The Diaper Heritage Association
Fisherman, Ferryman, Sailor, Spy - the Diapers of Itchen Ferry
The museum contains a permanent display of the town’s maritime history and many of the artefacts have connections with the Diapers. Use this trail to take you around the museum, it will finish at the ‘Fisherman, Ferryman, Sailor, Spy – The Diapers of Itchen Ferry’ exhibit.

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Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Diaper Trail

Itchen Ferry Village

Diaper Map - Click for larger image

The Ferry Village was probably established back in the Saxon period at the same time as the town of Southampton, although there were undoubtedly earlier settlements on both sites to control the river crossing. There is even a tradition that the area now known as Woolston was founded by the 10 th century viking Olaf Tryggivson. We do know that the area was under the control of the Bishops of Winchester from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries and that the villagers held their properties and land as copyholders from the bishops.


There had always been a significant manor at Woolston and in the early sixteenth century it was held by the wealthy Italian merchant Nicolyn de Maryn d’Egra, who had come to Southampton some years earlier to act as an agent and consol for the city of Genoa. The manor was later held in the seventeenth century by Captain Richard Smith and one William Diaper acted as surety for Capt Richard Smith in connection with his holding part of the passage of the Itchen.


In the nineteenth century the most significant landowners were the Chamberlayne family who held a large estate covering the area of Weston and including the ruins of Netley Abbey. Thomas Chamberlayne was a great supporter of the new sport of yacht racing and developed his yacht the Arrow into a champion racer. His son Tankerville later developed a boat building yard of the same name.


Here is little that remains of the original Itchen Ferry village although road names around Woolston recall the earlier occupation. Some of the nineteenth century Victorian houses can still be seen along Bridge Road, including number 56 which was newly built for Tommy ‘Dutch’ Diaper the famous skipper and father to the sailing brothers Thomas (who wrote the Log), Alfred who skippered the Westward, Bertram, Arthur, John and Walter who all were yachtmen. All the boys and their sisters were brought up in the house and inherited it from their parents.


Please click the Diaper Map above to view a a large image.

Peartree Church , Jesus Chapel, St Mary extra

Jesus Chapel Peartree Church

The parish of Itchen ferry came under the jurisdiction of St Mary’s Church in Southampton , which meant parishoners had to cross the river to go to services and for weddings, baptisms and funerals. They did not always make the trip and genealogists tracking down parish records have to search in Hamble, Stoneham, & Botley records as well as those of St Mary.


The villagers finally got their own church in the seventeenth century thanks to the generosity of Capt Richard Smith who lived at Peartree House. Built in 1620, as the first Anglican Church constructed after the Reformation, a new service of consecration had to be written by the Bishop of Winchester, Lancelot Andrewes, which makes Peartree the oldest Anglican Church in the world. Its foundation stone of 1618 still survives inside the nave above an archway in the west end. A simple rectangular chapel when first constructed, in the nineteenth century there was remodelling and additions made. A Mrs Diaper contributing £5 in 1822 towards the enlargement of the Church. Originally intended to be a chapel of ease to St Mary’s in Southampton, it eventually separated from the mother church in 1881. There are several Diapers buried in the cemetery here and at St Mary’s extra in Butts Road, Sholing, Southampton.

Spitfire Memorial/site of Supermarine, Woolston

Not every Diaper boy was obsessed with sailing. George Diaper, grandson of Tommy ‘Dutch’ Diaper left Ludlow School in Woolston aged 14 to go and work at the Supermarine Works at Woolston. The director there was Commander Bird for whom George’s uncle Tom Diaper sailed. George began as an office boy at the time the factory was building the last of the Walrus amphibians and a new aircraft called the Spitfire. When he turned sixteen he joined the RAF as a Boy Entrant and stayed with the service for the next 43 years. During the Second World War he flew Wellingtons and Stirling aircraft rather than the iconic Spitfire.

Titanic Memorial, Woolston Millennium Garden, Bridge Road

The Titanic was the worst maritime disaster Southampton had ever known, when the ship went down in 1912 not only were hundreds of passengers lost but also hundreds of crew most of whom hailed from the banks of the river Itchen. There are many memorials to the Titanic around the city, to the Engineers, in East Park, to the musicians near on the corner of London Road, to the restaurant staff in St Joseph’s church, to the post office and Marconi staff in the High Street Post Office, to the crew at Holy Rood church, at White Star office in Canute Road and in Woolston there is a general memorial to all who sailed on the ship. All that is, except John Diaper, fireman. He signed on the 6 th April at a wage of £6 per month, recording his age as 24, when he was actually27. He had transferred from the Titanic’s sister ship the Olympic. On the fateful night he was on lifeboat duty helping to launch the boats in great difficulty as the ship was listing to such a degree. He was ordered into the last boat by his officer, one can only suppose the skills learnt rowing and sailing on the Itchen stood him in good stead. When he returned home he only sailed twice more, before giving up the sea for good.

