An interview with Dan Chapman Snr

Notes of an interview with Dan Chapman made by Nicholas Butler in the mid-1980s

These are the notes made by Nick Butler who interviewed Dan Chapman in the mid-1980s in research for his book The Story of Wivenhoe.  These notes have been re-typed by Ann Jones from Nicholas Butler’s original notes.

About Dan Chapman

He was born and bred in Wivenhoe and educated here and in Colchester.  He now divides his time between Wivenhoe and Upminster. He was born in 1897 in Alma Street. He died in September 2016.

Dan Chapman told Nick:

My father talked about colliers coming up the river.  Always a certain amount of coal spilled into the river.  At low tide locals would go and scrounge coal dropped overboard.   Fingringhoe people had goods taken to them by horse and cart at low tide.   The ferry hard was always kept clean.   As tide went down he washed off the stones,

Ferry boat: flat-bottomed boat for low tide.   Poled across with a pole.   Expert job.   Never straight across.   At high tide, a rowing boat.   Could take about 8 or 9 people.   Cost:1penny or a half-penny.

At that time a man named Percival was the ferryman.   Hordes of children.   Lived in the Ferry House.

Fishing fleet at that time.  Half a dozen or so smacks.   I remember them coming up laden with Sprats.   No sale except to farmers.   Tumbrils would be loaded with Sprats.   Used them for manure.   After WW1 Lewis Worsip started a Sprat Factory.   He would know about Wivenhoe.

Schooled at the Post Office Hall.   Hired out as a private school.   Mr Smith (“Dimmy” Smith) who lived in Clifton Terrace.   Taught well.  Children of all ages.  About 20.  A private school.   Hall let out by the Post Office.   About 15 pupils, aged 4 or 5 to 14.

He taught everything.   English, Arithmetic. The 3 Rs.   Slates to write on.  Horrible things.   I started at Miss Proctor’s School.  A Dame school.   She and her brother ran it.   Girls and boys.   About 8 or 9 pupils.   I spent 2 years there.   Probably from 6 to 8 years of age.   In West Street.

Opposite the Shipwright’s Arms in West Street there was a doctor’s surgery.   The house is pulled down now.   The house occupied by Stebbings the grocers and now has a notice: “Don’t look through the window.   We’re not animals”.

Then after “Dimmy” Smith, the grammar school.   About 6 Wivenhovians used to attend.   Two brothers had to walk from Vine Farm to the station.   Then walk to the grammar school.   Five miles every day.   Other boys from Fingringhoe had to cross the ferry then take the train.

Six porters at the station in those days.   Every train they called out “Wivenhoe”!

At grammar school till 17 years of age.

On my way home called in at Sainsbury’s for shopping.

Father a builder.   Grammar School fee-paying.

Profit he made in one year £140.   Not a lot, even then.

Never knew what I wanted to do.   War came along.   Went into a bank, Barclays at Chelmsford, for a year.   Then was called up.   After that went into the Ministry of Pensions.

Very good game of football in the street.   Lamp-posts good for goalposts.   Lots of children in the street in those days.

Non-grammar school children kept on at school till age 14, then into the shipyard.

Down river: yachts stored.   Husk’s with an H.

Up river: Rennie, Forrest & Co.   Several different names.   Boats exported in sections.   Metal.   Boats for tropical countries.   Only dry dock on the East Coast for miles.   Many steam yachts came to the dry docks to be cleaned.   Lots of noise of men going in and out.   After the war still going for a short time.   Shipyard largest employer.   Went bust in the twenties.

Two doors down was the Salvation Army Citadel.   Big hall by his side ie, the owner of the house two doors down.   Wivenhoe had Salvation Army up to and after WW1.   Had its own band.   Also a Wesleyan Band.   Salvation Army band would play in Station Road then marched back to the hall.   Wesleyan Band played on the Quay at the Ferry and in Alma Street, then marched up to the Wesleyan Hall.  (The present Methodist Hall).   Swedenborgians went on till 1923.   Started in the 1880s.

Each church had its Sunday School treat.   Congregational had it on the Glebe.   Where Dr Palmer lives now.  Church of England had it at the Old Rectory.   Congregational and Wesleyan were always separate.   Wesleyan was in what is now Park Road.

