Former farmer and businessman who was a friend to many

Date: Monday 20th March 2017
Robin Chapman
Robin Chapman

A HARDWORKING family man who was a good friend to many has died aged 75.

Thomas Robin Chapman, known as Robin or “Chappy”, died at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle. He was born to Harrison and Evelyn, farmers at Crookwath, Dowthwaite Head, above Matterdale, in April, 1941, the fifth of six children.

At the age of seven, he moved with his family to farm at Bald How, Matterdale, and, on leaving school, worked alongside his father.

Robin often recalled the difficult nature of the work and how, in the harsh winter of 1963, there was no water for months. This meant transporting large amounts of water daily in churns from Matterdale End to the farm to feed livestock and run the house, which was no easy task.

In his youth, Robin played football for Threlkeld FC and Ullswater FC as inside forward. He fondly remembered the visit from Manchester City players to Patterdale for a friendly match. He was a lifelong Arsenal supporter.

Robin married Sue Dawes, of Patterdale, in 1966, and the following year they acquired the tenancy of Belle Grove Farm, Watermillock.

They settled into the farm and quickly made a real go of it. They also acquired the local milk round. The couple’s two daughters, Tracy and Claire, were born in 1970 and 1972.

While at Belle Grove, Robin started hound trailing, first with a hound called Into View, then Midnight Cowboy, Fell View and Fell Lass. It was with Fell View that he had most success as she was both a puppy and senior champion.

In 1976, Robin and Sue secured the tenancy of Yew Tree Farm, one of the largest farms in the Lake District with more than 2,000 Herdwick sheep. While Mrs. Chapman ran a bed and breakfast business, Robin built up a quality Herdwick flock and also bred Charolais cattle.

Robin’s family said it was never dull being around him at the time as he dealt with the challenges of fell farming.

In 1984, on Borrowdale fell race day, he suffered a heart attack and spent a number of weeks in Keswick Cottage Hospital. It was at this time that the difficult decision was made to leave farming.

The following year, the family purchased Fynn’s General Store, Glenridding, and Robin took to the new business venture with the same determination and drive as he had farming.

However, the long summer seasons took their toll and he suffered a stroke while at Glenridding. The business was sold in 1990 and the couple moved to Howard Park, Greystoke.

During his retirement, Robin took up golf and was a member of Keswick Golf Club. He was very proud of his green jacket, awarded on winning the Threlkeld Hall Trophy.

Bored with retirement, however, he bought the Coffee Bean, Grasmere, and then Treetops, Pooley Bridge. The family was heavily involved in these businesses.

Robin and Sue parted ways in 1997 and Sue died in 2005.

Robin retired to Penrith and a new source of enjoyment came along with the arrival of his grandsons, Dylan and Louis Simpson. He revelled in every stage of their development and would often arrive for visits armed with chocolate and ready to play the sport of the day.

He enjoyed watching horse racing in his retirement and was a familiar face in the Penrith betting shops. He particularly enjoyed the Cheltenham Festival, which he attended on a number of occasions with friends and family.

A modest, unassuming man, and a true character, Robin’s family said he was an inspiration to many who knew or worked with him and he would be sadly missed.

A service was held at Carlisle crematorium, taken by the Rev. William White, of Greystoke parish. Richardson’s Funeral Directors, Penrith, were in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Chapman is survived by daughters Tracy Chapman and her partner, Darren Harris; and Claire Chapman and her partner, Peter Simpson, all of Penrith; grandsons Dylan and Louis Simpson; and sisters Mary Jackson and Ann Potter, of Matterdale.