CHAPTER 9


CHARLES FORD BISHOP – MASTER MARINER



Charles Ford Bishop, the youngest son but one of John and Sarah was born the 25 January 1829 at Brewhouse Lane, Greenwich and baptized the 20 February at St. Alphege Church. John and Sarah did have another son who was also named Charles Ford Bishop; he was born 28 December 1821 but only lived five months. There was also a certain amount of confusion as it was a James Bishop who was recorded as being born on 25 January 1829 but this turned out to be incorrect and should have been recorded as Charles Ford Bishop.


No doubt it would seem that Charles, like other Greenwich Bishops of his generation was educated at the Royal Hospital School and from there went to sea as an apprentice. From the Seaman’s Registers Series II his Ticket was No.8430. He would most likely have passed an examination to become a Mate and then later as Master Mariner for which he received his Master’s Ticket No. 345971 dated 7 March 1851. Four years later Charles married Sarah Hickman on 14 June 1855 at the parish church Liverpool, Lancashire – here he said he was a “mariner”. Sarah was the daughter of Henry Hickman, a builder and Hannah who was baptized on 19 August 1832 at the Parish Church Sedgley Staffordshire.


Charles and Sarah had the following nine children:-

Sarah Jane born 4 Apr 1856 Wood Street Birkenhead Cheshire

Charles Henry born 6 Sep 1859 George Street Birkenhead Cheshire

James Stephen born 11 May 1861 Princes Street West Cowes IOW (James on B/C)

Alice born 17 Oct 1862 Princes Street West Cowes IOW

Laura born 5 Feb 1864 Arctic Cottage West Cowes IOW

Clara born 7 Apr 1865 Arctic Cottage West Cowes IOW

Henry born 10 Sep 1869 Mill Hill West Cowes IOW (d.1 Oct 1869)

Annie born 5 Jan 1871 Mill Hill West Cowes IOW

Harry (Henry) born 4 Apr 1873 Mill Hill West Cowes IOW


In the 1861 Census Charles was a Master Mariner of a yacht, living at 3 Princes Street West Cowes (in the parish of Northwood). In 1881Charles was Lloyds Insurance agent living at Worsley Road, Northwood, and in 1891 he was a Yacht Insurance agent living at “The Lawn”, Gurnard.


Cowes – including East Cowes – is a busy inland port and harbour on the northern tip of the Isle of Wight. Osborne House (in East Cowes) was one of Queen Victoria’s and Prince Albert’s favourite residences and Cowes quickly became a hub of yacht-building activity. Today it continues to attract visitors and yachtsmen from across the globe. Cowes Week was founded in 1812 by the Royal Yacht Squadron who, in later years founded the famous America’s Cup. In 1826 Cowes Week became the Cowes Regatta when King George IV presented a gold cup, worth £100, to mark the occasion. It is now the world’s longest-running sailing regatta where some 1,000 or so racing boats from all over the world and many spectator boats all converge on The Solent.


75. ‘Solent Lawn’ the home of Captain Charles Ford Bishop


Around 1868 Charles retired from the sea as Yacht Captain and became self-employed. In an Isle of Wight Directory for 1866-67 he was listed as Master Mariner but then in 1869 listed as Yacht agent. The 1875 Post Office Directory of Hampshire (includes the IOW) his private residence was “The Lawn” Gurnard whilst his business address as Yacht agent was in Bath Road Cowes. In the “1878 History, Gazetteer and Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight” and also the “1879 Commercial Directory of the IOW” he is mentioned as an Agent for Lloyds, Yacht Agent, and Agent for the Atlas Fire and Life Insurance Company with his office at No.2 Tudor House Bath Road Cowes. A Street Directory for 1892 lists him as a Yacht-broker of 9 Medina Road Cowes. The 1886 Kelly’s Directory of the Isle of Wight lists Charles F. Bishop & Son, coal merchants of the Town Quay area West Cowes (near the Square) – Cowes was the only port on the island where ships of any size could enter so all the coal for the island was unloaded here – ships of 2,000 tons arrived regularly at the Medina Coal Wharf Cowes. On 25 April 1888 a Sale by Auction was held at the Fountain Hotel in Cowes when the following was up for auction:-