Ferry/Floating Bridge/ Itchen Bridge

In the early days there was only one way to cross the River Itchen, by boat, rowing boats or Itchen hoys like the Black Bess (still sailing from her home at the Classic Boat museum on the Isle of Wight), in the mid nineteenth century a chain linked Floating Bridge took their place, one can still be seen on the River Hamble where it now operates as a restaurant but in 1977 that too was superseded by the Itchen Bridge, the only toll bridge crossing the Itchen.


Diapers rowed the boats, (see the petition of the ferrymen), some like Jack Diaper went on to serve on the Floating Bridge and probably there have been Diapers taking tolls in the booths on the Woolston side of the Itchen Bridge.

The Cross House

The Cross House

The Cross House was probably the original medieval boundary cross of Itchenworth being built with two wall crossing each other at right angles. It had a conical tiled roof and gave shelter to travellers which ever way the wind was blowing.


‘We reached Southampton about three O’Clock, crossing the Itchen Ferry, and entering the Town by the Gate at the lower end. From this Gate to the Ferry, is a very pleasing walk or promenade; there is a double row of Trees all the way, and on the right you look direct upon the Southampton Water which is an arm of the Sea, about 9 miles in length and nearly three, in breadth, the Country on each side is finely wooded and very Picturesque. At the Ferry are Machines for Bathing, which is pretty good. A Fine Sailing Vessel belonging to the Margravine of Anspach, is generally stationed here’


1810 Moy Thomas, a young man in his early 20s who was travelling with a friend.

St Marys Church

From Peartree Green and as you cross the River the spire of St Mary Church can been seen on the skyline. There has been a church on this site since the seventh century when Birinus, The Apostle of Wessex, is said to have consecrated the site. St Mary's ChurchAlthough built in the Saxon old town of Hamwih, outside of the medieval walled town, it was always considered the mother church of Southampton. It was at its zenith in the twelfth century when Queen Matilda, wife of Henry I, was its patron. Originally the church also included a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicolas, patron saint of sailors as well as being the inspiration for Santa Claus. At the time of the First World War the church had a magnificent peal of bells and two soldiers waiting for transport to France were inspired to write the song The Bells of Saint Mary which was later a hit for the singer Bing Crosby. Fires, rebuildings & bombings mean that the current church is the sixth to stand on this site. It is a mariners church with many memorials and decorations reflecting the sea. Diapers through the centuries would have worshiped here.

The Saints Stadium

When the Saints football club returned to the St Mary district of Southampton they were returning home as the club was original the Saint Mary Football Club, hence the team nick name. Not all Diapers stuck to yacht racing as their sport, a number played football for the club.

Holy Rood Church

Crusaders waiting to take ship for the Holy Land knelt and prayed during their long night’s vigil on the cold flagstones of Holy Rood. One of the five original medieval churches within the walls, Holy Rood was a comfort to generations of sailors until it was bombed on the 1 st and 2 nd of December 1940. Now it remains as a merchant navy memorial garden, there are also memorials here to the Titanic, and Falklands and the tombs of John Speed and Richard Taunton can also be seen, as well the quarter jacks and plaques to Charles Dibden, the writer of nautical songs, and other Victorian memorials.


On the outer side of the north wall can be seen some brick work that is all that survives of the 1551 ‘great house’. The wall has a diaper pattern marked out in glazed blue header bricks to give the diamond shape. Diaper comes from the french word diapré which means variegated, and some believe that it is a connection with the brick making trade which gave the Diaper family it’s name.


On either side of the entrance to the church can be found 2 marble memorials, these commemorate the heroism of 22 ‘brave and disinterested’ men. At 23.10 on the night of 7 November in 1837 a fire broke out in the store house of King Witt & Co at the bottom of the High Street. It was a large brick building 100ft x 120ft over four floors and a basement. The stock consisted of ‘sheet and pipe lead in immense quantities, shot in bags, turpentine in carbuoys, oil, varnish, pitch and some gunpowder’. It was an hour before the fire engine arrived and a further twenty minutes before any water was obtained and various people arrived to help move the stores to a place of safety. The volunteers were lowering the carboys of turpentine on ropes from the second floor down to the basement, when one was dropped, so that everyone on the lower floor was paddling in turpentine. An explosion followed which threw people against pillars and caused a wall to collapse trapping people underneath. The disaster resulted in the death of 22 men who had been trying to save goods from the store and prevent the spread of the fire. One of those who lost their lives being George Diaper, a mariner from Hamble aged 27, his remains were so charred his sister Rose had to identify him by his clothes.


As reported in the Hampshire Advertiser November 18 1837.

