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Fig. 1: Edward Henry Chapman (1803 – 1869), business portrait c 1860 (Image out of copyright)
Edward Henry Chapman (1803 - 1869) bought the Harringay Park Estate in January 1840, a little short of 18 months after the death of the original owner, Edward Gray. He remained at Harringay until his own death almost thirty years later, in March 1869. Although it was Gray who built Harringay House and lived a life of conspicuous consumption there for almost a half-century, Chapman was the owner and occupier for a third of the house’s life, yet little is known about him.
This piece is an attempt to start putting that omission right. I can’t claim to have pinned the man down, nor can I offer a complete picture of him, but I have cleared the mists somewhat and can offer some sense of who Chapman was and what might have moulded him.
Chapman’s story is one of a man born into a Georgian family on the up. He moved to Highbury as a young man and embarked on his working life in high-Dickensian London. The Chapman family’s tale takes in Captain Cook, Charles Dickens and even Prince Albert. One of Dickens's characters was even based on Chapman’s cousin. The family sent ships around the world, facilitated the settlement of Australia and New Zealand and ended up at the highest level in some of the City of London’s most important organisations.
2. The Chapmans of Whitby
The Chapmans were a well-established mercantile family who had been based in Whitby, Yorkshire from around 1400.1 Since the 17th century, they were one of the families whose business acumen led to Whitby becoming a major ship-building and ship-owning port. They served their time at sea, became major ship-builders and ship owners, traded as merchants and eventually took their place in the top echelons of British commercial life.
Socially, the family was Quaker for most of the eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century, their Quakerism began to fade away in preference to the easier access to commerce offered by adopting the majority religion. Edward, like William Alexander, who was to follow him at Harringay House, all but shed his Quakerism.
Almost wherever you look at shipping-related histories for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, you stumble across a Chapman. Whether it’s the Chapman and Campion ship-builders, or the Whitby-based Simpson and Chapman Bank or the countless other Chapman businesses, it seems that wherever shipbuilding was part of the picture, the Chapmans were not far away. The descendants of Abel Chapman leveraged their commercial success in Whitby to build a formidable array of commercial entities, directorships and positions of influence. They even had one family member in Parliament championing the case of ship-owners.
Investigating the details the Chapman web of businesses is far too complex for this article, and neither is its main purpose. To fully comprehend the entirety of the family business portfolio of separate businesses along with a multitude of business collaborations, would need a study in its own right, but a pen-picture of their business empire is provided below.
3. Chapman Businesses
The Chapmans’ modern story probably starts with Edward’s great-grandfather, Abel (1694 – 1777). He was one of five brothers born to a modest shipowner, William. It is Abel who is credited with founding what became something of a shipping dynasty. He owned ships, held shares in many others and invested heavily in shipbuilding facilities.2 Much of Abel’s trading was carrying coals from Newcastle to London, but he also traded on routes further afield, including to Orkney, Dublin, Bremen, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Riga. As well as using his ships for trading, he also tendered them to the Admiralty Transport Service. In this latter role, their use included ferrying troops in the Seven Years War and to North America.
Fig. 2: Abel Chapman, c1740, artist unknown. (Image: Whitby Museum, via Art.Uk reproduced under terms of permitted non-commercial use)
Abel’s sons John (Edward’s grandfather 1732 – 1822) and William established the Whitby firm of John and William Chapman, canvas suppliers. It was one of four major sailmakers in Whitby. This business offers a documented link to the celebrated explorer Captain Cook. In his book, Cook's Merchant Ships, Stephen Baines, charted the size of the Chapmans’ business by reference to Cook’s records. A more personal connection between Cook and the Chapmans may explain the explorer’s choice of supplier. Great grandfather Abel’s second marriage was made to Elizabeth Walker, whose Whitby-based family had taken Cook in, employed him and given him his first experience of seafaring.3
The Move to London
There appears to have been a line of social and economic development for Whitby ship owners. Having made money with the hard graft of shipping, families like the Chapmans migrated towards being merchants, eventually claiming the status of ‘Gentleman’. By the end of the 18th century a number of members of the leading shipbuilding and ship-owning families of Whitby had moved to London in order to further their interests and very often exploit them to operate as merchants. Both Abel and John were part of that migration.
The family had been travelling to London for business since at least the middle of the eighteenth century. By the nineteenth century, London was firmly established as the country’s leading port, accounting for 65% of Britain’s maritime trade. So, setting up shop the capital was an obvious move for the Chapmans. The family established permanent offices in the City from 1806 or 1807.4
Fig. 3: Letter sent from London to John, by his father in 1763. (Image: Via Whitby Museum, from an unknown source. See n.2).
By 1821, John Chapman & Co. was established at 2 Leadenhall Street, London, just a hundred yards or so down the road from the mighty East India Office.5 Leadenhall Street was to remain the centre of operations for all Chapman businesses for the rest of the century.
Fig. 4: Leadenhall Street – an excerpt showing from Tallis, the Regency Google Street View map/plan of London, 1838. Number 2 is the third building from the right. (From Tallis London Street Views, 1838-1840, London Topographical Society, 2002).
Fig. 5: Leadenhall Street engraved by J. Hopkins from a picture by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. Published in Woods Views in London, 1837. Referring back to Tallis, we can identify the last building on the right in the picture above as 8 Leadenhall Street. The Chapmans’ office, at Number 2, was a little further to the right. (image: ©British Museum. Used with permission, under a creative Commons Licence).
John Chapman & Co. seems to have been the primary Chapman Leadenhall Street business. The principal partners were Edward’s uncles, including Uncle Thomas Chapman (1766 – 1844). Initially, the firm was listed in contemporary directories as ‘Ship and General Agents and Insurance Brokers’. At some point ‘shipowners’ was added to the company’s styling.6
Fig. 6: Advertisement of for John Chapman & Co.’s ship broking services, Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 3rd March 1837.
Surviving records show some of the range of work the Chapman ships undertook. In the 1820’s, they were advertising passenger spaces for emigrants to Australia.
Fig. 7: Tyne Mercury; Northumberland and Durham and Cumberland Gazette, 11 November 1828.
