This week, Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust, Cranleigh Village Hospital League of Friends and the Cranleigh History Society welcomed a visit from a fifth generation descendant of Dr. Albert Napper (1815 – 1894) who, in 1859, with Archdeacon Sapte, founded Cranleigh Village Hospital – England’s first “cottage” hospital.

Jane King (née Napper), who lives in Invercargill, New Zealand, made a special trip to Cranleigh to explore her family’s past. This was the first time Jane had visited Cranleigh having established her family’s close links to the village.

Whilst one of Albert Napper’s sons, Arthur Napper (1845 – 1928), continued in the medical profession and worked in Cranleigh during the First World War in the Oaklands British Red Cross Hospital and the Village Hospital, a second son, Charles Frederick Napper (1846 – 1923), became a civil engineer and left England to work in Sweden and Australia, before finally settling in New Zealand. Jane King explained: “That’s where my family has been for 100 years. We call the farm where I was brought up Loxwood, which is after our heritage here.”

The special visit included a tour of the original Grade 2 listed Cranleigh Village Hospital building. Dianne Davies, Chairman of Cranleigh Village Hospital League of Friends, introduced Jane to some of the history of the village hospital and, with thanks to TWM Solicitors and Michael Miller from the Cranleigh History Society, Jane and her husband, Andrew King, were able to visit Broadoak House, formerly the Napper family home where Arthur Napper and his brother, Charles Frederick, were born.

To close the visit, Michael Miller took Jane and Andrew to see where Albert Napper and three of his family members were laid to rest, in the churchyard at St. Nicholas Church. Michael Miller said: “Albert Napper was famous nationally and internationally as the co-founder of the Village Hospital.”

Jane King said: “We have always talked about coming back to England to see if we could find out anymore about the Nappers, as it has always been part of our heritage. So I searched the internet and found an email address and it all exploded from there.”

“The response was overwhelming. My immediate reaction was ‘I’ll come over and bring the photo’, which had been in the cupboard for decades, as they didn’t have one. So with great pleasure I have returned the photo of Dr. Albert Napper back to where it belongs.”

She continued: “It has been amazing to have stood in the rooms where my great, great grandfather lived and worked. It’s like a full circle, largely thanks to the people over here and the internet you can do anything and find anyone.”

“We are very proud of the Napper family name, some of my family having kept the name and continued in the medical or engineering professions. I can’t wait to go back to share my visit to Cranleigh with them. It’s marvellous that, with the generosity of the local community, the League of Friends is in a position to develop up-to-date out-patient and diagnostic services at the Village Hospital, and CVHT’s plans for the return of in-patient care to Cranleigh are becoming a reality.”

Robin Fawkner-Corbett, Chairman of Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust and previously a GP in the village for 30 years, said: “It has been an inspiration to meet Jane, the great, great, granddaughter of the doctor who started the village hospital in 1859. Now, nearly 160 years later – and thanks to the tireless efforts of the local community – we are looking forward to returning community beds to the village, reinstating the legacy of the hospital’s founders, Albert Napper and Archdeacon Sapte.”