A suburbanised village occupying much of the territory between Upminster and the M25
When it was first recorded in Domesday Book, Cranham manor may already have been in existence for several centuries. The early spelling ‘Crawenho’ indicates that this was ‘a spur of land frequented by crows’. The parish was originally known as Bishop’s Ockendon (or its Latin equivalent) but later took the name of its largest constituent manor.
Cranham Hall was first mentioned in 1344, shortly before it was purchased by Sir Ralph St Leger, of Kent. Several changes of hands later, Sir William (later Lord) Petre bought the manor and rebuilt Cranham Hall around 1600. The hall was rebuilt again two centuries later and this version survives today as a retirement home. Cranham remained a very quiet agricultural village throughout the 19th century. Apart from the hall, the first brick structure seems to have been a workhouse in 1828, since replaced by a pub.
All Saints’ Church was rebuilt in 1873 using some materials from its medieval predecessor.
After the opening of nearby brickworks in 1900, Cranham began to grow, but only slowly. A widely advertised 1925 plan to lay out a garden suburb north of the railway line did not come to fruition. The council built a few houses in 1931 but rapid expansion did not occur until the sale of the Cranham manor estates in 1937. Most of the council’s terraced houses and pebble-dashed semi-detached houses were erected in the 1950s, when Cranham’s population trebled. The main shopping precinct is on Front (formerly Cranham) Lane, behind which is the District Line railway depot. South of the new centre is bungalow country, and beyond this lies the old village with a handful of Victorian cottages and the hall. A few executive-style homes have been added more recently.
Cranham’s demographics are out of the ordinary in many respects, even by Havering’s standards. Ninety-five per cent of residents are white British and 82 per cent are Christians – the highest proportions in London. Pensioners occupy 35 per cent of all households. More than nine-tenths of homes are owner-occupied, and around half are owned outright – again the highest proportion in London.
The previous incarnation of Cranham Hall was as the home of General James Oglethorpe, founder of the American colony of Georgia. He died at the hall in 1785 at the age of 89. Oglethorpe has given his name to the local primary school – and to a university in Atlanta. Streets laid out for council housing in Cranham have names with Georgian connections.
Postcode area: Upminster RM14
Population: 12,528 (2011 census)
Further reading: A W Fox, A History of Cranham
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