbrook School is a co-educational boarding and day grammar school located in Cranbrook, Kent in South East England.


Brief history

Founded in 1518 for poor boys of the town, it received a charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1574. Although in 1817 the town petitioned the Master of the Rolls, complaining boarders were favored over day boys, its complaints were rejected. By 1850 the Headmaster had converted the student body to boarders. A later conflict caused the school to lose many pupils and masters, nearly causing its closure near the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, the school began to receive state aid and made a tentative recovery.

In the 1970s, Cranbrook School became coeducational and tripled its number of pupils. Selection is made of pupils at age thirteen. Boarding and day pupils come from a 6.2 mile-diameter catchment area. The school sponsors an annual Lenten Appeal, in which students raise money for a variety of charities. The current Headmistress is Mrs. Angela Daly.



The school was founded in 1518 by John Blubery, during the reign of King Henry VIII. A resident of Cranbrook, Blubery was a King's armourer under Henry VII. He worked first at the armoury at Greenwich and later at the Tower of London. He was briefly imprisoned in the Tower, possibly for having taken concealed commissions. He owned an exceptionally high number of estates. Blubery's crime was considered so serious that he was among those excluded from the general pardon issued in 1509 at Henry VIII's accession. Blubery was released shortly afterward and gained his freedom.

Using his wealth, Blubery built a fine house at Cranbrook. He returned there to live years later in 1517, possibly already ill. He discovered that his daughter was pregnant by a local man, whom she quickly married. Sensing that his ailment was fatal, Blubery wrote his will and stipulated that, if his daughter gave birth to a girl (who would not be entitled to inherit his estate), the house should go into the custody of William Lynch, a wealthy cloth merchant, who was to establish there "... a free school house for all the poor children [meaning boys at that time] of the town of Cranbrook..."[citation needed] Lynch was authorized to appoint a schoolmaster as well. Blubery died in early 1518 and his will was proven on 22 March.

After Blubery's daughter had a girl, her father's house went to Lynch. He set up the school, as directed by the will. While the precise dates of the opening are unknown, the school takes 1518 as its foundation year.

Early years

William Lynch endowed the school with a farm at Horsmonden. Although the name of the first master does not appear in extant school records, he was believed to be Robert Bolle, based on his being identified as a teacher in Cranbrook in a 1520 will. Lynch died in 1539; the school was apparently running smoothly.

In 1560 William's son Simon Lynch claimed the school lands from its trustees. The dispute was resolved in 1564. In exchange for the benefit of the estates for twenty-one years, Simon Lynch allowed the school to continue. After this period, full control of the estate was to revert to the town of Cranbrook.

In 1573, Cranbrook was visited by Queen Elizabeth I, as part of her tour of the cloth-weaving district. The town petitioned her to grant letters patent to the school, under which a proper board of trustees, or "governors", could be established. Simon Lynch agreed to surrender his lease to allow the board of governors to be established. (He died a few months later).

The Patent of Incorporation (which the school refers to as its charter) arrived in 1574. It gave the school its full, official title, "The Free and Perpetual Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth in Cranbrook". Further, it stated that the Vicar (of the Church of England) of Cranbrook should always have a seat on the Board of Governors. The clause is still binding.

Like many of the time, the school was small with a limited curriculum; it taught boys only Latin and Greek. These elements of classical education, however, were considered primary to the study of religion and law. The school continued relatively stable into the 18th century, punctuated only by the re-building of the school house from 1727-9. The surviving School House is the oldest of the current buildings. In 1741 the master, the Reverend Richard Brown, recruited the first boarding students, to whom he rented rooms in the School House.

In 1817 townspeople were disturbed by the steady growth in the number of boarders at the school and their being favored over town boys. They petitioned the Master of the Rolls, Sir William Grant, complaining that the master, the Reverend Daniel Davies, was lavishing privileges upon the boarders. They argued this was to the detriment of the day boys, for whom the school had originally been founded. Grant rejected this and other town complaints against the school's management. Davies had a lengthy term as master, to the end of his life. He gradually dropped the last few day boys and, by 1850 when he died, the school enrolled only boarding students.


