Ancestors of John Robinson Chapman


2. John Robinson Chapman

My father was a highly intelligent man who had a varied career.
He left school at age 14 and served an apprentiship as a refrigeration engineer working for Trohldal Ltd.
He was called up at the start of World War 2 and joined the Royal Engineers. He saw a full range of the war:

He seldom talked about his war experiences other than saying "I didn't like the war - People kept trying to kill me" My mother later told me he had been very shaken when taking cover with two friends under a truck in Crete during an air attack he found himself the only survivor, the soldier on either side being killed.

On his return he worked for Parsons Engineering in Newcastle on Tyne at Sheilds Road.
The family home was at 18 Julian Avenue, Walker Gate, Newcastle on Tyne. A two bedroom semi-detached house. The next door neighbours were George Ellis, a banker and a family called Fletcher.
My father did not try to keep up with the Joneses - for our street he was the Joneses. We had the first car, the first electric gramophone and the first television.

In June 1958 (when I was 8) my father followed his brother, Jim's example and purchased a hill farm. We moved to 'Thrush Hall Farm, Carrshield, Hexham, Northumberland, an 18 acre farm in the Pennines in the West Allen Valley.
When we first moved our farm had no electricity and an earth closet (no flush toilet) We did have indoor hot and cold water and could take a bath by lifting a worktop in the kitchen revealing a bath underneath. Our water supply came to the house via a ditch running down one of our fields. In wet weather the water turned brown with mud and when filling the bath occasionally it would gurgle and out would drop a large worm. The house was very old, bearing the date 1611. it had stone 'flags' for the floor, walls three feet thick and although part of the roof had been slated there was still a substantial part made of one inch thick stone slabs pegged to oak beams with sheep bones.

I remember taking an oil lamp to bed, 'stone' hot water bottles, chamber pots under the bed, a tin bath in front of the fire, candles and calor gas lights. For entertainment we would sit and listen to a battery powered radio.

The family outside our farm's front door. Left to right: John R Chapman jr., The dog Glen - a cairn terrier, My mother Eleanor Vera Chapman, my sister Isabel and my father John Robinson Chapman Picture taken Summer 1963.

It was about two years before electricity was installed and at the same time we extended the house to make an additional bedroom and a proper bathroom with flush toilet. One of the workmen involved in the extension was Jack Henderson who my mother, many years later later married some time after divorcing my father.

My father tired of traveling 40 miles to work and got a new job working on the Blue Streak Ballistic rocket at Spadeadam near Haltwhistle. He worked for Rolls Royce who were developing the rocket engine. When the rocket project was cancelled by the government he got a job as works engineer at Cascelloid, Haltwhistle, A firm which produced plastic bottles for detergent manufacturers. I remember being shown round the plant and having the drying ovens and conveyors which my father had designed and had built shown to me.

He then worked for a laundry firm in Hexham. There he met Doreen and the relationship which developed lead to my mother divorcing him in 1968.

My father married Doreen and had a son, Ian, by her. (left) He lived at 2 Eilensville, Hexham, Northumberland.

He next became a window cleaner until his retirement.




He died of cancer in 1998. A notice of his death appeared in the local newspaper, the Hexham Courant. He had refused to allow anyone to tell either my sisters or I of his illness.

What sort of person was he?

There's no questioning his intelligence although he often 'made do' rather than completing a proper job. He was very strong. In the army he was part of a gymnastics display team.

He had a great sense of humour and an intolerance of any form of officialdom. I remember as a teenager watching him rub candle wax over the 'do not write in this space' areas of a tax form on the basis that if he couldn't write there no-one else was going to do so. He would have been delighted that the tax authorities got my name mixed up with his and chased me for tax they estimated he should have paid between 1998 and 2001. I was out of the UK and he had died the year before!

He was not a forgiving person and tolerated my sister's husband, Colin but the atmosphere when they were together was not pleasant. He would not have been amused the day I found my 3 year old sister painting his brand new light grey van with green paint. My mother and I cleaned up the mess with turpentine while he slept in a chair in the kitchen. We never told him about it!

He later traded the van in for a new Triumph Vitesse saloon - a semi-sports car. He was a good driver and enjoyed driving it fast. I remember him driving from Hexham to our farm and at one stage reaching 120mph going uphill on a road that today has a 60mph limit.

He liked savoury foods such as blue cheese, brown sauce, pickles and fry-ups. Each Sunday he would cook a traditional English breakfast for the family, I being sent to scour our top field for mushrooms.

My father;John Robinson Chapman, my son; Matthew John Robinson Chapman and I; John Robinson Chapman in 1981

His weaknesses were that he drank too heavily and smoked. His favourite bar was the Lion Inn in Allendale and later a pub in Hexham. In his latter years he quit smoking and seldom drank.