Andrew Cranston was probably born in the 1650s. He was a Scot, a clergyman, and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He came to Reigate sometime in the 1680s, where he married the vicar’s daughter. In 1697 he succeeded his father-in-law as vicar of the parish, in which office he served until his death.
Cranston clearly took very seriously his duty to promote education within the community. He was the earliest local correspondent of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the headmaster of what later became Reigate Grammar School, and the founder of the library ‘for the use & perusal of the freeholders, vicar and inhabitants’ of Reigate. The motto he gave the library, Animi Alimentum, means ‘nourishment for the mind’.
Cranston donated seventy of his own books to the library at its foundation and he gave 108 more in 1703. Such a large number indicates not only a love of learning but also a degree of wealth. He was also a practical man, soliciting many other donations from local worthies, housing the library in the room it still occupies, and providing for its future by establishing a body of trustees.
Shortly before his death in 1708, Andrew Cranston transferred responsibility for the library to a group of forty-four trustees by a deed dated 4 November 1708. The first trustees included Lord Somers (a former lord chancellor) and Sir John Parsons (a former lord mayor of London and the owner of Reigate Priory), but the majority were local townspeople.
In 1950 the trustees were re-established by order of the Charity Commissioners and today the work is carried on by nine people.
Andrew Cranston was buried in the vestry of his church. To see a transcription and translation of his epitaph, please click here.