Ian Gosling, Chair of DCS, was given the opportunity to visit the ground floor of the former Napper’s Almshouse which, until recently, was occupied by a restaurant. The building was erected in 1616, during the reign of James 1st, by Nathaniel Napper to implement the terms of a charitable trust set up by his father, Sir Robert Napper of Middlemarch, to house ten poor men. The building is made up of four ranges enclosing a small square courtyard. In the South range there was a chapel to serve the spiritual needs of the inhabitants.
Most of the street frontage to the West range was rebuilt in 1842. The clock hung on the street façade of the west range was salvaged from the former Poor Law Workhouse, built in 1745 on the corner of South Street and Trinity Street, when it was demolished in 1835. The buildings round the second courtyard, on the east side, date from the last century and the whole of the premises were converted into shops and offices in 1952-4.
There is also a stone tablet on the wall inscribed with the arms of Sir Robert which reads: “Le mite Nappeir Built to the honour of God Knight Ann … Xenodochium”. This old-fashioned term signalled that it was a charitable institution.
Sir Robert Napper was elected as M.P. for Wareham in 1604, having previously represented Bridport and Dorchester, and also founded the old free school which was situated where Goulds’ Department store now stands.