An Introduction to ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’

Miss Fanny Chapman - read her diaries online.

Welcome to the diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman. Those of you who read our blog ‘All Things Georgian‘ will be aware that as well as working on our book ‘An Infamous Mistress’ we have also been working with George and Amanda Rosenberg to produce the transcripts of Fanny’s diaries onto this blog. George and Amanda have been immensely busy researching and transcribing the diaries over the past few years and they have become a true labour of love. They have tried to keep the original spellings as they were in the diary.

By using the links at the top of the page you will be able to read her detailed diaries about the fascinating day to day  of a single, 30 something woman who lived with her aunt during the Regency period. The diaries begin part way through 1807 and end in 1812 before picking up again to cover the period from 1837 to 1840.

The owners of these documents (part of George’s family), along with many items of correspondence have deposited them at the Alexander Turnbull Library in the National Library of New Zealand, so should you wish to see the originals they are held there.

Fanny Chapman’s diaries were kept in the form of notebooks and a number of loose pages, dating from 1807, whilst she lived near Bath, with her aunts, Jemima Powell and Mary Neate, with regular visits in the earlier years by the owner of their house, her uncle by marriage, Colonel John Hutton Cooper. The diaries describe the everyday life, the circle of friends and social routine of the minor gentry of the time.

To set the scene before introducing her diaries we thought we would tell you a little about her family. We begin the story with a couple, William Neate, a North American Merchant of St Mary’s Hill, London and his wife Christiana née Appleton, Fanny’s maternal grandparents. The couple had four daughters – Christiana born in 1750, Mary born in 1755, Jemima born in 1758, and Phillis, born in 1759.

London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925 for William Neate (1774).
London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925 for William Neate (1774).

At the time of the girls’ births William was just beginning his business but by the time he died in 1775 he was extremely wealthy, regarded as one of the ‘leading lights’ in the North American trade and had just been elected as an Alderman of the City of London as a supporter and friend of the famous John Wilkes.

by Johan Joseph Zoffany, oil on canvas, exhibited 1782
Mary Wilkes; John Wilkes by Johann Joseph Zoffany oil on canvas, exhibited 1782. National Portrait Gallery NPG6133

Upon his death he left a bequest of £7,000 and some land to his eldest daughter, Christiana, and £8,000 (about half a million in today’s money) to each of the other daughters. After various other bequests he shared the remainder of his estate between them.  His wife got only the interest for life of £2,000.  Unfortunately, though he did not know it when he died, most of his fortune was to be lost – due his customers in revolutionary America reneging on their debts.

In due course, with the exception of Mary, the couple’s daughters were to marry.

Over our next few posts you will find out more about the life of each of the three daughters that married.  Mary did not marry but from snippets in Fanny’s diary we discover that she made forays into Bath, selling what Fanny regarded as ‘quack medicine’.  An ever-present spirit is that of Colonel Cooper who was doted on by the three women and who provides a sad and romantic backdrop to the story.

George and Amanda’s ‘not-so-secret‘ aim is to try to find other diarists/letter-writers of the period who have described Fanny, her relatives or friends from their point of view and would be absolutely thrilled if anyone wished to contact them about anyone named in the diaries.

We hope that you find the diaries as interesting as we do and if any of the names contained in them are familiar or possibly link to your family please feel free to contact George and his wife who would be delighted to hear from you:

George Rosenberg on Twitter @chapmandiary or via his email georgehrosenberg {at}, please replace the word in brackets with the symbol

Neate Family Tree. Click to enlarge image.



9 thoughts on “An Introduction to ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’

  1. Why are the later years diaries password protected? I have read through all the early ones already.


    • Thank you for you interest in the diaries and delighted to hear that you’ve read them all so far. We have been busily working on her later diaries which is why they are presently password protected. Fear not, they will be available to read in the next couple of days, we hope you will enjoy them.


  2. Is there any way to download the diaries (as a PDF, perhaps?) so I can read them “offline”? Thank you! These are very interesting!


    • Really sorry but we don’t have a pdf version. There are apps such as Pocket which may allow you to save the pages for offline viewing. Hope that helps 🙂


  3. For those who have enjoyed reading these diaries there is a new book just out which draws heavily on them and is an absolute gem in its own right – really worth reading. A Thankless Child, The Life and Times of Georgiana Jane Henderson (1771-1850) by Susan Bennett

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dear william in the diaries 1808 refers to fanny’s brother william neate chapman (1774-1837)

    in 1806 william was on the sir william pitt from england to sydney and best guess as the father of the daughter born to sarah reynolds (nee goodson) soon after the boat arrived in sydney

    was interested to see references to admiral arthur phillip before his stroke in 1808 (1738-1814)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear MIke,

    I have the letters written by William Neate Chapman to his family and there is no sign there that he was on the Sir William Pitt.

    In fact the letters show that at this same time he was on the HMS Belliqueux under Captain Byng and he eventually reached Madras from where he eventually moved to Java.

    The Wikipedia entry for Captain Byng includes the following:
    “Having regained his health while on half pay, Byng applied for a new command at the start of the Napoleonic Wars in May 1803. He was given the 64-gun ship of the line HMS Texel on the River Medway, and when there assumed command of the blockships stationed there. In August 1804 Byng was moved into the 50-gun fourth rate HMS Malabar and he commanded her until March 1805 when he transferred to the 64-gun ship of the line HMS Belliqueux. In autumn of the same year he sailed as part of a squadron conveying a small army under Major-General Sir David Baird to the Dutch Cape Colony, where on 18 January 1806 the force succeeded in forcing the capitulation of the settlement; for the purposes of the main attack Byng had landed in command of a battalion of marines with which he commanded a mobile artillery battery.[7] He was highly commended for his “perseverance and determination” during the expedition.[8]

    A number of East India Company ships had assisted at the Cape, and as these were no longer needed, Byng was sent to convoy them to Madras. When the ships arrived there, their captains gifted him with a £100 piece of plate in gratitude. Belliqueux then joined the East Indies Station, serving in the squadron of Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew. On 27 November they captured or destroyed a frigate, seven brigs, and twenty smaller vessels at the Dutch settlement of Batavia in a raid. In this action Byng was praised by Pellew, who signalled to him saying “Your zeal I have noticed”.[9] Byng stayed in the East Indies after this, but little of interest occurred until he was appointed a commodore in 1809 and given charge over a convoy containing an invasion force coming from Bombay to attack Rodriguez Island as the start of the Mauritius campaign. The Bombay government thanked Byng with a gift of £300 for this service. Byng and Belliqueux finally left the East Indies Station in June 1810 when he was ordered to go to China to assist in protecting British trade sailing from there.[10]”

    It would obviously be interesting to find evidence of his having had a child to Sarah Reynolds. Please would you send me a link to your source.

    Kind regards


    Liked by 1 person

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