The Three Cranbrooks

In the midst of the garden of old England, in the heart of the Weald of Kent, in the valley of the Crane, snugly nestled among the hills lies the ancient and picturesque village of Cranbrook.1

When he founded Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in the early nineteenth century, American publishing mogul George G. Booth spoke fondly of the British village that gave his school its name. It was in this very village that the first Cranbrook School was formed five hundred years ago.2

The story begins in 1517 in the village of Cranebrook (as it was then known).3 John Blubery, a clerk in the King’s Armory at Greenwich, had left his house to his wife following his death. His instructions were that the house was to be inherited by their daughter following his wife’s death, but only if her firstborn child was a boy; if she bore a daughter, the house was to become a school open to the poorest children of the village.4 John’s daughter indeed bore a girl, and so, in 1520, “a message and garden in Cranebrook” were made into a school which remains to this day.5

Our Cranbrook School’s story begins in 1843, when two brothers originating from Cranbrook, Kent, set out on board the Euphrates destined for Sydney.6 Within a few years, the elder brother Edwin Tooth had established himself as a brewer. He bought nineteen acres of land at Rose Bay, which was inherited by the younger brother Robert upon Edwin’s death in 1858.7

Two years later and by then a member of the New South Wales Parliament, Robert built a stately home on his land, which he named after his home town in England.8 Robert’s home would later pass through several owners, including becoming the official residence of the New South Wales Governor from 1901 to 1917. Finally, on 1 December 1917, it was sold to the group who would become the founders of Cranbrook School. Cranbrook officially opened its doors to its first 64 students on 22 July 1918.9

Just a few years later, on the other side of the world in Michigan, the third Cranbrook School was founded. Booth bought the site of today’s Cranbrook Schools in 1904, naming the gently wooded plain after his father’s village in Kent.10 From 1922 to 1931, he founded three schools there: Bloomfield Hills School, Cranbrook School for Boys and Kingswood School Cranbrook (for girls).11 The three were combined under one campus in 1985.12 Designed by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, they are together renowned not only for their design, but also for nurturing “some of the greatest design talents the United States has had in modern times”.13

While it is quite incidental that Cranbrook Schools, Michigan, and Cranbrook School, Kent, share a name, all were established by founders who shared a sense of pride in their ancestral land, and who sought to support their broader communities. The ‘three Cranbrooks’ all embraced the values of compassion and companionship, service to others and global responsibility.14

As represented by the symbol of Cranbrook Schools, Michigan – a kneeling archer with his bow drawn towards the sky – we also encourage our students to aim high and so shape their own destinies.15 This archer decorates the halls of both our school and Cranbrook, Kent, and was gifted to us by Cranbrook Schools, Michigan, to display the unique bond between our trio.16 The crests of each of the three Cranbrooks are displayed at the front of the War Memorial Hall.

The bonds between the three Cranbrooks remain strong, with several of our teachers having visited either Kent or Michigan. These include Dr I G Burnett, Head of Classics and Housemaster of Wakehurst House in the 1970s – who taught at Cranbrook in Kent after leaving our Cranbrook – and Mr Bill Forbes, maths teacher and Housemaster of Woodward House, who introduced gifted learning principles under Headmaster Bruce Carter and visited Cranbrook in Michigan in the 1990s.