The ship Whitby gives an example of the life of a single Chapman vessel. Launched in 1837, amongst the voyages she made, were journeys to India, British Guiana, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius and Lombok. In May 1838, she brought the first 270 apprenticed East Indian indentured labourers from Calcutta to British Guiana. In 1839, she transported 133 female convicts to Sydney. In 1841, she was one of three ships that carried surveyors and labourers for the New Zealand Company to prepare plots for the first settlers (scheduled to follow five months later). Her cargo included 20,000 bricks.7
4. Edward’s Father - Aaron Chapman (1771 – 1850)
Fig. 8: Aaron Chapman, c 1820, artist unknown (Image: Via Whitby Museum, from an unknown source).
Edward’s father Aaron was born in Whitby in 1771. At the beginning of his working life, like his ancestors and some of his descendants, he worked as a mariner, eventually commanding one of his father's ships. Aaron used the title of Captain til at least as late as 1809.8
Aaron Chapman had moved to London by 1816, at which point he was 35 and I assume retired from active seafaring. By 1817 he was at his long-term London home of Highbury Park House, at the top of the hill on Highbury Park.9
Fig. 9: Advertisement for Highbury Park House, Morning Post, May 11, 1813. This advertisement, or one like it was probably the one that led to Aaron’s purchase of the house.
Aaron Chapman is recorded as having been an active ship owner between 1815 and 1822. Records suggest that prior to 1818, his ships were mainly making costal journeys. Not long after his move to London, however, the journeys were going further afield, including voyages to Asia, Australasia, British North America and the West Indies.10
Like some other members of his family, Aaron Chapman had strong connections with Australasia, particularly, in one way and another, its early settlement. From 1825 he was a founding director of the New Zealand Company, set up to establish a colony in New Zealand. Five major settlements resulted, at Wellington, Nelson, New Plymouth, Otago, and Canterbury. It is not clear how long Aaron remained a director, but he was certainly still involved with them in 1840. Other members of the family were hiring ships to the Company to convey settlers to New Zealand as late as 1848.11
Aaron’s ships also carried another sort of passenger to Britain’s’ far-flung new lands. From early in the nineteenth century, his ships carried convicts to New South Wales. This was a convenient way of employing a ship en-route to the lucrative market for freight from Asia to Britain.12
A three-ship convict transport in 1816, which included Chapman’s ship, Mariner, was commemorated in a series of paintings by the ship’s master, John Herbert. The image of their stay in Sydney Cove was included in an album put together by Aaron Chapman. It survives today as one of the earliest known images of Sydney.13
Fig. 10: "Sydney Cove and Town New South Wales with ‘Mariner’, ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Willerby’ at Anchor” by John Hebert, Master of Mariner, October 1816. (In the private of Tim McCormick, used with permission.)
Aaron Chapman was able to exploit his commercial standing and translate it into a parliamentary career. He became Whitby’s first member of Parliament in 1832 and served the town in Parliament until 1847. He was one of three MPs who represented a recognised group, called “the Shipping Interest”. He also served on several Royal commissions into maritime affairs. In 1842, he was recorded as being on a Select Committee working on shipping matters with Gladstone (then at the Board of Trade).14
Aaron Chapman apparently always showed concern for shipping safety as an MP and in his role as a ‘Brother’ with Trinity House.15 Careful analysis of his career led one scholar to conclude the following.
“Chapman emerges as a more caring, sensitive and compassionate individual then the stereotypical view (of the stern, unforgiving, greedy taskmaster) often propagated for persons of his background. Broeze observed that Chapman gives the impression of a ‘post-Enlightenment’ utilitarian with the “usual” humanitarian streak.” 16
This humanitarian streak was further in evidence in his role as a Governor for Life at the Bermondsey Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor.
Amongst his many other roles and accomplishments, Aaron was a trustee of Ramsgate harbour, a member of the committee of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1835, a director of the London Fire Assurance company, a director of the London Docks company and a magistrate for Middlesex. In 1842, he was in group of 50 notables proposing the Panama Canal to British Government.
Aaron Chapman died in 1850 and was buried in Hornsey Church.
5. Other Chapmans
Many other members of Edward’s close family would warrant investigation, but I’m only adding information on just one or two more to give a more rounded sense of the wealth of influence Edward had through his family.
As well as having an uncle named Thomas, Edward also had a cousin Thomas (1798 – 1885), who made something of a name for himself. Cousin Thomas was a highly respected and successful merchant, shipowner and underwriter. He came to be known as ‘the Father of Lloyd's Register’, serving as its chairman for forty-six years between 1835 and 1881.17
Fig. 11: Thomas Chapman, Lloyds of London (© Lloyd's Register. Used under Licence)
Another Abel Chapman (one of Abel’s two surviving sons 1752 - 1849) was a highly respected master mariner, a director of the vast and powerful East India Company, a director of the Grand Surrey Canal Dock and Treasurer of St Thomas’s Hospital. He was also listed as a merchant in Southwark.18
The Chapman family are remembered in a number of ways including the Chapman Wing at the Whitby Museum which houses the museum’s shipping displays. At Lloyd’s of London, the Lloyds Register Foundation still funds Thomas Chapman Scholarships, the aim of which is “to enhance knowledge, understanding and public awareness of the risks to life and property presented by work at sea, and to examine how those risks can be managed through behavioural and policy changes”.19
6. Dickens Connection
In a slightly different vein, the Chapmans also had literary connections, or at least I can claim that they had one significant such link.
Cousin Thomas Chapman was a friend to English literary giant Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870). Although most documented connections relate to business or civic affairs, there are documented links that suggest a more personal relationship. One example was when, in 1848, Dickens invited Thomas to his younger brother’s wedding, “to breakfast with us on the day of Augustus’ marriage to Harriette Lovell”.20
From 1842, Thomas served with Dickens on the committee of the Devonshire House Sanatorium, a private hospital.21 This role took the Chapman family’s connections to the highest level in the land. Thomas was the committee Chairman, Dickens a committee member, and the President was no other than Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.
Fig. 12: Advertisement for Devonshire Place House Sanatorium, Sanatorium Shipping & Mercantile Gazette August 15, 1843.
Evidence suggests that Chapman and Dickens may have been collaborators on the committee. A surviving letter from Dickens to Thomas Chapman reveals detailed advice on how to phrase a report to be made to the committee members, including Prince Albert.
