Legend of the Bottomless, Haunted Pit
Mysteries lurking in the waters of the legendary “bottomless pit”, otherwise known as ‘Chapman’s Pond’, are endless.
Not only is it incredibly rare to have such a vast and deep pool of natural water so close to the sea, it has also captured the imagination of locals and is now a firm part of the area’s folklore.
The pond has become local legend over the years, the most popular of which is that it is bottomless.
Some believe that the ghost of a young girl who fell in and drowned now haunts it. There have been several reports of her allegedly splashing about in the pond screaming for help. It is said that when the alarm is being raised, she vanishes without a trace.
Others believe a runaway horse and cart fell into the pit. There have also been sightings of a figure plunging into it from the neighboring Water Tower.
Before strict health and safety laws, and in the days before the invention of game consoles and the internet, children would play by the pond to catch sticklebacks with home made fishing rods and nets, often scaring each other with ghost stories. The pond was also very popular amongst anglers.
However the pond was eventually fenced off to the public and has remained that way ever since.
So, are we to assume that by using the word ‘bottomless’, Chapman’s Pond extends through the Earth and way beyond, forever, into the boundlessness of space?
The truth is, the pond is actually 9.5 meters deep at its deepest and is approximately 150 x 170 meters surface diameters. The bottom is apparently quite flat, not ranging much more than roughly 3 meters from the deepest point.
However, Chapman’s Pond didn’t originate as a pond. It was formerly two brick pits. A family named ‘Good’ owned one pit, the other (western side) was owned by a Mr Thomas Taylor Chapman and his family.
Thomas Chapman came to own the pit through Benjamin Chapman who, in the Enclosure Award of 1846, was awarded 18 acres of land on the north side of Grimsby Road, in the Beaconthorpe area of Cleethorpes. This included what we now know as Chapman’s Road, Bennett Road and Chapman’s Pond.
Thomas Taylor Chapman was born in 1834 but died in 1881, the same year that work commenced at the brick pit. He is reported to have been a leading member of the town of Cleethorpes and was very influential in the rise of Wesleyan religion in Cleethorpes and North Lincolnshire.
He had ten children, of whom eight survived. It is interesting to know that this notable local family produced several well-known and eminent people such as Ernest Benjamin Chapman who co-founded the local firm of solicitors Wilkin and Chapman; Osmund Harry Chapman, who was a well-known G.P. in Lincoln; and Harold Chapman who was a Methodist Minister. One of the most interesting perhaps was, Sir Harry Chapman Sinderson, first child of Maud Chapman (grandson of Thomas Taylor Chapman), who was a medical doctor to the King of Iraq from 1921 – 1946 and wrote a book about his experiences called ‘A Thousand and One Nights’.
When Thomas Taylor Chapman died, his son called Walwyn Thomas Chapman, born in 1864, became head of the family and owner of the brick works at the age of 17 years old. He worked hard to keep the family and the brick works going and was very successful. He later went on to be heavily involved in the development of the town and became Chair of the first local school Board that built Barcroft Street School in 1896.
As the family brick works business expanded, in 1909 Walwyn Thomas Chapman took a lease of the adjoining brickyard, known as the ‘Good’s’ brick pit.
As a result, the pit area had a considerable amount of buildings, which included a clay modeling shop and drying sheds, a brickmaking shop and several kilns. It also owned a shop and office on Grimsby Road, which is now a motor bicycle retailer.
The pit staffed about 25 men. A Mr. J Turner was the chief and Foreman. The Chief Modeler was a man called Thacker. They also had an engineer for the winding and pumping engine, who also looked after the boilers. There was in addition a stoker and 2 carters, one of who was named Rhodeas and a boy who took the dogcart out with the small deliveries.
The modeling shop did the work of clay slip casting. They did much intricate work, which adorned many homes of Cleethorpes and Grimsby. This Terra-Cotta work was extremely fine and Chapman’s pit was the only place in the area where such work was undertaken. They also made a lot of decorative panels, gable ends and eave moldings, as well as shaping bricks. On the whole, this was one of the most successful of the brick pits in the area.
