Cranleigh is not listed in the Domesday Survey of 1086 and the earliest surviving record of it as 'Cranelega' is dated 1166. The parish church of St Nicholas has features which date from the 12th century but much of the church, including the tower, is 13th century.

In recent centuries the name was usually written as 'Cranley', meaning the 'crane or heron clearing', and it was not changed to the present spelling until the 1860s. Apparently, the Post Office were having problems with mail being misdirected to Crawley in Sussex and they insisted on the change. Perhaps, also, the change reflected the village's aspirations as it changed from agricultural village to small town.

In 1816 the Wey and Arun Junction Canal was opened and it passed through Cranleigh on its way south to join the Rivers Arun. The canal provided an inland link by water from London, via the River Thames and the Wey Navigation, to the south coast of England. It was never a great success and often suffered from lack of water, especially in it highest reaches south of Cranleigh. The last boat to navigate the canal did so in 1869 and two years later it was officially closed.

The railway opened to Cranleigh in 1865 on a route which linked Guildford to the Sussex town of Horsham. This was obviously a great boost to the economy of the village and also provided a rail connection to London, which began to attract the first commuters. Also in 1865 Cranleigh School was opened to the north west of the village.

A second station in the parish was built at Baynards, which provided a convenient service for the local squire at Baynards Park, the area being otherwise sparsely populated.

Unfortunately, the line was closed just under a century later, the only Surrey victim of the infamous 'Beeching Axe' of the 1960s. With the ever-increasing volume of road traffic in recent years many have come to appreciate the tragedy of this closure and there have been a number of proposals, so far without success, to re-open the line.

Despite the loss of its railway, Cranleigh has continued to develop in recent years and its High Street has a good selection of local shops and several inns.

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