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

Mark Diaper, Gentleman


Mark Diaper, Gentleman, appears to have risen quite quickly from a relatively poor background. His father, also called Mark was pressed into the navy for a short while in 1754 and his wife had to go to the parish for poor relief of 2s 6d. By 1781 Mark junior was paying one of the highest rate amounts in the parish of £2 2s (poor relief was paid at 4d in the pound in 1782) and in the next year he took over the rights to the Itchen Ferry at a cost of 16s 4d. His property was valued at £55 making him one of the most substantial men in the village. He became churchwarden at Peartree in 1783 and made the following disbursements.


Disbursements of Mark Diaper Churchwarden Oct 24

Collected £11 9d 11d

Disbursed £9 3s 6d

Bad rates 10s

Expences visitation 10s

other expences 3s


He was made overseer of the poor in 1785. In 1786 he was given a £1 for taking on Mary Paine, presumably a poor girl who became a servant in his house. In his on going capacity as overseer of the poor, he refused poor relief to Powel Diaper in 1809.


His will of 1814 shows him to have an estate of some £3000 which he divided between his surviving children. His son Mark received £1000, his daughter Jane Smith, wife of the builder John Smith of Itchen Ferry, was left 13 copyhold messauges and tenements in Itchen Ferry and £1000 was provided to be put into investments on behalf of his other daughter Ann Cantell, wife of John Cantell mariner. Mark had married twice to Ann Newman in 1778 and Jane Goslin in 1785 and been twice widowed in 1783 and 1807 and was not married at the time of his death.


It is not known how he made his fortune, perhaps through link with France? as both his son-in-laws had connections with that country and there is a tradition that John Smith was actually a French émigré who had fled from the Revolution. There is also speculation that John Cantell was involved in smuggling ands spying missions to France (see the book The Marquis and other Mariners by Gerald Mornington). Mark’s two daughters had married both men (Smith being a widower at the time) in a double wedding on 10th November 1806.


His eldest son Mark gives his profession as Mariner and did not long outlive his father, dying in 1820. He did not sign his will however resulting in a lengthy court case for his widow Frances. His son Mark moved to Southampton to pursue a career as a Carver & Gilder and finally settled into a late Regency style house in fashionable Albion Terrace.


The biography of Mark Diaper can be traced through the Peartree Churchwarden book.