The Dolphin Inn

The Dolphin Hotel

Southampton was a spa as popular as Bath from 1750-1830, and the Dolphin Inn was a favourite meeting place. Jane Austen danced in the ballroom, Admiral Nelson visited, Thackeray wrote part of his novel Pendennis seated at one of the bay windows. The original medieval inn was given a face lift in the 18 th century to become a coaching inn and it retains much of this atmosphere. Features include 19 th century lampposts, the royal coats of arms of William IV and its 18 th century coach entrance.


During the Spa period the High Street and Above Bar were lined with coaching inns, in 1839 one John Diaper was residing at The Bugle where he was licensed to let horses and gigs and in 1843, possibly the same John Diaper was at the Royal York Hotel Tap in Above Bar where he worked as a coal meter. For centuries coal was metered rather than sold by weight.


For those visiting the Diaper Exhibition, The Dolphin Hotel is offering a special rate of £75 B&B for a twin or double (excluding boat show & Cowes week) for reservations tel 023 80 339955. You may even be looked after by Diapers as two work at the hotel!

East Street

In the middle ages and Tudor period East Street was in the poorer quarter of Southampton. It led out through the west gate and back to St Mary’s and the old Saxon settlement. The street had poor lodging houses, the town brothel, and alms houses and at the end during the reign of Henry VIII was a chapel and the town hermit, William Jeffrey.


In 1573 Ruth, the widow of James Diaper of East Street was granted a tippler’s licence and given 1s a year for taking in an orphan. Both jobs were considered suitable ones for poor widows, providing them with much needed income and keeping them out of the poor house.


The Third volume of the Third Book of Remembrance shows Alice Diaper a widow living in Bagrow (the part of East Street outside of the East Gate), she was possibly the widow of William Diaper who was listed in the Muster Book of 1585. Alice agreed to bring up Jonathan the son of Thomasina Hall and was bound with William Mackerall and Nycholas Roberts for £10, she is also recorded as buying a cow.


The Bargate was the first part of the medieval walls to be constructed, it was by the use of gates that the town could control who entered and also could extract taxes from those trading in the port. The Bargate was a focal point for town government housing the town guildhall, being a court venue and the office of the Bargate broker who collected taxes from those carrying goods through the gate.


In the 1430s John Diaper, carter, carried goods such as woad, iron, wine and cloth for a range of Italian and English merchants. His route was between Southampton and Winchester, a day’s drive away.


Bargate North
Bargate South

Albion Terrace (Albion steps familiarly known as the 40 steps)

Albion Terrace (40 Steps)

In the 1840s Albion Terrace was a desirable residence, constructed adjacent to the old walls, with new ‘Albion’ steps added to give access to the beach and with a view over the bay to the New Forest. The view became a popular one with the artists of the day, notably John Constable who had spent his honey moon in the town.


Mark Diaper, grandson of Mark Diaper gentleman of Itchen Ferry who had founded the family fortune in the latter half of the eighteenth century, eschewed his father’s profession of mariner and became instead a carver and gilder. He had previously lived in Above Bar, Kingsland Place and at Houndwell before moving to 2 Albion place with his wife Rhoda and mother Frances. His relationship with his mother must have been strained after his father’s early death in 1820 which left Frances a widow, with a ten year old son and an unsigned will. A lengthy court case followed over the guardianship of Mark and control of his fortune and the validity of the will document. Mark’s father had succumbed to a mystery illness but had taken some weeks to die and apparently was in some agitation over the will, the writing his solicitor never completed despite having the commission for several months. Mark finally died without signing the document. His son Mark was put under the guardianship of his Aunt Sarah but a large portion of the family fortune was left with his wife Frances for the period of her lifetime. On Frances death in 1840, she left her personal possessions to Mark’s wife Rhoda with strict instructions that it should not be touched by her husband. Mark had to go to court again to recover the £1000 worth of property from his father’s estate.

French Street

The town fish market had been established outside of St Michael’s church since the middle ages. If you look at the paving in the square, stone circles can be seen which denote where the post holes were for the fish market building. This building still survives on a different site to where it was moved in 1634 and is now know as the Tudor Merchant’s Hall, at West Gate. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries fish was still being sold at an open air market in French Street where women like Ruth Diaper would bring their husband’s catch to sell. The fish would be carried in hand made rope bags which the men folk would make along with rope mats for their houses They would also hire a marble slab from the fishmonger Mr Wake on which to display their catch, who would also pick up any unsold catch cheaply at the end of the day.


