Cranbrook means ‘brook frequented by cranes or herons’. The name is first recorded as Cranebroca in the Domesday Monachorum of 1070, but as the name of a stream, not a settlement. It is only later that the Cran Brook, which runs through the town a little to the east of the High Street, became known as the River Crane.
However, although the area around Cranbrook contains several early villages, it seems that Cranbrook itself was not a settlement until perhaps the 11th century. Before that time much of the Weald area was wooded, with clearings known as ‘dens’ where pigs were pastured; many of these later became towns and villages with names ending ‘den’ (such as nearby Tenterden, Rolvenden, Smarden, Benenden and Biddenden).