Fig. 13: Part of a letter from Dickens to Thomas Chapman in 1842, in which the author provided his colleague with a form of words to add to his report about the sanatorium that would be delivered to Prince Albert and the committee.22
Most of the documented Chapman-Dickens liaisons relate to the Chapmans’ business headquarters in Leadenhall Street, where, incidentally, Edward Henry Chapman was based during the period of the friendship between his cousin and Dickens.
The author made use of his connection with Thomas to find a position for his young brother Augustus. In 1844 Dickens wrote a letter to Thomas, recommending his brother for employment at the Chapman firm.
“I have a young brother recently come up from a good school at Exeter, and now living, with his father, at Greenwich…He is quick and clever: has never given trouble to anybody: and has been well brought up.” 23
Augustus was duly taken on. During his time at the firm, he worked alongside fellow clerk, Thomas Powell, an apparently unsavoury character who embezzled a large sum of money from John Chapman & Co. Some scholars believe that the schemes and behaviour of David Copperfield character Uriah Heep, are based on Powell.24
Heep wasn’t the only character to emerge from the Dickens-Chapman friendship. Many Dickens scholars believe that Thomas Chapman was immortalised as the basis for the Dombey character in Dombey and Son. Mackenzie’s Life of Dickens has the following.
Mr, Dombey is supposed to represent Mr. Thomas Chapman, ship-owner, whose offices were opposite the Wooden Midshipman. I had the honor (sic) of meeting Mr. Chapman, at dinner (at Lough's the sculptor); and the rigidity of his manner was only equalled by that of his form; he sat or stood, as the case might be, bolt upright, as if he knew not how to bend, - as stiff, in fact, as if he had swallowed the drawing-room poker in his youth, and had never digested it. As if to make Mr. Chapman undoubtedly identical with Dombey, we have, as messenger of the commercial house of Dombey & Son, one Perch, actually taken from a funny little old chap, named Stephen Hale, who was part clerk, part messenger, in Mr. Chapman's office. 25
According to a letter from, the admittedly unreliable, Thomas Powell, the Chapman family immediately saw the likeness and started calling Thomas, ‘Dombey’.26
Fig. 14: Illustration from 1867 edition of Dombey & Son (Via Project Gutenberg, original publisher not stated)
Further Chapman connections to Dombey characters come in the form of Captain Cuttle and Old Sol Gills. Cuttle was based on David Mainland, a ship’s master, who was introduced to Dickens by Thomas Chapman. Old Sol was based on a man named Norie, who kept a very small shop in Leadenhall Street, exactly opposite the office of John Chapman & Co.27
It interesting to note that during the period that Chapman was at Harringay House, Dickens was a regular visitor to the house of celebrated Victorian author Charlotte Ridell’s on Hanger Lane (now St. Ann’s Road). I can’t help wondering whether he occasionally called in to see Edward on his way home.
7. Edward Henry Chapman: growing up
My apologies for the length of the journey to get you this far. The purpose of my taking the long-route is to try and give a sense of Edward Chapman’s seafaring-related background and the very connected family of which he was a part. Now on to Edward himself!
Edward was born in 1803 in the family home-town of Whitby. He was one of six children, Aaron Chapman’s third son.28 I assume that after his father bought Highbury Park House, the whole family moved to Highbury in 1813, at which point Edward was ten. The house seems to have offered a very comfortable life, but was perhaps not quite on the same scale as Harringay House. It contained,
Fig. 15: Plan of Highbury Park House. For present-day location, see n.9. (Image: from Lease of 1855 by executors of Aaron Chapman, Islington Local History Centre, Used with permission)
Between 1817 and 1819 Edward was at Charterhouse School. At this point, it was still based in a former Carthusian monastery, on the north side of Charterhouse Square, Smithfield, London.30
Writer Ian Thomson recently published an article about the school, covering the exact period that that Edward was there. Thomson’s main character of interest even stayed in the same boarding house as Edward. The account paints a vivid picture. So, I have quoted below the chunks that tell the story of what would have been Edward’s experiences at that time. To better weave the passages into our story, I have taken the liberty of substituting Edward’s name for that of the person about whom Thomson was writing.
Livestock had been sold at ‘Smooth Field’ since medieval times, but the market had grown monstrously by the time Edward went to school there. The Church of England condemned the area with its catgut factories, bladder-blowers and rabbit fur dressers as a ‘metropolitan abomination’. The open drains round the Charterhouse were routinely choked with animal effluvia, while Pissing Alley (now Passing Alley, off St John’s Street) was nearly ankle-deep in animal belly-blood, fat and foam. William Thackeray, who went to Charterhouse in 1822, five years after Edward, spoke of his school as ‘The Slaughterhouse’.”
“Edward was installed in a boarding house called Watkinson’s, close to the school itself, on Wilderness Row (now Clerkenwell Road). Along this wasteland lurked the prostitutes, card sharps and other chancers who made Smithfield a shifty backwater.
“Watkinson House was rarely locked, so Edward and his fellow pupils were free to explore Wilderness Row at night. Charterhouse parish alone contained 38 gin palaces and tippling houses. Its most densely populated neighbourhood – Golden Lane – was a hive of ‘pauperism, degeneracy and immorality’ hung with pig entrails and other shambles. Prostitutes solicited outside the Booths gin distillery on Turnmill Street (now the gleamingly modern Turk’s Head Yard office complex), while bacon hogs were driven squealing down Cowcross Street to their slaughter.” 31
Edward finished at Charterhouse aged 16. There is no record of whether he continued his education elsewhere, went to sea, like his father, or started work immediately with the family business. One of his older brothers, John, almost certainly followed the family tradition of serving an apprenticeship at sea as a teenager. Sadly, John died in Calcutta in 1816 when he was just 16 years old.32 Whist there is no evidence to suggest that Edward also went to sea, John’s experience raises it as a distinct possibility.
