Soldier, draper, rugby star and a royal escort - the family which played a remarkable role in South Tyneside history

An author has penned a fascinating tale on South Tyneside history and how his own family influenced it.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 4:55 am

Peter Chapman has detailed his relatives’ role in local life stretching back more than 200 years, in a new book called ‘A Tyneside Heritage’.

Four generations had a part to play, right back to Robert Chapman who was a draper from 1811 to 1894 and a councillor. But Robert went even further and invested in a ship which sailed to destinations such as St Petersburg, Constantinople and the Black Sea.

The Chapman history continued when his son Henry Chapman JP founded a chartered accountancy practice and a Building Society.

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Peter Chapman and some of the photos in his new book.
Peter Chapman and some of the photos in his new book.

Three of his sons and a daughter served in the First World War. Only two returned and they were Dr Fred Chapman, the famous England rugby player, and Col. Robert Chapman.

Peter added: “Robert became a South Shields Borough Councillor and Mayor, and Member of Parliament for Houghton-le-Spring in County Durham.

"In the 1930s he lobbied hard for Government funding for the North East ‘Special Area’, becoming Chairman of the new and very successful Team Valley Trading Estate in Gateshead.

"Knighted after the Second World War he became Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, escorting the young Princess Elizabeth in Durham City. He and his wife Hélène entertained Princess Marie Louise at their home in Cleadon, well known for its house parties and summer fêtes. He was made a baronet a few years before he died.”

Princess Elizabeth enjoying a joke with Dr J. F. Duff, Warden of the Durham Colleges, as she walks through the grounds of St Mary’s College escorted by Col Robert Chapman, Vice-Lieutenant of County Durham, in October 1947.

Peter said: “The book is a pioneering work of interwoven local and family history.”

As for Peter himself, he read Social Anthropology at Cambridge, took a Master’s degree in Social Administration at the London School of Economics and enjoyed a career in housing, founding a niche consultancy, Chapman Henry Associates.

He has also been the chairman of charities including: the National Communities Resource Centre; the Friends of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge and a local youth charity Kensington Dragons Football Club.

He is an Honorary Life Member of the South Shields Local History Group.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit the new trading estate at St Helen Auckland, February 1939. Col Robert Chapman is on the Queen’s right.

And now people can buy his book. The cover price is £25 and it is available from Waterstones and Blackwells. Peter Chapman has supplied copies to The Word in the South Shields Market Place where copies can be purchased for £17.50.

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Peace day celebrations in South Shields, in July 1919. The Mayor, Councillor Robert Sykes, and Lt Col Robert Chapman salute the flag and shout ‘God Save the King’.
Robert Chapman’s 1839 advert for his drapery business. Robert was the great-great-grandfather of Peter Chapman.
The front cover of Peter's new book.
The author of the book, Peter Chapman.