Many working class men were attracted to a well-paid career in the military that might take them on adventures around the world. Obviously, there were many who didn’t return.
Robert was born in Nottinghamshire, the youngest child of a framework knitter, Thomas Chapman, and his wife Elizabeth. Nottinghamshire was the country’s main centre for lacemaking and weaving hosiery. Robert had worked as a cloth salesman, a servant, a baker and was a mineral water salesman by the time he moved to Settle with his wife, Louisa, and his mother. They lived at ‘Crag View’ on Commercial Street in Upper Settle.
Elizabeth died in 1881 and is buried in the graveyard with a fine stone. Robert followed in 1884, aged just 52. Robert’s death was during the years when Holy Ascension graveyard was temporarily closed ‘by order of the Home Secretary’ as it was ‘dangerously full’. Robert is buried at Giggleswick rather than with his mother. The news reports of his death and detailed gravestone inscription describe his extraordinary life and explain how he could afford to buy both gravestones.
Robert served in India and the Crimea and was one of the Gallant 600 in the Balaclava Charge of 1854, otherwise known as the Charge of the Light Brigade. This included Robert’s regiment, the 8th Hussars, who were armed only with lances and sabres, allowing them to move quickly in a reconnaissance charge. However, a series of blunders meant they were completely outmanoeuvred by heavy artillery. There were nearly 300 British casualties and 335 horses were killed.
As a result of his army service, Robert had a good pension and was able to establish his own aerated water company. Robert’s wife Louisa outlived him by 14 years and continued to run the family business.