Cranleigh Hospital Cottage – A new year, a new focus

by Trevor Dale

As we enter into 2024 with great anticipation we look back on some key achievements so far in the quest to restore Cranleigh Hospital Cottage for the community, with the financial support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

In August the CHT website went live along with Facebook and Instagram pages. We also had a presence each month at the Cranleigh Artisan Market and in Cranleigh Arts Centre. The vast majority of people we have spoken to support our project, and many have shown interest in volunteering as the project develops further. 

In early December the Trust spent time with an activity planning and heritage interpretation specialist, Hamish McGillivray. The National Lottery Heritage Fund recommends us to get the advice of experienced professionals to guide the team through the application for full Heritage Fund grants.

Hamish has a wealth of experience which can be viewed on his website He has worked at a wide variety of heritage sites and museums including the Lightbox in Woking, and Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home in Kent. Nearer to us he has worked with West Horsley Place and helped to develop a summer family tour with lots of audience participation.

Having experienced the atmosphere of the cottage, his creative brain is kicking in. We have four main areas to address: conservation of the medieval cottage; provision of attractive usable meeting rooms suitable for health and wellbeing purposes, heritage and history education and a tourist and visitor information hub.

Together we plan to discover little-known histories of local dwellers. One aspect would be what exactly was it like to live here less than 200 years ago? What services were here, if any, before the advent of the railway and the Wey and Arun canal? The railway arrived in 1865 and effectively put paid to the canal which fell into disuse by 1871. Like the cottage, however, it is also being renewed, though over a longer and more arduous process.

Listening to a heritage interpreter at work is fascinating. It is similar to a tabloid newspaper editor in terms of taking all the ‘nice to know’ detail and distilling it down to small chunks that catch and hold peoples’ attention.

Looking at the lives of individuals is illustrative and the one that stands out is the renowned Dr Napper. Albert Napper is almost revered in medical circles. He was the instigator of such a revolution in medical care for the common person, particularly in rural areas like Cranleigh, far from the major hospitals and care facilities.  It was typical for any sick or injured to be cared for in their own often extremely modest homes. This meant the sick would be surrounded by children and probably animals, so the risk of cross infection was colossal. Routine washing of hands by doctors was uncommon at this time, and they might be one minute dissecting a corpse then  delivering a baby, providing for the spread of puerperal fever.  Just as there was a revolution in basic healthcare in the late 1800s what we see now is a revolution in mental health and social wellbeing acceptance and treatment.

Where Cranleigh played a part in a paradigm shift in looking after the entire community’s physical health now we can repurpose the cottage for mental health and wellbeing, using social prescribing rather than medication. Indeed within our lifetime, mental health issues are proceeding from having a real stigma attached to being regarded as a treatable condition. 

Imagine how fantastic it would be in 12 months time to be celebrating a successful application to bring the Cranleigh Hospital Cottage back into community use. With your help and support this could become a reality.


There are many opportunities for enthusiastic volunteers to join the project. This promises to be a rewarding challenge for those with an interest in history and heritage, or in helping people. Please contact us by phone, letter or email. 01483 272987;

If you are a charity, business or therapist please do contact us to register your interest. We need long-term partners, and the Heritage Fund panel needs us to show them how we are engaging with our community. 

To register an expression of interest in future use of the facilities please do write to us with the following information:

1. Brief description of what you offer and the benefits to clients and customers.
2. Say if and where you currently offer this service and why people would use the cottage to meet you.
3. Brief declaration of support for the project in general.
4. Return name and address and any website or social media links. 

Thank you so much!  Very best wishes for the New Year, from The Team: 

Trustees Trevor Dale – Chair; Howard Barratt; Jane Briggs; Chris Bulley; Sue Dale; Nigel West. Advisors Bob Callard – architect; Joanna James – business adviser.

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