Recorded as Cranfield and sometimes Cranefield, this is a medieval English surname. It is locational from the town of Cranfield in Bedfordshire, first recorded in the most ancient charters of the year 969 a.d. as Cranfeldinga, or the open area (feld) visited by cranes. The crane bird has been a rare visitor to the British Isles for many centuries, but as there are some thirty places which has the prefix "cran", this was clearly not so a thousand years ago. Locational surnames generally fall into two categories. They were either given to the lord of the manor and his descendants, or more usually to people who left the place, and later were given its name by their new neighbours wherever they settled, as an easy means of identification. This type of nickname (surname) still continues, although it is usually regionalised as in Jock, for a Scotsman. With Cran(e)field the name would seem to be in both categories, with the first recording being that of Phillipa de Cranefeld of Bedfordshire in the Hundred Rolls of 1272, and Alexander de Crannefeld of Huntingdon, in the same year. Both were landowners, the first interestingly being a woman. About one in twenty of such recordings refer to women as landowners or heiresses. The name is well recorded in the city of London from an early date with examples such as John Cranfeild at St James Clerkenwell in 1606, and Thomas Cranfield at St Dionis Backchurch, in 1611.
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