8. Edward at Work
As a young man Edward was destined to be in business and sooner, rather than later, he joined the family business empire. By 1826, aged 23, Edward had set up as a merchant trading, under his own name, out of the family premises at 2 Leadenhall Street.33
In becoming a merchant, Edward had taken the next step up the rung of economic and social progress. Merchants were traders, skilled in conducting wide-ranging and complex business. They had a know-how beyond that of more modest tradesmen and the knowledge needed to conduct international exchange operations. The practices, skills, and scale of business they transacted enabled merchants to distinguish themselves and form a genuine economic elite.34 Along with bankers, rich merchants accumulated a level of wealth that enabled them to dominate the commercial world of the metropolis and, to a lesser extent, the political one. . Contemporary accounts described a hierarchical occupational structure, where merchants enjoyed the highest prestige within the business community.
“Although their lifestyle and culture were not entirely similar to that of the aristocracy, they nevertheless formed an aristocracy of commerce.” 35
Merchants dominated amongst the ‘rich-lists’ of London's commercial class: no less than sixteen out of the twenty-five people who left over £10,000 at their deaths were, like Edward Chapman, overseas traders.36
Fig. 16: 1829 Post Office London Directory incl. Edward Henry Chapman and other Chapmans. The first year he was listed in his own right was 1826.
Chapman’s business was listed variously as E. H. Chapman, merchant, Edward Henry Chapman, merchant and E.H. Chapman & Co. I have not found a great deal of detail on what goods he was dealing in, but I have found one court case that offers some insight. In 1851, he sued another ship owner for costs after a storm at sea had led to the loss of some timber he was shipping from Canada. A different episode reinforces the sense that timber may have been of particular interest to Chapman. A detailed account relates the story of when he lent money to a young man called William John Chapman Benson (I assume a relative), to start a business in the Canadian timber trade.
Another of Edward's trading routes is documented in a surviving 1849 document. This scratchy series of letters acted as a power of attorney granting James Kidd, a merchant of Sierra Leone, the legal right to transact on behalf of Chapman in that country.37
Ship-owning was an important activity in which merchants engaged. It was also the life-blood of the Chapmans. Edward certainly continued the tradition. Records show that his ships, like his father’s, were used both for trade and to carry passengers. His transportation portfolio also included carrying convicts to Australia.
Fig. 17: Edward Chapman’s, ship Waverley in the Record of convict ships, excerpted from Accounts and Papers of House of Commons, Vol 52, 1843
Perhaps as a result of his father’s connections, his ships also sailed to New Zealand. Below is the repair report for Edward’s ship Chapman.38 Whilst we know from the report that the vessel was soon destined for New Zealand, we do not know if it was carrying his own cargo, emigrants for the New Zealand Company or trade good for other merchants.
Fig. 18: Report of Survey for Repairs for the ship Chapman, 16th March 1860. (Image: Used under non-commercial Licence, © Lloyd's Register Foundation).
Marine insurance was another activity in which merchants played a prominent role, most underwriters being merchants. We know that Edward’s family was involved in insurance for ships. He may well have been a partner in this side of the business; he certainly had a finger in the insurance pie. By the 1860s, he had become a director of the Imperial Life Insurance Company and later he became its chairman.39
Bank of England
For most of the period between 1840 and 1868 Edward Chapman was a director of the Bank of England. The Bank had been incorporated by act of Parliament in 1694 with the immediate purpose of raising funds to allow the English government to wage war against France. Under the terms of a royal charter, the bank was allowed to operate as a joint-stock bank with limited liability.It continued as a private company until 1946. So, in one sense being a director of the Bank of England was very much like being a director of any bank. Having said that, the Bank of England wasn’t like any other bank. By the early eighteenth century, it had become the largest and most prestigious financial institution in England. During the 19th century the bank gradually assumed the responsibilities of a central bank. In 1833, it began to print legal tender, and in the following few decades, it undertook the roles of lender of last resort and guardian of the nation’s gold reserves.40
To become a director of the Bank, an individual would have to own a large amount of Bank stock – £4,000 (hundreds of thousands of pounds in today's money). Being a director of the Bank conferred not only prestige but also extended Chapman’s network of connections.
Fig. 19: The British Imperial Calendar, on General Register of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Its Colonies (etc.) 1855
Overend & Gurney
In mid Victorian England, Overend and Gurney was the largest discount house41 in the City of London. It was run by families with many connections to the Chapmans, both by marriage and through commerce. In 1866, its liquidation was the biggest banking collapse of the nineteenth century. It sent shockwaves through the financial system. So momentous was the collapse, to mitigate the panic that followed, the Bank of England extended the largest market-wide lending it on which it had ever embarked.
In a 1986 book. co-published by Haringey Council and the Hornsey Historical Society, it was stated that Edward Chapman was at one time a partner of the firm. A reference was given to John Lloyd’s 1888 book on the history of Highgate. I had previously taken this ‘fact’ at face value, but, in researching this article, I have so far been unable to find any corroboration of Lloyd’s assertion, even at both of the Bank of England or at Barclays Archives.42
It may be that Lloyd confused Edward with another more distant member of the Chapman family, David Barclay Chapman. This Chapman took on the management of the bank a few years before its demise, or his successor, David Ward Chapman.43 Reports blame the management of the former for the bad practices that led to the bank’s collapse.
What I found, to coin a phrase was an absolute absence of evidence, which, it must be admitted, does not constitute an evidence of absence. Nonetheless, given the foregoing, and, on the balance of the evidence, unless further information comes to light, I have to conclude that Edward Chapman was not associated with Overend and Gurney.44
10. The business with the railways
Edward seems to have had a rather particular relationship with railways during his first decade at Harringay. It developed through the period in the middle of the 1840s, commonly referred to as the period of Railway Mania. During this period thousands of new railway lines were projected and investors clamoured to get involved. By the autumn of 1845, the number of new railway schemes submitted to Parliament that year had reached 562.45
Chapman got quite heavily involved and secured a place as a member of the provisional committee on no less than five projected railways.46 Provisional committees were established to raise finance for the companies and to see through Parliament the legislation necessary to have the railways built. Essentially, they formed the board of directors for a company yet to be fully established. It was normal for a committee member to have provided capital.
