History

by | Mar 13, 2023

The Old Cranleigh Hospital Cottage is regarded as the first cottage hospital of its kind offering medical services free at the point of use, for those unable to pay.

Origins

In 1859 the cottage was owned by the Rector, the Reverend Sapte, who offered it to the local GP, Dr Albert Napper. Until this hospital, local people faced an arduous journey to St Thomas’ hospital in Southwark.

There were nearer facilities in Guildford, but the survival rate was very poor due to untrained nursing staff, and it was before Lister had convinced medical staff to use antiseptic practices. Around thirty percent of inpatients simply did not survive. Furthermore, this was the “poor house” and being labelled a pauper was just about the worst possible outcome, akin to being a felon.

Historical Timeline

  • 1445-46: Timber harvested locally and medieval “Hall House” erected on site
  • 1600’s onwards: First floor and fireplaces added
  • 1800’s: Front porch and current stairs built
  • 1859: Revd Sapte offered the cottage as a hospital to Dr Albert Napper
  • 1914-18: World War 1
  • 1915-16: Oxford and Bucks light infantry billeted here, and Canadian forces nearby were also served
  • 1936: The building was under threat of demolition by a firm of architects tasked with designing an extension to the hospital. This was fought off by the local community
  • 1939-45: The building twice suffered bomb damage with no injuries
  • 1948: The hospital was absorbed into the newly formed NHS
  • 1949: The formal formation of the Hospital League of Friends.
  • 1970’s: Further extensions to the building to be used for clinical services
  • 2010: The old cottage, in use as a rest and relaxation facility for staff and patients lies abandoned and unused

The Building

The main structural timbers were harvested locally in the winter of 1445, just 30 years after the battle of Agincourt. On the throne was Henry V1 who married Margaret of Anjou that year. It is safe to assume the construction of what was a medieval “Hall House” was accomplished in 1446.

The stairs and first floor were added, we believe, in the mid-1600s and more modifications were performed in Victorian days.

Ownership

Despite professional research, we cannot be sure who owned it, but its proximity to the Church of St Nicholas suggests clergy were resident since very few buildings were present at that time. Certainly, using the oldest records found so far around 1600 state it to be in church ownership, probably for the curate.

In 1859 the friendship between the rector, Revd Sapte and Dr Albert Napper led to the offer of its use as a hospital. Rent was paid in the sum of £5 per annum which was returned as a donation. Subsequently, Albert’s son, Alfred took over as Doctor, truly a family business.

NHS

The Hospital was absorbed into the NHS after its formation in 1948 and the League of Friends was formed in 1949. They continue to provide incredible support by raising money for improvements and substantial extensions to the Hospital, by continually updating equipment and by providing those comforts which made a hospital visit or stay more agreeable to patients.

The Future

Although the preserved building will not be a dedicated museum, because the National Lottery will not fund that, the plan is to have history and heritage displays incorporated into the finished building.

Read more about the history of the Cottage over in the News section.