In 1851, one of the most important figures in the history of the school entered. The Reverend John Allan is considered the school's greatest headmaster. He made his mark immediately, recruiting assistant masters to expand the curriculum. He expanded the number of students, both day boys and boarders. This and other improvements ensured his reputation in the town. When he died in 1866 at age 48, there was public mourning. He was buried under a yew tree in the churchyard of Saint Dunstan Episcopal Church. His epitaph reads "PLACED BY HIS SORROWING AND AFFECTIONATE PUPILS".

His successor, the Reverend Doctor Charles Crowden, was no less significant. He constructed additional buildings to support the school, and recruited additional students, so they numbered more than 100 for the first time. Crowden House was named in his honor. He resigned in 1888 because of conflict with the governors. When he moved to Eastbourne College, two thirds of the boarders and one third of the masters followed him there. Their removal bankrupted the school, and the governors considered closing it.

20th century

Despite the debts growing in the early twentieth century, the school survived. It was assisted by the state, which in turn gradually encroached on the school's independence. The first state-appointed governors sat on the board in 1899, causing five other governors to resign in protest. The school slowly recovered and began to expand again. In the mid-twentieth century, it added boarding houses to accommodate new students. During the Second World War, Cranbrook was the English school closest to occupied Europe that continued teaching, rather than evacuating its students to more distant areas.

Under the 1944 Education Act, Cranbrook became a voluntary aided school. Apart from a brief period of "grant-maintained" status in the 1990s, it has remained in this class. It receives funding from the state, which makes it free to students and requires it to follow the National Curriculum. It also maintains a board of governors, who decide on admissions and operations.

In the 1970s the school changed considerably in response to social transformations. First it became co-educational, and then increased it student body threefold, from around 250 pupils to roughly 750. The first two academic years were dropped. Students are selected for the school at age thirteen rather than at eleven. A large proportion of the pupils come from prep schools in Kent, east Sussex and London.

During the 1970s, the school created the "Lenten Appeal", to engage the students in activities on behalf of others. It is now possibly the school's most significant extracurricular activity. Taking place in the Lent term, it consists of numerous activities whereby students raise money for a variety of charities. Some activities are specific to individual houses, while others draw participants from all the student body. The annual Charity Walk, the chief fundraiser, is of around ten miles on footpaths in and around Cranbrook. The Lenten Appeal with other charity events in the school regularly raise considerable sums, easily in excess of £20,000 each year, the money being distributed to a basket of charities chosen by the student body.[citation needed]. Every two years since 1984 The Lenten Appeal has made a grant towards a development project in the Tabora Region of Tanzania, and a group of senior students makes the journey there to work on that project. Details of The Cranbrook School Tanzania project can be found on the school website.

Modern day

In 2003, alumnus Piers Sellers, a NASA astronaut, took a copy of the school charter into space with him. A photo is exhibited in the school cafeteria. In 2005 Sellers opened the school's observatory, which is named after him. This observatory houses the 22.5" Alan Young telescope operated by the Cranbrook and District Science and Astronomy Society (CADSAS). Details may be found on the CADSAS website

In May 2010 Piers Sellers took into outer space aboard the Space Shuttle an original watercolour portrait of Cranbrook School painted by Brenda Barratt. The painting was later returned to Cranbrook School with the official NASA verification that it has traveled into space.[1]

With a proud and successful sporting tradition, the school enjoys a good reputation on the sports field. It plays matches against the independent schools Sutton Valence School, Tonbridge School, The King's School, Canterbury, Eastbourne College, and many more. In the 2008-2009 rugby season, Cranbrook School topped the National league of the UK at 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-team levels, ahead of schools such as Wellington and Eton College.

In 2009, three pupils were suspended for buying the legal drug mephedrone, all of them from Cornwallis, surprisingly. House.[2]


The school has six day houses and six boarding houses: four for boys and two for girls, each working in conjunction with the main school to provide pastoral care and academic support.

Day houses

  • Allan Girls (North of Cranbrook)
  • Allan Boys
  • Horsley Girls (South of Cranbrook)
  • Horsley Boys
  • Webster Girls (Cranbrook and outlying area)
  • Webster Boys

Boys' boarding houses

  • Cornwallis
  • Rammell
  • School Lodge
  • Crowden

Girls' boarding houses

  • Blubery
  • Scott

House colours

Each house has its own colours for intramural sporting competitions, and a house tie. Junior pupils may choose to wear the house tie rather than the standard school tie.