76. Sale particulars of the Solent Lawn Gurnard IOW


Lot 1 Desirable Waterside Business premises known as Northumberland Wharf leased to Captain Bishop at a rental of £70 per annum, consisting of a substantial brick-built quay with frontage of 51 feet to Cowes Harbour; a spacious coal store, 136 by 47 feet; a brick-built double office and brick and timber cooperage or store. The whole property has a frontage to Medina Road of 94 feet. It is not known if Captain Charles Bishop did actually buy Lot 1 either beforehand by private contract or at the auction. He is also believed to have had a ship’s chandlery business.


At Christmas 1886 there was a report in the local newspaper about a severe gale which mentioned that “At some point Mr. Bishop’s large coal hulk broke adrift and went ashore. Mr. Bishop’s steam launch FLEUR DE LYS was wrecked”.


Charles must have been an excellent businessman to have lived at “The Lawn” as they had a very prosperous life-style with a coachman, gardener and several maids. They even “dined from the sideboard with silver dishes”.

77. Sale notice of the “Solent Lawn” Gurnard, I.O.W.


In 1895 Gurnard was described as a small village to the West of Cowes with a few handsome villas and a number of artisans’ cottages. Today on the northern coastline of the Island and about two miles west of Cowes there still lies the village of Gurnard with its main street that consists of a couple of shops, post office and housing. There is a little harbour and seafront from where you can watch the liners and large ships leave Southampton Water as they enter the Solent on their journey to the English Channel and far away places. Gurnard has a level esplanade which offers a pleasant walk leading to Cowes seafront. There is a community of modest chalets and homes, which are huddled together, each jostling for a view of the sea; these dwellings are in most cases lived in as permanent homes and each is truly individual. The main theme of this pleasant resort is sailing, with two sailing clubs (one of which is the major dinghy sailing club on the island), and even slipways for visitors who bring their own craft. Further west is the Gurnard Pines holiday resort with both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, evening entertainment and other leisure facilities.


One piece of information gleaned from the Internet was an article about the last remaining 1st Class Essex 'Skillinger' (off-shore oyster catcher) deep-sea smack the PIONEER (certificate No. 48991 and official fishing No. CK18). The PIONEER was built in 1864 by Peter Harris of East Donyland, Rowhedge in Essex and commissioned by Captain Charles Ford Bishop of Cowes, Isle of Wight. Captain Bishop was a master mariner who had an interest in the Colchester oyster dredging fleet which worked out of the River Colne in Essex. The PIONEER is the only remaining example of a fleet of over one hundred sea smacks that dredged around the British Isles, the French channel coast and as far north as Denmark, fishing for oysters and scallops.


78. Captain Charles Ford Bishop's restored deep-sea smack PIONEER


Once there were hundreds of these deep sea smacks known as “skillingers” for their work dredging off Terschelling, a sandbank over 100 miles north-east of Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast. They plied what was described as “the hardest and cruellest trade that Essex man ever worked”. Of all these smacks only one remains. PIONEER continued working up until 1929 when dredging was no longer fruitful. After this she became a static sailing club until 1942 when she was moved to West Mersea where she became a house boat but soon after this she broke her moorings and sank. The remnant lay broken and abandoned in the mud until in 1998 a group of enthusiasts started digging. A year later, the Pioneer Sailing Trust was formed and her restoration began. On 17 May 2003 the PIONEER was re-launched with great ceremony at Brightlingsea, Essex. She now has a full sailing programme with accommodation for a group of twelve and three professional crew sailing out of Brightlingsea near Colchester on the River Colne between April and October.


Captain Charles Ford Bishop described as a Shipping Agent died of apoplexy aged 66 on 10 October 1895 at The Lawn, Worsley Road Gurnard. He left a will dated 7 June 1895 where all his real and personal estate was left to his widow Sarah Bishop. Probate was granted to the two executors, his son Henry Bishop, engineer of 'The Lawn', and his daughter Sarah Jane Bishop spinster of 72 Bolton Road Pendleton Lancashire. The will was contested by his eldest son Charles Henry Bishop but the judge pronounced on the validity of it with costs against the defendant. Unfortunately litigation about her husband’s will left his widow Sarah with very little of her inheritance. She moved out of that lovely house into “Balclutha” 133 Gordon Road Cowes after selling “The Lawn”.