Fig. 20: Announcement for one of the projected railways with which Edward got involved, Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 20 March 1845
The majority of provisional committee members were merchants and manufacturers, (36%) and gentlemen (32%). Legal professionals, bankers and politicians were also well represented. Members provided almost one fifth of total capital in the railway schemes which they helped to promote and a third of total capital in all railway schemes. The average investor was on one or two provisional committees and invested in at least one other railway scheme. So, Chapman's level of involvement was well above the average.47
Whilst he was spending time and money helping to set up these small projected railways, a larger competitor was planning on claiming some of Chapman’s new Harringay estate. In 1836 a railway to be called the Great Northern Railway had been turned down by Parliament. During the Railway Mania, the Great Northern Railway scheme was re-submitted to Parliament, and on 26 June 1846 the Great Northern Railway Act was given royal assent. Section 27 of the Act gave the company the power to compulsorily purchase lands it required for the railway.48 Unfortunately for Chapman, the company had decided that it wanted to cut across the western end of Harringay House grounds. It is difficult to resist noting the irony of a serious railway investor experiencing certain railway chickens coming home to roost.
When the bill was going through the House of Lords, it was agreed, that either a peer or a member of parliament would be appointed as arbitrator to determine the amount to be paid to Chapman to compensate for ‘residential damage’, due to the destruction of the privacy of the house. Eventually, the arbitrator awarded Chapman £6,200: that’s just a shade under £8M at today’s values, which is just over a third of the £23M that Chapman had paid for the house just ten years earlier.49 The railway company appealed the amount, but the award was upheld.
It is interesting to compare the Chapman case with a similar situation faced by George Press, the gardener who had worked for the previous occupant of Harringay House for 25 years.50 On the death of Edward Gray, Press left Harringay and bought a property just to the north, on Tottenham Lane. He too found that the railway was soon cut across the corner of his land. In Press’s case, as well as losing some land, a huge embankment was constructed along the edge of his remaining land. Press had paid £700 pounds for the property in 1840 (nearly £900,00 today). His compensation for consequential damage was adjudicated at £250 (nearly £350,000 today). I had expected to find things disproportionately stacked in Chapman’s favour, but in fact, comparing the amounts awarded, when taken as a proportion of the recent purchase prices, the compensation amounts were remarkably similar in the two cases.
Chapman had a further entanglement with the railways, when the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway compulsorily purchased some of his land for the construction of their railway in the 1860s. The first purchase the company made was for route of the railway itself. It was a second purchase "to make available a certain surplus of land and to make a coal station (depot)...at the corner of the estate" that ended up in court. I assume that the portion of land concerned was what has become Railway Fields. Chapman's position, stated in the Sheriff's Court in October of 1866 was that "he had no desire to part with the portion of property required and would have been glad if had the railway company left his property alone". Sadly for him, in this matter the law gave him no choice. Nonetheless, the jury awarded him damages of £400.51
11. Other Appointments
In addition to his primary commercial roles, Chapman also took on more public service-oriented ones. I found reference to two of them.
He was a Commissioner of the Lieutenancy of the City of London.52 The Lord-lieutenancy of the City is the monarch's representative. As well as leading the local magistracy, influencing the appointments of Justices of the Peace, their role became increasingly civic. No doubt it was another string to Edward’s networking bow and consolidated his position in City society.
Chapman was also a Justice of the Peace for the County of Middlesex. In addition to administering justice, until the introduction of elected county councils in the 19th century, magistrates also administered the county at a local level. Borough justices probably spent much more time in sessions dealing with local administration - the setting of poor rates, the upkeep of roads and bridges, the appointment of local officials - than they did dispensing justice.53
12. Personal Life
In 1829, Edward deepened his family’s existing connections to Highbury when he married Mary Elizabeth Haslope, the daughter of ship broker Lancelot Haslope of Selly Hall Worcestershire and Highbury Lodge in Islington. The London house was at the end of Highbury Terrace, where Thomas Chapman lived and not far from father Aaron Chapman’s Highbury Park House. It is possible that, prior to moving north to Harringay House, Edward and Mary lived with Edwards’ sister Ellen and her husband, in a house on Highbury Grange, just near to his father’s house.54
In 1840, Edward Chapman bought Harringay House for £18,823, over £23 million at today’s values.55 No record remains of Edward and Mary’s life at Harringay House, other than what is revealed by the three censuses taken during their time there. On a personal level, they show that the couple never had children. The lack of birth and/or death certificates for any infants suggest that either they were unable to conceive, or chose to remain childless. However, in the absence of children, the censuses suggest that they always had family living with them.
In 1841, Mary’s mother, Harriet, and her younger sister, Ellen, were at Harringay House. I assume that Ellen’s presence was occasioned by the death of her husband three years earlier. In 1851, Harriet was still in residence, by that time 70 years of age. Ellen had remarried and moved out, but in her place was Mary’s brother, Lancelot Llewllyn Haslope.
By 1861, Mary’s mother had died and her brother had married and moved out. Ellen had apparently moved back in with her two young daughters, aged 13 and 10. Also three of Edward’s cousins seem to have moved in, Theodosia, 18, Emily, 17 and Harriet 16.
So, in spite of Edward and Mary having no children, the house seems to have been always full of family. The residents no doubt lived in great comfort. A description of the exterior of the house, its gardens and ancillary buildings can be found in my recent article on the gardens. As to the house, the advertisement for sale posted in 1839, when Chapman bought the house revealed the following accommodation:
In 1883, when Chapman’s heirs sold the property, the British Land Company’s sale brochure, detailed the following accommodations:
Fig. 21: Flyer advertising the sale of Harringay House, 29th October 1883.
The family were looked after by a good retinue of staff. In 1841, there were five household staff. Ten years later, this had doubled to ten. In 1861, there were nine. In addition, there was a gardener in each census, and, in the 1861 a groom and under-groom. I was interested to observe that none of the household staff names appear in more than one census. In the first two censuses, servants’ roles were not specified, but in the record for 1861, they were detailed. I note that there was no cook or kitchen maid.
Edward died in 1869 and, like his father was buried at St Mary’s Church. A stained-glass memorial window was placed with the following inscription.
To the glory of God and in Sacred Memory of
EDWARD CHAPMAN, Esquire,
He was born
at Whitby, January 16, 1803, and fell asleep
at his residence, Harringay House, Middlesex,
March 22 1869
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” 57
Following his death, Harringay House was leased to William Alexander, and Mary moved to a large wedding-cake house at 36 Lancaster Gate.58
Fig. 22: 36 Lancaster Gate, 2019
14. Final Words
No history I research ever follows any predictable route. They’re always full of twists and turns and unexpected insights. Edward’s Chapman’s story is very much true to form. He may not have left the same memorable markers at Harringay as Gray and perhaps even Alexander, but his family’s story provides a fascinating window on to Britain and the development of her trading empire in the first half of the nineteenth century. For that I am most grateful.
