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Joy of Cranleigh – The Wit of Dr Napper – January 2022

From Left to Right: Swallow, Nightingale and Lark

In 1949, the Cranleigh Women’s Institute produced a scrapbook of Cranleigh, which is now in the care of the Cranleigh History Society. In it is an anecdote about Dr Albert Arthur Napper, who was the principal local doctor for 50 years until 1920. He took over in 1867 as doctor and as medical officer at the Village Hospital from his father, Dr Albert Napper. He lived at Broadoak in the Village. Dr A.A. Napper was a keen horseman, and many photos show him on horseback.

The Women’s Institute scrapbook reveals him as quite a wit. One day, apparently, Dr Napper was discussing medical visits with his colleague, Dr J. Keith Willis.

Dr Napper: And please will you call on that woman in Ewhurst Road.
Dr Willis: Which woman?
Dr Napper: Oh you know! The Nightingale woman who’s married to a Swallow. They live at Jay’s Corner, and the baby has thrush.
Dr Willis: What a lark!

A delightful story. The question is: how much of it is genuine?

Dr Arthur Napper

‘Nightingale’ was the surname of a prominent Cranleigh family, who have given their name to a road on the Hitherwood estate.  Michael Nightingale farmed at Newhouse farm, Knowle Lane, and other places. His sons Jabez, Caleb and Jesse were cabinet-makers and shopkeepers. The woman in question was their sister Emily Nightingale (1859/60-1931).

In the 1901 Census we find that Emily Nightingale was indeed married to Dennis Swallow (1869-1952), who describes himself as a potter. He was a member of the Swallow family who had started the Bookhurst Pottery (later called Swallow’s Tiles), where the Swallowhurst estate now is. Dennis was a widower and about 10 years younger than Emily. Also in the household were Dennis’s daughter by his first marriage (Eva, aged 11) and two further daughters (Nellie, aged 2, and Ettie, aged 10 months). They were living at Albert Cottage, Ewhurst Road.

In the 1911 Census, the family was still at Albert Cottage. Dennis was now 42, Emily was 51, and they had been married for thirteen years. So, they were married around 1898. Nellie Eveline was 12 (born 1899), Ettie May was 10 (born 1901) and there was a new daughter, Gladys Carrie, who was 9 (born 1902).

What about ‘Jay’s Corner’? Yes, we can confirm that too, by means of the Land Tax Assessment in The National Archives, made in 1913. This reveals that Dennis Swallow’s cottage in Ewhurst Road was owned by ‘Henry Jay, Parkhouse Green, Cranleigh’.  The cottage was described as ‘semi-detached brick and slated cottage, 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, pantry, 27ft 6in frontage x 130ft depth, 14 poles’.

Bookhurst Pottery, advert of 1910

In the fashion of the time, the name ‘Albert Cottage’ was applied to both halves of the house. The semi nearer to the post office was always no. 1, as that was the first house that a postman would come to on his round, and it was here that Emily and Dennis were living.

So Henry Jay owned Emily and Dennis’s home. But it is scarcely at a corner, and is some distance from Henry Jay’s Parkhouse Farm, which is indeed at a corner – the junction of Ewhurst and Barhatch Roads. However, Albert Cottage must have been prominent, as there were very few houses at this time in Ewhurst Road.

No. 1, Albert Cottage in 2021

The main problem is whether Dr Keith Willis was in practice in Cranleigh when Emily had any child who could be described as a baby. The first mention of Dr Willis in Cranleigh that I have come across is in Kelly’s Directory of 1909, when Gladys Nightingale, the youngest girl, would have been aged 7. If Dr Willis was living here earlier than 1909, the difficulty would be less.

Other evidence may come to light. Anyway, who wants to spoil a good story?

The Cranleigh History Society meets on the second Thursday of each month at 8.00pm in the Band Room. The next meeting will be on Thursday January 13th, when Joy Horn will speak on ‘Cranleigh Road Names’.

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