Boat Designer of Ludham
In Ludham Churchyard stands this unusual grave marker.
It is Grade 2 listed and was designed by the well
known Arts and Crafts Designer Charles Francis
Annesley Voysey. In some ways, the fame of the
designer of the stone has slightly overshadowed the
actual owner of the grave, but he was interesting in
his own right and his name was Frank Harding Chambers.
Chambers was the eldest son of the Rev. Joseph James
Chambers, Vicar of St. Barnabas, Southampton. He was
born in Wolverhampton in 1867. He attended
Wolverhampton Grammar School, and then later studied
mathematics at Balliol College, Oxford. He went
on to become a teacher at Charterhouse School and Head
Master of Lincoln Grammar School.
Mary Alice Chambers
In 1888 he married Mary Alice Firth in Long Ashton in
Somerset. His wife was from the Firth family of
Sheffield. Her Father John was from the large steel
making company Firths (later Firth Brown).
Despite living in various different parts of the
country, Chambers also owned Green Farm in Fritton
(Ludham). He seems to have spent quite a lot of time
there despite not being shown as living there on any
In addition to his work as a teacher, Frank Chambers
was also a designer of sailing boats on the Norfolk
The end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th
Centuries was a time when yacht racing on the Broads
was a very popular sport amongst wealthy owners. Prize
money was high as was supplemented by large wagers
between the owners. Such was the money at stake that a
successful boat could earn the cost of its design and
construction in a single season. Less successful boats
were often broken up after just a year on the water.
Owners often employed a professional crew to maximise
their chances of winning and employed designers like
Chambers to come up with innovative winning designs.
Chambers founded the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company
in the late 1890s and went on to design a string of
successful boats. In those days the boats raced under
a handicap system and the handicap was determined by a
formula based on the design and dimensions of the boat
itself. As well as being able to design fast boats,
Chambers was able to use his skills as a mathematician
to tailor the dimensions of the boat to gain the best
possible handicap and thus an advantage in the race.
This, in turn, forced the handicappers to introduce
even more complex handicap rules, but Chambers was
able to keep ahead and his boats were in great demand
amongst wealthy patrons.
Sir Thomas Lipton's yacht Grey Friar was a well known
Chambers design. His yacht Caprice dominated the 1900
season earning back all her costs in that year.
Another yacht, Nathalie, from 1904 is still sailing on
the Broads today having been restored and re-named
Maidie in action.
Chambers died on the 16th February 1912 in France
aged 44. He was buried in Ludham Churchyard with his
distinctive Voysey headstone.
You can find out more about Frank's Family Tree here.
You can read the memories of his Grandaughter, Ruth