ludham archive

Frank Harding Chambers
Boat Designer of Ludham

Voysey stone

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.

Frank Chambers
Frank Chambers
Mary Alice
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 census.

Green Farm
Green Farm

In addition to his work as a teacher, Frank Chambers was also a designer of sailing boats on the Norfolk Broads.

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.

Maidie in
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 Daniloff, here.

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