Archibald Vernon Chapman


South Bersted Church (St Mary Magdalene)

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Portrait photographer, 7a The Arcade, Bognor and at Emsworth, Hampshire. Most postcard publishers sold cards only of their home county or just the part of the county near their place of residence. If they crossed county boundaries it was on a large scale in order to establish a regional or even a national presence. Archie Chapman is an interesting example of a restricted area publisher who operated for a short distance on either side of a county boundary, combining the coastal fringes of the extreme west of Sussex and the extreme east of Hampshire.

The real photographic cards that Chapman issued are labelled on the back "Chapmans. Emsworth & Bognor" or, in the case of Hampshire cards, "Chapman, Emsworth". The photographs are mostly sepia tinted and tend to be badly faded. The earliest card found shows a procession and is labelled informally "Bognor 1909", perhaps by a former owner. The card is borderless unlike many somewhat later real photographic cards, which have white borders. On cards of the latter type the handwritten captions in small sans serif capitals sometimes lean slightly backwards and are accompanied by a serial number. The highest number known is 411. Places shown include Emsworth, Nutbourne, Westbourne, Stansted Park, South Bersted and West Stoke. A 1910 postmark has been noted.

Chapman is not listed in Kelly's 1909 Sussex Directory, and may only have settled in Bognor that year. He is described as the "manager" of Chapmans, "photographer", at 7a The Arcade in Pike's 1910-11 and 1912-13 Bognor, Littlehampton and Arundel Directories. Confusingly, Kelly's 1911 and 1913 Sussex Directories list both Archie and Vernon Chapman as photographers at The Arcade. The 1911 census and 1914 Electoral Register, however, indicate that only one photographer called Chapman was in business at Bognor, and he was Archie Vernon Chapman. He was still trading at the end of the First World War, but seems to have given up soon afterwards. What may be some of his last cards show the beach mission held at Bognor by the Children's Special Service Mission (now the Scripture Union), supposedly in 1918. The children constructed an impressive array of sand sculptures, including a destroyer and a lighthouse. Some of the cards, which are all borderless, are marked "Chapmans. Emsworth & Bognor", but others, presumably also his work, are anonymous. Judging from the numbering over 60 cards were produced.

Archie Vernon J. W. G. Chapman was born at Ore (Hastings) in 1887, the son of William and Moonetta L. J. Chapman. William, who had been born in Ore in about 1866, was a printer and stationer. His wife, whose maiden name is believed to have been Lickfold, may have been born at Cowes in the Isle of Wight, though the 1901 census records her birthplace as Headley in Hampshire.

When the 1891 census was held, William, Moonetta and their young son Archie were living at London House, London Road in Ore, together with William's parents, Jesse Chapman, a grocer and Agnes Chapman. By 1901 William had retired, even though he was only 37, which suggests he had become quite wealthy. Archie married Olive G. Leigh from Isleworth in Middlesex at Bognor in 1910. The 1911 census gives the couple's address as Winton, Gordon Avenue in Bognor.

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