John Napper


Unlike most of his predecessors, John Napper actually lived in Cocking during the time as vicar. Twelve of his fourteen children were born and baptised at Cocking and both he and his wife, together with two infant children were buried in the churchyard.

Napper was born in Rudgwick, about eight miles north-west of Horsham, where he was baptised on 16 July 1598. He was the eldest child of Richard Napper (1569–1636) and his wife Eleanor (née Naldrett) (1575–1615).

He matriculated as a sizar at St. John’s College, Cambridge in 1615 and graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1619, receiving his Master of Arts degree in 1622. He was ordained as a deacon by the Bishop of Chichester, George Carleton, at Chichester Cathedral on 23 December 1621, and as a priest on 16 May 1622.

John Napper came to Cocking in 1629 with his wife, Mary (née Starkey), and their eldest two children John and Sarah. He was collated as vicar of Cocking by the then Bishop of Chichester, Richard Montagu, on 6 June 1629, aged 30. He was collated as Prebendary to the Somerley Prebend of Chichester Cathedral on 21 May 1632, retaining this appointment until his death.

The Cocking parish register records the baptism of twelve children over the next 22 years:

Mary, baptised 14 September 1633

Elizabeth, baptised 5 July 1635

George, baptised 22 January 1637

Anna, baptised 18 November 1638

William, baptised 20 July 1640

Henry, baptised 2 May 1642

Thomas, baptised 8 August 1643

George, baptised 6 January 1645

Phoebe, baptised 17 February 1646

Susannah, baptised 6 July 1647

Diana, baptised 5 July 1650

Martha, baptised 27 September 1651

Sadly, the register also records the burials of the first George (aged 6) on 26 December 1643 and Thomas (aged 7 months) on 11 March 1644. Mary died shortly after the birth of Martha and was buried in Cocking churchyard on 4 October 1651.

John Napper died the following year and was buried alongside Mary on 20 August 1652, leaving twelve orphaned children including eight under 14 years old. In his will, John Napper left 20 shillings to be distributed amongst the poor of Cocking parish. He also left a house at Windsor in Berkshire to his daughter Mary and £50 to each of his surviving eleven children.

He expressed his wish to be buried in the chancel of Cocking church, but there is no indication that this was done. One would expect him to wish to be buried alongside Mary and their two children, but she is not mentioned in the will.