Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path) walk …
Cranford was first recorded the Domesday Book of 1086 as Craneford, meaning ford frequented by cranes or herons, and referring to the point at which the ancient route and track from London to Bath crosses the River Crane (a tributary of the Thames). Note that there was evidently at least temporary settlement in the area in prehistory, and permanent settlement in the so-called Dark Ages.
The manor was recorded in the Domesday Book as having a priest, and presumably therefore also a church (see below). The manor was divided into two in 1220: Cranford St John coming to be owned by the Knights Templar (later Knights Hospitaller); Cranford Le Mote, by the Abbey of Thame.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, it was re-united, and conveyed to Andrew, Lord Windsor, in 1540. The manor was then bought by Sir Roger Aston, Barber, Gentleman of the Bedchamber and Keeper of the Great Wardrobe to James I, in 1603; and in turn by Elizabeth, Lady Berkeley – a relative of Anne Boleyn – in 1618.
It remained in the Berkeley family for over 300 years, until it was finally sold to the local authority in 1932, and opened to the public as Cranford Park in 1949. Cranford House was built here in the seventeenth century, extended in the eighteenth, and substantially demolished in the twentieth.
Church of St Dunstan
The church of St Dunstan was probably originally built by the Knights Templar in the thirteenth century (as a chapel – whence the lack of aisles). It was subsequently extended in the fifteenth century, when the chancel and the lower part of the tower were built, and again in the seventeenth, when the upper part of the tower was added; amended in the eighteenth, when the nave was rebuilt; and restored in the nineteenth and again in the twentieth.
The interior contains a number of surviving Medieval and post-Medieval features, including the remains of a pre-Reformation wall-painting …
… and a memorial to the aforementioned Sir Roger Aston (d. 1612), …
… and another to Elizabeth, Lady Berkeley (d. 1635). The Berkeley memorial is attributed to Nicholas Stone the Younger, who studied under Bernini.
In the churchyard is a memorial plaque commemorating the comedian Tony Hancock (d. 1968), whose ashes were brought here from Australia, where he had committed suicide, for burial.