1. Date given in Stephanie Karen Jones, A Maritime History of the Port of Whitby, 1700-1914, submitted for a Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of London, University College London, 1982.
2. Splitting ships between owners through shares was common and provided a form of insurance and spread the risk of voyages. In 1744, Abel Chapman owned shares in nine ships, two of which were owned by other Chapmans. Information from“Abel Chapman and his World”, article in Whitby in the Tine of Cook: the making of a great seaman, Catalogue to the exhibition at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby, 2018.
3. Information of Whitby sailmakers from Viveka Hansen, Ship Registers And Ownership – A Business involving Textile Traders in Whitby: 1780s to 1914, ikfoundation.org.
James Cook ("Captain Cook") was born in Middlesbrough in 1728. At 16 he travelled south to Staithes, just up the coast from Whitby, to serve an apprenticeship as a shopkeeper and haberdasher. Apparently, a career behind the counter didn't appeal to Cook and after just eighteen months, the Walker brothers took him on as a merchant navy apprentice. No doubt, both the personal and professional connections, meant that Cook became well-acquainted with the Chapmans.
4. Data on Port of London from The History of the Port of London pre 1908, Port of London Authority website, (www.pla.co.uk). Between 1700 and 1770 the commerce of the Port of London nearly doubled, and from 1770 to 1795 (only 25 years) it doubled again. (Sarah Murden, The Port of London in the 18th Century (as per georgianera.wordpress.com).
Abel Chapman and two other members of the Chapmans of Whitby first appeared in the London Post Office directory in 1807. They were not in the 1805 directory.
5. I am assuming that the 'John" in the firm's name was Abel’s oldest son and Edwards’s grandfather. The East India Office was on the site where the Gherkin building now stands.
6. For information on the partners in John Chapman & Co see Pease (n.8). The quoted directory listing style was used in the London Post Office Directory, 1826. By 1843, the directory had them styled as “ship owners, ship & insurance brokers”.
7. The information on the Whitby comes from an amply-referenced and apparently well-researched article on Wikipedia. The Whitby was sold by the Chapmans in 1843.
8. Aaron Chapman's career as a mariner is covered in Charles E. G. Pease, Descendants of Robert Chapman, self-published. Isle of Mull, 2021.
Aaron Chapman was listed as Capt. Aaron Chapman in the in the listing for Trinity House, in The Royal Kalendar and Court And City Register for England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Colonies, 1835 and 1847. In the former years, his father was also listed as Capt. Abel Chapman.
9. Highbury Park House was built and first sold in 1813. So, it is very likely that it was bought by Chapman at around this time. Craig (n.11) cites contemporary shipping documents of 1816 for Aaron Chapman which place him in Woburn Place, Russell Square, but there is no other reference to him at this address.
The location of Highbury Park House is now at the point where Highbury Park is joined by Northolme Road (I have added the location on Open Street Maps). For more details and a plan of the house and grounds, see below in the details about Edward Henry Chapman’s early years.
The change in the routes of the voyages taken by Aaron Chapman's ships may be related to the abolition of the East India company’s trading monopoly (other than for China) east of the Cape of Good Hope in 1813.
With regards to the East India Company, it is also worthy of note. for the sake of passing interest, that Abel Chapman-the-younger (Edward's grat uncle) owned a ship, The Chapman which was leased to the East India Company. She was sailing to India from 1780 and was involved in the Battle of Porto Praya in the American war of Independence (threedecks.org/ship)
11. Aaron Chapman's role in the New Zealand Company is covered in The Rosanna Settlers: with Captain Herd on the coast of New Zealand 1826-7: including Thomas Shepherd’s Journal and his coastal views, the New Zealand Company of 1825, Published: 2002, via Wellington City Libraries Website. An example of the hiring of ships by other members of the family to carry passengers to New Zealand is detailed in a Memorandum of Agreement 13 Oct 1848 between Joseph Barker Chapman on behalf of the Firm of Messrs John Chapman Co of 2 Leadenhall Street, London and the New Zealand Company in the presence of Frederick G. Tattershall; Tender for hire of ship to convey passengers and goods from London to the settlements of the New Zealand Company in New Zealand to sail 30 Oct 1848. ‘Mary’ A1 lying at London Docks – Master Thomas Grant Dawn Chambers, New Zealand Company Records. Research paper, published at www.nzpictures.co.nz
12. Russell Craig, The Chapman Album And The Maritime History Of Colonial Australia, 1816, The Great Circle Vol. 25, No. 2 (2003), pp. 3-19, Australian Association for Maritime History. Craig’s note on the source for this refers to personal correspondence between the author and maritime historian F. J. A. Broeze.
14. Thomas W. Vasey, The emergence of examinations for British shipmasters and mates, 1830 – 1850, citing Lucy Brown, The Board of Trade and the Free-Trade Movement Oxford, 1958, P175. The Select Committee was the 1843 Select Committee on Shipwrecks. The result of the committee was the introduction of examinations to improve competency of shipmasters and mates.
15. Trinity House is an organisation, granted a charter by Henry VIII. It has since focussed on the safety of shipping. It still operates today as a charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers. It is also the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/trinity-house and www.trinityhouse.co.uk).
16. Craig (n.11).
17. Barbara Jones, The Lloyd’s Register Historian, The Royal Institution of Naval Architects and Lloyd’s Register. [Cousin Thomas (1798 - 1885) was Edward Henry Chapman's cousin through Aaron’s brother Edward.]
18. A history of the East Indian Company on the BBC website, The world’s most powerful corporation says, “Imagine a company with the influence of Google or Amazon, granted a state-sanctioned monopoly and the right to levy taxes abroad – and with MI6 and the army at its disposal”. Full article at https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20160330-the-worlds-most-power....
Dock and East India Company directorship information from 1815 London Post Office Directory. Other role-related Information from “Abel Chapman and his World” (n.2).