On top of being the owner of this successful Chapman’s brick pit, Walwyn Thomas Chapman also became the Manager of other pits, including: Conyard Road, Pyewipe Road and Barnoldby Road in Waltham (owned by a Mr. Allison).
These Manager positions were a high commendation of the success of Walwyn, especially when one considers that he started as a half trained auctioneer and accountant.
In 1894, Walwyn’s son was born, named Walwyn Henry Chapman, also known as Henry. He was named after his father and his maternal grandfather Henry Morris, who became a very successful trawler owner, and was a director of The Great Grimsby Coal Salt and Tanning Company Ltd.
The many years of success by the Chapman’s family and their brick pit, perhaps saw the beginning of the end during the summer of 1904. During that year saw what would later become the legend of ‘Chapman’s Pond’, when a water spring broke out in the bottom of the pit. It is believed that these types of springs are prevalent in this area, as the local waterworks company tapped several, to provide a water supply for Cleethorpes.
Due to this spring, the pit began to fill with water rapidly but a new engine was brought from Lincoln – possibly a Ruston & Nornsby – to keep the water level down. This was a steam engine and is reported to have caused quite a stir in the district.
The water level was taken down until an iron pipe was put onto the spring and secured by a quantity of bricks and mortar. The weight of this construction and the pump managed to keep the pit dry.
As a result, the spring was kept under control and the brickworks continued as normal. The future ‘Chapman’s Pond’ had not yet been formed, although the discovery of the spring certainly set the ball in motion.
Misfortune for the Chapman family continued on a down hill spiral, as in 1911, a 5 day court case was heard in London involving the street to the west of the pit called Suggitt’s Lane. The landowner, Mr. William James Nuttall Suggitt (born in 1835) sued Walwyn Thomas Chapman for damages, alleging that the brick pit had undermined his land, causing some of it to slip and flood his street. Walwyn Thomas Chapman paid £30 into court, but judgment was awarded against him, with the amount of damages to be decided by another judge at a later date. The damages eventually awarded were £250, plus of course Mr. Suggitt’s costs.
Furthermore to the misfortune of the Chapman family, in 1915, during World War One, Walwyn Thomas Chapman was ordered to close the pit as the lights of the kilns were attracting attention from German Zeppelins. The engines were stopped and as a result, the pit was allowed to fill with water, to its present level.
Some of the Kilns were put out of action immediately and after the War were re-fired and the goods they contained sold. The products are reported to have been as good as new.
The pit itself was never opened again as a working pit. Instead it was left derelict, becoming known as ‘Chapman’s Pond’.
As a result of the newly formed, unused, fresh water area, Abbey Farm in Ludborough, introduced fish into the pond in 1919, which was enjoyed by locals for fishing.
Walwyn Thomas Chapman died in 1920. During his lifetime, not only had he been a Brickworks Manager for several pits, and owner of Chapman’s Pit, he was also a County Councillor, Justice of the Peace and Superintendent of a Methodist Sunday School.
Just before the Second World War, the Chapman family had its last dealing with the pit, as the local Waterworks bought it from them because they thought it was connected to their own water supplies. As a result, a rumour started that the pit would be filled with rubbish but this never happened.
However, it was only when it was sold that the family realized Walwyn Thomas Chapman rented the other part of the pit from the ‘Good’ family, which resulted in several months of tracking the remaining members of the ‘Good’ family down.
This century old landmark and surrounding land was eventually fenced off to the public and has remained that way ever since, with its new owners earmarking it for residential development.
We have now established that Chapman’s Pond is in fact not bottomless and was formally a Brick Pit, what about the other legends of the pond?
Many people believe that a runaway horse and cart fell into Chapman’s Pond. There is in fact some truth to this story although not as legend tells it. Evidence suggests that the brick pit involved in this tale was not what we know now as Chapman’s Pond. It was in fact, the brick pit on Conyard Road, which was managed by Walwyn Thomas Chapman but not owned by him. In 1914, the Conyard Road brick pit was filled with water and ash from a destructor plant. During the filling of the pit, a horse still in the shafts that was attached to a cart, ran backwards into the water, and the horse tragically drowned.
As for the ghost stories and Folklore surrounding Chapman’s Pond, that is perhaps a question, which I will leave to your imagination.
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