The boarding community is at the heart of Cranbrook life, with over a third of the school's 750 pupils boarding. Each of the six boarding houses is run by a Housemaster or Housemistress with an experienced staff of boarding tutors, live-in staff, and matrons. Accommodation is mostly in single-study bedrooms or in small dormitories for the junior students. Boarders come together for meals in a central dining hall.

Day Students

The House System is a defining feature of Cranbrook School. There are six day houses organised on a single-sex basis. They bring together students based on the neighborhoods where they live. Day houses have 80-90 students each. Overall the school has 500 day pupils, all living within the catchment area of 6.2 miles from the school.

Allan Boys and Allan Girls represent the Staplehurst and Goudhurst areas, but also draw from one or two other villages. Horsley Boys and Horsley Girls are the Sandhurst and Hawkhurst contingent. Webster Boys and Webster Girls usually come from the immediate vicinity of Cranbrook.

Each house develops a special identity, often related to the villages as well as the personality of its Housemaster or Housemistress. This is an experienced member of staff who organises and manages the team of tutors and Supervisors, so that the house runs efficiently. The master manages the special cultural activities and programme of events which run throughout the year.

Each House has a House Council, with a representative from each year group; and a House Captain and Supervisors, who help the Housemaster or Housemistress with the house operations and support the younger pupils.

Common to all houses is the team of academic tutors who monitor the work and behaviour of pupils in the house. Tutor groups tend to be between fifteen and twenty in size in the day houses, and between five and fifteen in the boarding houses. Each house has a center where the pupils meet daily for registration and house assemblies (e.g. the Allan Corridor, the Horsley Block, etc.)

Sports and Extra-curricular Activities

The sports department are holders of the Sport Marks Gold award. This has been held for three successive periods since its inception[citation needed]. Boys and girls teams represent the school at sports events most Saturdays throughout the year. The boys play rugby in term one followed by hockey, rugby sevens, tennis and cricket. The girls play hockey followed by netball, lacrosse, tennis and rounders. Senior teams are run at 1st, 2nd and 3rd levels, while each year group has A and B teams and on occasions C and D. The fixtures are played against local schools on both Saturday mornings and afternoons, and on the respective games afternoons of each year group. Teams enter county and national cup competitions and are very successful.

Aside from sports, a range of extra-curricular activities, clubs and societies provide activities for students, including music, drama, public speaking, CCF (Army and RAF), Amnesty International, the Young Enterprise scheme, a book group, art and textiles, cooking club and dance[citation needed].

At Sixth Form-level, the school traditionally enters students into several debating competitions, including the Cambridge Union Society Debate, Oxford Union Schools' Debate, and the English-Speaking Union Schools' Competition.[citation needed]

Cranbrook's Music Department has a long-standing tradition of excellence in musical performance. A comprehensive concert diary is supported by a regular pattern of weekly rehearsals. The School has a variety of music performing groups, from classical to jazz, rock and whatever is popular. In addition to performing at whole-school occasions, pupils regularly perform in Friday Lunchtime Concerts and recitals organised by the Friends of St Dunstan's Church, Cranbrook. Pupils also perform in School and House Assemblies.

The Drama Department supports a variety of theatrical productions during the school year. Students may act in House Plays, the Junior Play, and Senior Musical, held at the end of the year. Senior Students direct many of these productions. Students run most of the productions at Queen's Hall, getting training in theatrical skills such as Lighting, Sound, Stage-Management, Costume and Make-Up.[citation needed].

Specialist School Status

In 2004, the school was awarded Science Specialist Status, which allowed them to expand the science department; refurbish older buildings; run new courses, clubs and events; and create programs with the local community. In 2005 the school opened a public observatory within the grounds, to house a 22.5" telescope donated to the school. The school was awarded Science Specialist Status again in 2008; however, with Coalition Government cutbacks in education, the Specialist Status scheme has been discontinued.

Notable Old Cranbrookians

See also


  1. ^ BBC News report, Monday 25th January, 2010
  2. ^
  • Duncan H. Robinson, Cranbrook School - A Brief history, 1972
  • Nigel Nicolson, Cranbrook School - An Illustrated History 1518-1974, 1974

External links

News items

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