   

79. the family bible of Charles Ford Bishop


It was Reginald Joyce Bishop (1893 - 1964), grandson of Charles Ford Bishop, who mentioned many years ago to his nephew Raymond George Bishop, that there was a Bishop family bible as well as lots of stationery from his grandfather's business as a yacht agent in Cowes but he had no idea what had become of it and in time this was forgotten.


In the 1960s a Mrs. Edna Cooke found an old bible in the attic of a house she was renting at 45 Bernard Road, Cowes, where Reginald Joyce Bishop was born. This was a King James I version of the Holy Bible of the mid 1670s (published in 1767) which was dilapidated and dirty and with no front or back cover. I wonder who the original owner could have been nearly 250 years ago? Edna Cooke was a keen supporter of her church, served in the WAAF during the war and later taught at Priory Boys' School in Newport IOW. Instead of being discarded she kept it and on her death it passed through several hands to the present owner, a Mrs Carr living in Horley, Surrey. Mrs Carr, whilst pursuing her own family history, discovered on the Internet that Heather Dywer, at the other side of the world in Australia, was distantly related to Charles Ford Bishop and wondered if she would like this bible. Heather suggested it would be of great interest to a direct descendant, namely, Charles Ford Bishop's great grandson living in Oldham, Greater Manchester. It has now been generously returned to him and has been beautifully restored. What an amazing coincidence after all these years.

    

80. The Bishop's family King James bible published in 1767


This magnificent family bible is now back in the hands of Captain Charles Ford Bishop's great grandson Raymond George Bishop. This treasure, dirty, battered and with no cover, has now been beautifully restored. The family bible records the marriage of Charles Ford Bishop to Sarah Hickman at St. Peter's Church, Liverpool on 14 June 1855 and the births of their seven children (they did have nine children but two died only a few months old).


   

81. Edna Cooke in WAAF uniform      82. Raymond George Bishop with the bible


83. Gurnard, Isle of Wight


In the 1901 Census Sarah Bishop was living on her own means at 133 Gordon Road Cowes (close to where her son James lived in Martello Terrace) with her unmarried daughter Sarah Jane and unmarried son Henry who was an engineer turner.


Sarah Bishop the widow of Charles Ford Bishop died aged 72 on 4 August 1902 at “Balclutha” Gordon Road Cowes. She died of cerebral hemorrhage being in a coma for four days. Sarah left a will leaving all to her two unmarried children, Sarah Jane and Henry.

84. The Big Five racing off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes Week 1926


Cowes, Isle of Wight, is an international home for yachtsmen and yachting at the mouth of the Medina river, providing extensive racing for all types of vessels. At the beginning of the 19th century the population was about 2,000 but by 1857 the number had grown to 6,000 mainly because of the interest in sailing. The prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron took up residence in Henry VIII’s castle on the Parade in 1858. It was the first yacht club in Britain to organise yacht racing. The sailing season, with the Annual Regatta and Cowes Week, took place just after Goodwood. Membership was very carefully vetted from among the richer members of society and in 1869 entry cost 15 guineas and annual subscription £8. Other traditional sailing clubs were attached to Cowes and played their part in its development and today there are also younger clubs for a wide variety of smaller boats. Cowes was a place in which to be seen during the sailing season, a bastion of privilege, with royalty and other ‘celebrities’ present but free to move unhindered about the island. Quality shops opened – Benzies, jewellers; Bekens photographers, all “by appointment”. Boat-building and sail-making flourished.


From about 1880 the popularity of steam yachts rose and racing yacht designs became very specialized. It was said that “nobody will look at you unless you have a steam launch”. People went to church, lunch and dinner in their steam launch. In the town a poorly-furnished room was being let to visitors for 30/- (£1.50) – a scandalous amount for the time. Nevertheless, the presence of the Prince of Wales’ yacht ‘Britannia’ in 1893 gave racing a tremendous boost until threatened by changes brought about by the upheaval of the Great War and subsequent events.