Thomas Chapman

Artist: Edward John Gregory, RA

In office from: 1835 - 1881

Background: Underwriter

Chapman, along with Secretary Charles Graham, was instrumental in ensuring the early success of Lloyd's Register, for which he became known as 'the Father of Lloyd's Register'. As one earlier historian of the Society recorded, for Chapman, 'Lloyd's Register was a life's work'. From Secretary to the Provisional Committee, he was appointed Vice-Chairman and then took over as Chairman on the sudden death of his predecessor, David Carruthers in 1835. He would remain in office until 1881 when he was 83 and in failing health. He formed an effective partnership with successive Secretaries, allowing them to get on with day-to-day administration while he concentrated on the overall direction of the Society. It was an example too rarely followed.

He was highly regarded as Chairman for possessing all the diplomatic skills required to deal with an ever larger General Committee which represented so many disparate interests within the same industry. A shipowner, underwriter and head of an import-export firm, he had links through his charitable work with Charles Dickens, who would visit him from time to time at his office in White Lion Court. Some have argued that Chapman formed the template for Dickens' portrayal of Paul Dombey in Dombey & Son, although Chapman's personality was a long way removed from Dombey's. His standing brought him election as Chairman of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1873 and as the Vice-President of the Institution of Naval Architects, a body whose creation marked the growing importance of a scientific approach to the increasingly complex field of shipbuilding. He was also a member of the Society of Antiquaries and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

White Lion Court Charles Dickens

Left: White Lion Court, Cornhill. The headquarters of Lloyd's Register from 1834 to 1901, rented from the Merchant Taylors' Company.

Right: Charles Dickens

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Record holder...

Chapman holds the record for being the longest serving Chairman of Lloyd's Register. He held the position for 46 years!