Wivenhoe Hall pulled down.   May have been a fire as well.   Sale of Wivenhoe Hall: 1927.   When I was a child the Hall was owned by Mr Barlow, a gentleman.  Taken over by a tradesman who sold trees in Wivenhoe Wood.

Transport: carrier’s cart.   Went in to Colchester every day.  To shop.   A lot of trains every day.   Three-pence half-penny return to Colchester.   First train: 8.07am to London.   8.20am slow train to St. Botolph’s.   9.00am train to St Botolph’s.   I used to catch the 8.20am to St. Botolph’s.   To be at grammar school by 9.00am.   First bus soon after WW1 “Silver Queen” used to start at newspaper shop. (As it still is)

Regatta: alternately Rowhedge or Wivenhoe.  Combined regattas.   With a marvellous firework display.  Competing against each other.   So many steam yachts.   They used to finance the fireworks.   All set on the Fingringhoe side of the river.   On regatta day a fair used to come down.   At Cook’s Shipyard.    St John’s Road built up in those days.  ‘Gas Road’ we called it.   Gas-works there.   One side Gas-works and a few cottages.   On the other side yacht stores and gasometer.   Gas-works came down after WW1.   Gas terrible in those days.   Very little of it and poor quality.

Pleasure yachts came to Wivenhoe and Rowhedge.   Mr Husk built a small yacht or so.

Captain Albert Turner lived next door.   Most Conservative.   In 1906 Liberal returned for Harwich with a majority of 342 – Lever.  Political meetings in the town.   Forrester’s Hall.   Voted at the school – where the library is now.  Boys School.   Girls School present Youth Club.   National Schools.

If you lived below the bridge you were poor.   Tradesmen well off.   Crews of yachts had to go fishing in the winter.  Stow-boating in the winter.   Captains had retainers.   Bow crew?   Used to go on smacks during the winters.   Captains were an elite race.   Allowed in the Saloon bars of pubs.   No sailors there.   Nor ordinary people.   Dozens of Captains.   Row of cottages at right-angles to the Folly – Captain’s Row.   Had to pass exams to be a captain.   All certified.

The Nottage started at cafe next to Black Buoy.



This page was added on 23/09/2016.

Comments about this page

  • Further research into the Wivenhoe Chapmans indicates that there was a Daniel Chapman in every generation as far back as I have been able to go online. The Daniel interviewed in the 1980s is likely to be the second from last below. My research proposes the following sequence:

    Daniel Chapman, a sawyer, married Mary Warler in 1811.

    Daniel Chapman 1815-1899, bricklayer, probably son of the above, married Phoebe Went: they lived most of their married life in West Street, moving to Phoebe’s native Brightlingsea in old age.

    Daniel Chapman 1853-1950 (?), bricklayer and housebuider, second son of the above, married Emma J. Nicolle: lived most of their married life in Alma Street but late in life D. lived with his son in Barking.

    Daniel Chapman 1897-1986, civil servant, only surviving child of the above, spent his childhood in Alma Street, married Helen Culverwell, the couple living in Barking after WW2.

    Dan Chapman 1923-2016, bank manager, birth registered in Romford 3rd quarter of 1923, died in Colchester 18 September 2016, married Eileen W Clark, records from 2002 onwards show they were living in Colchester. Eileen probably died only last year.

    There is an interesting account of Dan’s military service at
    (scroll down to find Dan). A few sources indicate that this Dan may have been one of the two executors of Dickie and Denis’ estate, and as such inherited The Storehouse.

    No information regarding Dan’s children, as yet.

    Please feel free to publish all or in edited form, in the hope that locals or family members can shed more light on the Daniel Chapmans.

    By Caroline Mortlock (05/01/2021)
  • As a descendant of the Wivenhoe Chapmans I found this very interesting and complements other research. Wondering however about the birth and death dates at the head of this article, which would make Dan Chapman approximately 119 years old!

    By Caroline Mortlock (31/12/2020)
  • Thanks for spotting this error. Do you happen to know what the correct dates are?
    Peter, Chairman, Wivenhoe History Group

    By Peter Hill (04/01/2021)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *