History of Cranborne

Cranborne is an interesting little village, located north of Verwood upon the chalk downland named Cranborne Chase. Its history is fascinating from its place in the Domesday book to being a favoured place for previous monarchs to go hunting.

Cranborne dates back to Saxon times and was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Creneburne’ meaning stream of cranes. Its population at the time was recorded as 37 households, placing it in the largest 20% of settlements recorded in the Domesday book. Furthermore the land was valued to the king as 33 pounds, which today seems like nothing but at the time, this would cover the cost for over 20 acres of land in addition to more than 1000 sheep and other farm animals.

Abbeys and churches are a key part of Cranborne’s history, with the first abbey established in 980 by Aylward Snow. This changed by 1102 when the church of Tewkesbury enlarged, transferring the community from Cranborne to Tewkesbury, which transformed the Cranborne Abbey into a priory, under the control of Tewkesbury.  When the dissolution of monasteries occurred under King Henry VIII, the Priory of Cranborne was surrendered to the King in 1540, and was later demolished in 1703, with the churches built in 1272 still standing today.

Cranborne has a long history with previous monarchs, dating back to the 13th century, with King John making 14 visits to the hunting lodge. This hunting lodge would remain untouched until 1207 when £64 was spent to enlarge the manor, approximately £50,000 today. The manor house would later entertain King James I, whose first visit saw him killing five bucks in just two days. King Charles I also described the area  as ‘delightful’ when accompanying his father King James I to hunt in the chase. Today the gardens to the manor are open to the public but not the house, with the Cranborne garden centre residing upon the former kitchen garden to the manor.

The village lost relative importance due to the creation of the railway connecting the nearby villages of Verwood and Alderholt to Salisbury and Dorchester. The decline in importance has been shown as the village has seen little development and growth since the early 20th century when the population in 1911 stood at 711 but this has only grown to 779 by 2011, barley a growth of 1 person per year, compared to neighbouring Verwood which has grown by 5000 people in just 40 years.

The village today remains a peaceful place to live, yet is steeped in rich royal history to be enjoyed by all who choose to visit either the Cranborne Chase or Manor house grounds.