Ernest B. H. Chapman

Ernest Bradley Himes Chapman, the eldest son of Joseph Chapman was born on the 6th December 1851 at Behind Town, Frome. By 1861 when the family were living at the "Corn Stores", Behind Town Ernest was described as a scholar. By 1871 when he was 19 years old he is described as a Sculptor. His occupation was described in a number of ways in later years; Stone & Marble Mason, Sculptor & Mason, Monumental Sculptor (employed).

Ernest Bradley Himes Chapman

This latter description, given in the 1891 census, shows that even at the age of 39 he was still an employee of his father. Some of the Portway adverts offered his skills as a photographer to produce illustrations of their memorials and other work. His other interests included bee keeping, botany and especially cacti.

Frances Chapman

Ernest married Francis Petley Gooding on 12 April 1876 at the Zion Chapel in Dover. Francis was the daughter of John Gooding, a master tailor from Kent. It seems that the couple met in Frome, where Francis was working. Ernest's sisters Flora, Emily and Fanny were all baptised as adults in the Zion Chapel on 1st December 1869. The register shows that Fanny Gooding, of the Market Place in Frome, was baptised in the same chapel on the same day.

For a time the "Portway Marble Works" ran a branch of the business at Hill Street, in Trowbridge. It is perhaps ironic, that considering the Chapman family's devotion to Temperance, that the Chapman Marble Works in Trowbridge were later to become the offices of Usher's brewery.

Marble Works Hill Street,
Trowbridge

Ernest's wife gave birth to three sons, Bernard Joseph Gregory in 1877, and Herman Lentz in 1878, both at Hill Street, in Trowbridge. Bernard was named after his grandfather, and also given his grandmother's maiden name. Herman was named after a German friend of his father. Christopher Albert was born in Frome in 1880, by which time the family had abandoned the Marble Works in Trowbridge.

A daughter, Olive Francis was born in 1882 and died the same year. A son, Francis Kenneth, was born on his mother's birthday the 18th May 1888. His mother died ten days later on 28th May 1883. Francis Kenneth died three weeks later on the 18th June 1883. They were both buried in the family grave at Vallis Road cemetery. Frances Chapman kept a "Birthday Book" which has survived, and contains many family birthdays and autographs.

Ernest re-married on 18th July 1885, in Zion Chapel, to Mary Popkiss, daughter of the late Richard Popkiss, who had been a civil engineer. Ernest and Mary had two sons, Harold Dene born in 1886, and Richard Popkiss in 1888. The family lived in the house to the east end of the Portway Works while Joseph's family lived in the main house which had been built at the western end of the yard. The relationship between the two families was very close, but according to Bernard his grandfather remained dominant and retained financial responsibility for both families. Ernest never received a wage, salary, or share of the profits but received the gift of "pocket money".

The two families were both members of the Congregational Church, and shared radical views on current events. They were among a minority who supported the Boers, in the war between 1899 and 1902. Such support produced bitter divisions, particularly in the Liberal Party where many were openly pro-Boer. The family's attitude toward the war was no doubt affected by the fact that Ernest's brother Albert Barnes Chapman had worked in South Africa, as a civil engineer, between 1876 and 1886.

Bernard said, later, that there were financial difficulties caused by Joseph's dispute with the Church of England, when he refused to pay tithes for the support of a denomination which was "an anathema to him and his congregational loyalties". The net result was that orders for repairs to churches, for tombstones and memorials declined, and the business fell into decline.

Death had dealt harshly with Ernest's family. He had lost two wives and two children. In 1899 he was "quite ill" according to a letter from a cousin in America, and by June 1900 he was dead. With the death of both Ernest and his father in the same year the business was sold to Benjamin Jordan & Henry Barnes who had also acquired the house at the eastern end of the yard. Portway House, and the freehold of the yard, was retained by the family to accommodate the remaining members of the family, until the death of Agnes Estella May Chapman in 1954.


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Page last revised 20th July 1999.

© S. B. Chapman