20. Ralph Crawford, Bruce Crawford, The Extraordinary Life of Charles Dickens, Grolier Club, 2006. I have assumed that the Thomas Chapman in question was Cousin Thomas rather than Uncle Thomas, since by 1840, the Uncle would have been 74 years old (he died in 1844), a few years before the publication of Dombey and Son and David Copperfield. Cousin Thomas, on the other hand, was nearer Dickens’s age. In 1840 Dickens was 28 and cousin Thomas 42.
21. For twelve years between 1839 and 1851, Dickens’ home was 1 Devonshire Terrace, the site of which is now on the western corner of Marylebone Road and Marylebone High Street. (Image of the house at Watercolour World). The Marylebone Road was still, at this time, called New Road. The address given for the Sanatorium in a contemporary press advertisement was Devonshire Place House, New Road. It was located in Devonshire Place North, on the north side of New Road, directly opposite Dickens’ house, and may explain the author’s involvement in supporting the Sanatorium. Although the sanatorium failed, according to research by Christies auction house “the enlightened concept, novel at the time, was a precursor of the 'home hospital' and the 'nursing home'”. (Quoted from the source in n.22 ) Reference for Dickens’ role at the hospital from M. Garrett, A Browning Chronology Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, 1999, Palgrave Macmillan UK. Also Graham Storey and Margaret Brown (eds), The British Academy / The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens: Volume 12: 1868-1870, Clarendon Press, 2002.
23. From a eulogy and brief tribute to Augustus Dickens, given at the Dickens monument dedication on September 25, 2004 at Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Retrieved on the Midwest Antiquarian and Booksellers Association website.
24. Crawford (n.20)
Young Dickens, stayed at the Chapman firm until about 1855 when he migrated to the United (per Robert Shelton Mackenzie, Life of Charles Dickens, 1870, T. B. Peterson & Brothers, Philadelphia). Some of my information on Powell is from what appears to be a well-researched and well-referenced Wikipedia article him. For authority on the matter, the article cites Letters from Robert Browning to various correspondents, Leopold Classic Library (30 July 2015) and Alan Bold, Bold and Robert Giddings, Who Was Really Who in Fiction, Longman Trade/Caroline House, 1987. Through Augustus, Powell also ingratiated himself into the Dickens household, and dined several times with Charles Dickens at the Dickens home. After a move to America, Powell passed himself off as a literary man who had mingled with many celebrities in London, and published a sketch of Dickens in The Evening Post. Hearing of the sketch, Dickens branded it “A complete and libellous lie.” The affair ended up in a protracted public and legal wrangle and a sort book has been published about it. (as per Sidney P. Moss & Carolyn Moss, The Charles Dickens--Thomas Powell Vendetta: The Story in Documents, 1996, Whitston Publishing Company).
25. R. Shelton Mackenzie, Life of Charles Dickens, T. B. Petersen & Brothers, Philadelphia, 1870.
In M.C. Rintoul in, Dictionary of Real People and Places in Fiction, (2014, Taylor & Francis).
26. Thomas Powell, The Living Authors of England, New York 1849 quoted in M.C. Rintoul (n.25)
27. Gilbert Ashville Pierce and William Adolphus Wheeler, The Dickens Dictionary: A Key to the Characters and Principal Incidents in the Tales of Charles Dickens, Volume 30, pp 201 – 202, Houghton, Mifflin, 1872.
28. Edward Chapman's oldest brother, Joseph Barker Chapman (1799 - 1873) was a merchant, rice mill owner and director of the London Dock Company. He lived at 2 Highbury Terrace, near to his father’s home, until his death. (House still standing – see on Google Street View). Joseph named his first son Edward Henry, raising the possibility of a particular closeness between the two brothers). Edward’s next brother John Chapman (1801-1816), died in Calcutta, aged 16. I assume that he had been following the family tradition of serving time at sea. The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India reported the death of 'John, second son of Aaron Chapman, Esq' as occurring on 19 November 1816 on board H.C. Ship Astell' (Vol. IV, 1817, p. 95). Astell was an East Indiaman ship (link to Wikipedia), not belonging to Chapman (link to Three Decks website). However, one of the officers on board was Alfred Chapman, probably Aaron’s cousin. The ship left England in 1815 and the fateful journey took it to first to Ceylon then on to Bengal/Calcutta. In 1813, it had been a ship of the line, seeing action in the 1812 war between Britain and the United States.
The voyage of the Astell recorded in Charles Hardy, A Register of Ships, Employed in the Service of the Honourable the United East India Company, from the Year 1760 to 1819, 1820, Black, Kingsbury, Parbury and Allen
The older of the two sisters was Jane Mellar Chapman, who stayed also near to her father’s house at Highbury Grange and died there in childbirth in 1848. The younger sister was Ann (1804 – 1883).
29. House details and plan from a lease for Highbury Park House between the heirs of Aaron Chapman and James Dewar, 1855. Original in Islington Local History Centre. Photo of plan reproduced with permission.
30. R L Arrowsmith , Charterhouse Register 1769-1872 With Appendix of Non-Foundationers 1614-1769, Phillimore & Co Ltd, 1974.
31. Ian Thomson, Charterhouse to Charnel House: The psycho-geography of Thomas Lovell Beddoes' London, Royal Literary Fund, 2015.
32. See n.28.
33. Post Office Directory, 1826.
34. Gilbert Buti, The European merchant , Digital Encyclopaedia of European History, ISSN 2677-6588, published on 22/06/20.
36. Peter Earle, The Making of the English Middle Class, Business, Society and Family Life in London, University of California Press, 1989.
37. Canada - The legal case referred to was in 1851, and is covered at length in John Scott, Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Common Pleas and in the Exchequer Chamber From 1856 ... [to 1865] · Volume 19, 1868, T. & J.W. Johnson & Company. The story of William John Chapman Benson is told in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, accessed online at http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/benson_william_john_chapman_7E.html, on 26th May 2022.
Sierra Leone - Copy of power of attorney from Edward Henry Chapman to James Kidd, Sierra Leone, merchant, 24 September 1849, London Metropolitan Archives, F/PEY/424. Britain’s industrial revolution had occasioned a growing demand for vegetable oils as lubricants and for the manufacture of soap and probably the most important commodity shipped from the Niger Delta in this period was palm oil.
