The Diaper Heritage Association
Fisherman, Ferryman, Sailor, Spy - the Diapers of Itchen Ferry
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The Diapers in Southampton Walk Route


This Maritime Church has been used by all manner of sailors since the middle ages. The church was moved to its present site in 1320; it was enlarged during the spa period and bombed during the Second World War. It has been left as a maritime memorial garden (note anchor and the stormy petrels featured on the fence – mother Carey’s chickens – symbol of luck)


One of the more famous memorials in the church is to the crew of the ill fated liner Titanic which went down with great loss of life on her maiden voyage in 1912. The memorial was paid for by the families of crew members who perished. There were 2 John Diapers on her crew, John Diaper, fireman, & John Lovel Diaper, grill cook. The fireman survived as he was on lifeboat duty that night and the grill cook drowned.


On the outside wall of the church are 2 marble plaques which commemorate a disastrous fire in the King Witt & Co store house on the High Street in 1837, and the bravery of 22 men who died trying to prevent the inflammable materials kept in the building exploding. George Diaper was one of the 22 ‘Disinterested Men’ & his body was so badly burned his sister Rose Diaper of Hamble could only identify it from the clothes he was wearing.


On the outer north wall can be seen some brick work that is all that survives of the Great House of 1551. The wall has a diaper pattern marked out in glazed blue header bricks to give a diamond shape. Diaper comes from the French word diapre which means variegated.

The Dolphin

Nelson link – Sea Fencibles, a voluntary corps who were responsible for guarding the coastline of Britain and Ireland between 1793-1810. Commanded by officers from the Royal Navy

In 1805 13 Diapers turned out most months for training (including Thomas 1, Thomas 2, Thomas 3, & Thomas of Hamble) they had to learn to use pikes and trained for one day a month for a wage of 1s. They could only be stationed near to their homes and were allowed leave to fish and go to markets. It was also some protection against being pressed into the navy, as was being a sand walker

John Diaper Sand Walker was granted his licence on 3 Nov 1804, the year before Trafalgar, and it was renewed annually by the mayor of Southampton up until 3 May 1815, the year of Waterloo. This minor town appointment gave the sand walker a right to search and seize flotsam, jetsam, ligans and wrecks of the sea, goods taken by pirates and all royal fish taken within the town’s precincts. (Which included the Hamble river, Redbridge, Calshot, Hurst and Langstone on the IOW)


We know of at least one Diaper who was pressed into the navy, Mark Diaper in 1754 as his wife was given 2s 6d in poor relief to support her and her 3 young children when he was away.


Dolphin is also associated with Jane Austen who lived in the town between 1806-9 and who we know travelled in Itchen ferry boats across the river on her way to Netley and Bitterne and also up the river to see the naval shipyards.

East Street

Ruth Diaper 1573, widow of James and a Tippler who received 1s a year for taking in an orphan. Alice Diaper in the 1590s, widow of Thomas who appears in the town muster books, also lived on this street and also took in an orphan. Tippling or the selling of beer from the front room of your house, and the fostering of orphans were two jobs thought appropriate for poor widows to undertake, it gave them some income, supported the social system and kept them off of poor relief.

The Bargate

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 1430 & 40s John Diaper, carter, carried goods such as lime, coal, woad, iron, wine and cloth for a range of Italian and English merchants. His main route was between Southampton and Winchester, a day’s drive away; although on one occasion he travelled as far as Wantage. He paid the tax of pontage which was a tax for the use of the bridge (pont) that spanned the moat on the outside of the Bargate


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


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


Mark Diaper, grandson of the former proprietor of the ferry, eschewed his father’s profession as a mariner and became instead a carver & guilder in Southampton. Despite having problems coming into his inheritance as his father had left an unsigned will, he was prosperous enough to move his family to a large regency style house at 2 Albion Place.

The Endeavour Pub

The Endeavour takes its name from the J-Class yacht that was owned by Sir Thomas Sopworth, Sopworth had made his name from designing aircraft but in the 1930s he took up the challenge of trying to win the Americas cup. He followed on from Sir Thomas Lipton, who used a fortune founded on tea and groceries, to fund 5 challengers, all called Shamrock, in the 1920s. A combination of bad luck, not selecting the best crew and superior design from the American yachts meant all his attempts foundered. Endeavour was also unsuccessful, not least of all because after taking the lead in the series, a dispute with the crew (who wanted to have the same pay and conditions as the Shamrock crews) lead to that crew being laid off and a new scratch crew being brought in. The series was lost as was the best chance of winning the Americas’ cup.

St Michaels Square

There was a fish market around St Michaels from the middle ages to the early 20 th century. The ferrymen of Itchen ferry supplemented their income and provided food for their families by fishing in the famous Itchen hoys. When they landed their catch their wives, commonly called fishwives would carry the fish in hand woven baskets to the fish market to sell.

Duke of Wellington

Originally built in the early middle ages and the first place in the town to make beer in the 1420s, the pub changed its name to the Duke of Wellington in 1815 to commemorate the duke’s victory at the battle of Waterloo. In the latter half of the nineteenth century (1847-1859) the landlord was John Diaper. Many Diapers ran pubs, particularly those in the ferry village, the Yacht Tavern, The George and the Royal Oak. As they were also noted smugglers the pubs probably were useful outlets for contraband. As well as smuggling goods it is thought they also smuggled spies during the Napoleonic Wars with France.

Red Funnel

Cecil Diaper, one of 16 children, he was born in 1906 and went to sea in 1922 as bridge boy on the Adriatic. He joined Red Funnel in 1932 becoming one of their youngest masters in 1936, commanding the Duchess of Cornwall. His war work began on the Dover minesweeper patrol and he experienced Dunkirk, where the Red Funnel vessel, Gracie Fields, went down. He was later posted abroad, escaping Singapore just before it fell. He continued to serve in the Far East till the end of the war. All of his brothers and several of his sisters were involved in war work and his youngest sister survived the refugee ship she was on being torpedoed enroute to Canada. She survived in an open boat before being picked up and returned to England. His eldest brother was a casualty of the war, he lived in the Itchen Ferry village and worked on the floating bridges, he was killed during air raids that saw the destruction of the Spitfire factory in 1940.

Cuckoo Lane (Bull Hall)

Site of the poor house where destitute members of society were sent. Thomas and Martha Diaper were housed here; Thomas in the 1760s and his widow Martha a dozen years later. Both received parish burials when they died, their laying out, wood for coffins, shrouds, parsons fees and beer, bread and cheese for their wakes being paid for by the parish.

Yacht Club

The club was formed in 1839 and held annual regattas, they opened these premises in 1846 and by 1858 had 140 members and 90 yachts. Many Diapers were involved in races off of town quay, in the early part of the 19 th century it was the fishing boats and rowing boats that would be seen; by the second half of the century it was yachts that were the most popular.