Cranleigh has claimed for some time to be the `largest village' in England. As long ago as the 1920s, travel writers were dismissing it as a village aping the ways of a town. The tensions between those who saw expansion as a good thing and those concerned at the loss of what Cranleigh village meant to the people who already lived here have been evident for at least a century. Yet, in the 18th century, Cranleigh was a village in decline. While life in its agricultural hinterland continued in its own unchanging way, there was no `squire', no local worthy to lead the social life of the community. As a survey of the village noted in 1724, the chief homes had become merely farmhouses, including Knowle; the Onslows, who owned most of the land in Cranleigh, had long since retired to the great house and park of Clandon. It was not until the mid- 19th century that the moral temper of the village changed, with the arrival of the formidable Rev. J.H. Sapte riding the wave of Victorian rectitude that lasted until the First World War. The reasons why Cranleigh survived to grow into the `largest village in England', while larger settlements nearby did not, are contained in its history. History can attempt to explain, too, why such a burgeoning settlement should thrive away from the main thoroughfares of Surrey. Much has already been written about the village but its past still remains relatively obscure, although continuing research has led to recent and revealing new discoveries. We think of `Cranleigh' as a place of Saxon origin, for example, and therefore over a thousand years old, but there is emerging evidence of settlement here during the Iron Age, a thousand years earlier still, and of man's presence thousands of years before that. This readable and extremely informative account offers the reader the latest thinking on the history of Cranleigh and brings together many previously unpublished photographs of the village and its people.