38.This ship was the second ship name Chapman to have been in the Chapman Empire. The first ship Chapman had been built in 1777 and was sold in 1835. Some details about its career whilst in the Chapman stable is given in n.11.
39. As listed in York Herald, 7 May 1864. The Post-Office Edinburgh & Leith directory 1853-54, showed Edward had been one of the company’s auditors since 1848.
41. A discount house is a firm that specialises in trading, discounting, and negotiating bills of exchange or promissory notes. Also known as bill brokers, discount houses primarily operated in the United Kingdom, playing a key role in the financial system there until the mid-1990s.
42.The 1986 book is Joan Schwitzter (ed), Lost Houses of Haringey, Haringey Community Information Service & Horney Historical Society, London, 1986.
The nineteenth century book is John H. Lloyd Honorary Secretary of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution (HLSI), The History, Topography and Antiquities of Highgate, p293, The Library Fund, London, 1888.
John Lloyd was born on 20th July 1830. Like his father, he was a wine merchant. He became a member of the HLSI in 1871 and was elected to the Management Committee in 1874. From 1900 until his death he was the HLSI's Vice-President. His book 'History and Antiquities of Highgate' was written in 1888 for the HLSI's 50th anniversary.
There is no particular reason to doubt Lloyd, other than I have come against assertions by Victorian ‘antiquarians’ that had become cast in stone, but when investigated had no basis in fact.
43. “The Demise of Overend Gurney”, Bank of England, Quarterly Bulletin 2016 Q2. https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/the-demise-of-overend-gurney.pdf David Barclay Chapman took over management of the bank from his uncle Samuel Gurney after his death in 1856. However, Chapman was forced to retire at the end of 1857 due to certain bad practices and his position was succeeded by his son, David Ward Chapman. The latter gentleman was still a partner when the firm failed in 1866.
44.I have visited the Bank of England Archives who, whilst very helpful, were unable to supply any information on the matter of Edward Henry Chapman's relationship to Overend & Gurney. Overend records are in the main held at Barclays Archives and after searching their archived the archivist concluded the following, "After searching today I have been unable to find a mention of Edward Henry Chapman and I would agree he was not a director or partner of this firm".
I have also checked Geoffrey Elliott, The Mystery of Overend and Gurney, Methuen, 2006. The book mentions the Davids (see n 43), but there is no mention of Edward Henry Chapman.
45. William Quinn and John D. Turner, Boom and Bust A Global History of Financial Bubbles , pp. 58 – 76, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
46. Sources for provisional committee membership by company:
- Regent's Canal Railway, - Bradshaw's Railway Gazette, Vol 2, 1846
- Warwick & Cheltenham Junction Railway - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 20 March 1845 - - Coventry & Leicester Junction Railway - Coventry Standard, 23 May 1845
- Thames Embankment Railway - Globe, 3 October 1845
- Cheltenham Railway - Cheltenham Examiner, 25 June 1845
47. G. Campbell & J.D.Turner, Dispelling the Myth of the Naive Investor during the British Railway Mania, 1845–46, Business History Review, 86(1), 3-41, 2012.
48. The Marquis of Salisbury against The Great Northern Railway Company, 1852, Court of the Queen’s Bench, 117 E.R. 1503.
49. Using the Income value / GDP per capita measurement on the Measuring Worth website.
50. For the full story of George Press, see my article, The Gardens at Harringay House - the place, the plants the people.
51. All details and quotations on the case of Edward Henry Chapman vs the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway are from a report in The Times, October 10th, 1866.
52. The London Gazette, Issue 21152, Page 2945, 1850 and Morning Herald, Saturday 24 December 1853. Historically, each lieutenant was responsible for organising the county's militia. In 1871, the lieutenant's responsibility over the local militia was removed. However, it was not until 1921 that they formally lost the right to call upon able-bodied men to fight when needed. More information at www.liverycommittee.org
53. Chapman’s appointment as a JP is listed in the Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons Volume 33, 1842, but I have yet to track down the precise start and end dates of his service.
Magistrates’ courts hark back to the Anglo-Saxon moot court and the manorial court, but their official birth came in 1285, during the reign of Edward I, when ‘good and lawful men’ were commissioned to keep the King’s peace. From that point, and continuing today, Justices of the Peace have undertaken the majority of the judicial work carried out in England and Wales. (History of the judiciary, The Judicial Office, www.judiciary.uk/about-the-judiciary/history-of-the-judiciary/)
See also, Clive Emsley, The English Magistracy 1700-1850, IAHCCJ Bulletin, No. 15, February 1992.
54. Edward Chapman's address in the document referred to in n.52 is given as Highbury Grange. Whilst we know that this was a few years after he purchased Harringay House, it might be that the publication hadn’t been updated with Chapman’s new address and that he had previously lived at Highbury Grange.
55. Measuring Worth. (n.49)
56. From an advertisement in the London Evening Standard, 10 May 1839.
57. Frederick Teague Cansick, A Collection of Curious and Interesting Epitaphs, Copied from the Monuments of Distinguished and Noted Characters in the Ancient Church and Burial Grounds of Saint Pancras, Middlesex, Volume 3, 1875.
58. For a history of William Alexander and his family, see Harringay in Grey and Green, The Alexanders of Harringay House on Harringay Online. Information of Mary's new residence via Kelly's Directories and Registers of electors.
Can anyone advise/help. I would be interested to read the downloadable pdf mentioned in the link at the top of this article, but when I follow it and then click on the download button I get a blank screen that seems to do something for a short while, nothimg appears in in, and I cannot find anything in my downlaods folder (I am using a WIndows 10 PC)
Thanks for that feedback, Peter. I've now done what I should have done last night and learned how my new pdf app reduces file size. I've now added a much smaller optimised pdf version beneath the article! (The original version was 21 MB which is way above the pay-grade of attachments on HoL).
Thank you very much for this fascinating article,. The research that has gone into this must have taken many hours.
Thanks., Gary. Yes, a lot of research goes into my pieces, but that’s the bit I enjoy. For me, it has all the joy of a treasure hunt (and always trying to make sure that I’m not picking up and sharing any wrong or inaccurate clues).