One such fisherman was Joseph Thomas Diaper who spent most of his life in Southampton rowing, fishing, collecting driftwood and other waterborne activities. He was a deck boy on troopships during the Boer War and later spent two and a half years in the Hampshire Regiment. He served in the Navy on yacht patrol in World War I and survived the sinking of the yacht Agusa (formerly Sir Thomas Lipton’s Erin), as it picked up survivors of the battleship Russell, mined off Malta. After the war he became a builder’s labourer and later a bricklayer, retiring at the age of 70. During his retirement he continued his hope of fishing in his rowing boat with this two sons Joseph and Eli. He also continThe Duke of Wellington Public Houseued to make rope mats and bags, examples of which will be on display at the Maritime Museum.

The Duke of Wellington, public house, Bugle Street


Originally built as an early medieval merchant house, the building was once the home of the Keeper of the King’s wines. In the early fifteenth century it had been taken over by a Flemish beer maker called Rowland Johnson who turned the property into The Beer House, beer was becoming much more popular at this time and taking over from the weaker English drink of ale. The Dutch had perfected the use of hops in beer making and as a result started a brand new industry. However the English did not have a good head for beer and as a result of their drunken behaviour licensing laws were introduced in the sixteenth century.


In 1840 John Diaper, victualler, had originally held the license for the Rose & Crown at 37/8 French Street, it dated back to 1811 and closed its doors in 1860. By 1847 John had moved on to become landlord of the Duke of Wellington where he remained until 1859.

Several Diapers became landlords, particularly at The Yacht Tavern, The George and the Royal Oak all on the shore of Itchen Ferry village.

Mayflower Memorial Cuckoo Lane

In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Southampton enroute for a new life in the Americas. They had one ship, The Mayflower, and during their stay purchased another The Speedwell from local man Essaye Whittiffe. Presumably they also looked for a profession crew to go with them on their adventurous journey. The town had been in the forefront as a port for America since the third Earl of Southampton, the patron of Shakespeare, had promoted colonies in Virginia. Perhaps the locals realised the Speedwell was actually unseaworthy The Southampton Yacht Cluband were not in a hurry to join the expedition. Although most of the crew remain anonymous there is evidence that one of the Parker family was on board and stayed on in America after the voyage.

The Southampton Yacht Club


The Southampton Yacht club was formed in 1839 and it held an annual regatta in July. By 1841 this was a two day festival with special nights at the theatre, a ball at the Victoria Rooms, fetes and firework display with a prize giving dinner at the Sun Inn on Town Quay. It soon became a notable club attracting Royal Patronage and thus becoming the Royal Southampton Yacht Club. In 1846 its headquarters were built at the bottom of Bugle Street where they commanded a view over the water, it had a balcony to enable the yachts to be watched in comfort. By 1858 the club had 140 members and 90 yachts and its commodore was the Earl of Cardigan, of Crimea fame.

The Woolhouse, Maritime Museum

The wealth of medieval England was founded on wool. The best flocks were run by the great monasteries and abbeys, like Beaulieu, whose monks had caused the Woolhouse to be built in the 15 th century. It unusually survived the centuries due to its adaptability becoming in turn a granary, an 18 th century prison, an aeroplane factory and finally a maritime museum. The building has a magnificent tiled roof with chestnut hammer beams so heavy that it has to be supported by stone buttresses. The picture window was originally a grain hoist. Graffiti left by 18 th century French prisoners of war can be seen carved into the interior beams.


The WoolhouseThe museum contains a permanent display of the town’s maritime history and many of the artefacts have connections with the Diapers. On the ground floor can be found the magnificent engines of the paddle steam Empress, the campaign for their salvage and restoration was lead by Melville Diaper who trained as an engineer.


The museum is free and open tues-sun

The Classic Boat Museum, Isle of Wight

The museum at Newport harbour on the Isle of Wight has a unique collection of historic small craft and maritime memorabilia. Each year there are special displays and if required there is usually a knowledgeable guide to escort visitors around. It is also possible to visit the restoration shed to see work in progress on the old lifeboats. The collection contains an original Itchen Ferry hoy or fishing boat, The Black Bess built in 1873. Black Bess still sails and competes and can been seen at local regatta including that at Bursledon held at the end of August.


Black Bess
Black Bess

Beken of Cowes, Birmingham Road, Cowes, IOW

Beken started their photography in 1888 when Alfred Beken came to Cowes, his son Frank was so impressed by the classic sailing yachts off Cowes that he started the Marine Photography interest. In 1914 the ‘West’ collection of glass plates was purchased to add to the growing collection of negatives. Alfred’s grandson and great grandson also joined the business, each generation earning the title ‘Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society’. The Beken archives contain around 125,000 black & white negatives including many of the famous J Class sailed by the Diapers and the company still have original 1888 plates, images can be purchased from the Beken shop or see the website

Red Funnel Ferry

To cross to the Isle of Wight could not be easier, opposite the Maritime Museum is the Red Funnel Ferry service which runs from Town Quay. It is likely that on board will be members of the Diaper Family who have sailed the vessels for at least four generations.


Ticket information or telephone 0870 444 8898