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Edgar Chapman (1831–1886)

by G. L. Fischer

This article was published:

Edgar Chapman (1831-1886), by unknown photographer, c1875

Edgar Chapman (1831-1886), by unknown photographer, c1875

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 15059

Edgar Chapman (1831-1886), brewer, pastoralist and theatre proprietor, was born on 3 June 1831 at Sevenoaks, Kent, England, the second son of James Chapman and his wife Mary. In 1850 the family arrived in Adelaide where James established a drapery business. Edgar early became a clerk and in 1854-63 lived at Kooringa (Burra) where he entered into partnership with Charles James Ware in brewing and probably hotel-keeping. In 1860 Ware & Chapman acquired Fenton's brewery at Clare. They also jointly conducted pastoral operations and in 1862 bought World's End run, east of Burra, from Donald McDonald. The locality was not favourable and drought and revaluation by George Goyder drove them out in 1867. Chapman claimed that World's End was his first pastoral venture but he was not dismayed with the experience and from 1868 held on his own account at least fourteen leases covering a total of 1300 sq. miles (3367 km²) at Kallioota near Lake Torrens, and Mundowdna and other localities near Lake Eyre, on which he ran cattle and sheep. This pastoral activity was buttressed in 1866-79 with more lucrative brewing operations in Adelaide in partnership with William Knox Simms. From 1874 they also ran for a time the prosperous Adelaide brewery at Waverley, Sydney. Their West End brewery was later acquired by the South Australian Brewing Co. In 1875 Chapman served on the committee of the Adelaide Jockey Club.

In 1878 Chapman acquired portions of acres 48 and 49 in Hindley Street, near King William Street, Adelaide. He was probably assisted in this negotiation by his brother, Arthur, a hotel broker and land agent in Adelaide. The Hindley Street freehold included several shops, the Eagle Hotel, and the Theatre Royal which had been built in 1868. In 1878 Chapman financed the rebuilding and enlarging of the Theatre Royal (rebuilt again in 1914) and it became Adelaide's foremost theatre, most of the notable Australian and overseas actors, actresses and companies appearing there. The theatre closed in 1962 and was later demolished. Chapman's support for the Theatre Royal may not have been unconnected with his interest in brewing, since a hotel with three bars was an important adjunct to his theatre. After a long illness Chapman died at Adelaide on 11 September 1886 and was buried according to Anglican rites. On 5 February 1853 he had married Frances Rachel (b.1 December 1830), the second daughter of John and Catherine Kelsh who migrated first to Tasmania. They had at least seven children. His estate was sworn for probate at under £4848.

Select Bibliography

  • Register (Adelaide), 13 Sept 1886.

Citation details

G. L. Fischer, 'Chapman, Edgar (1831–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Edgar Chapman (1831-1886), by unknown photographer, c1875

Edgar Chapman (1831-1886), by unknown photographer, c1875

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 15059

Life Summary [details]


3 June, 1831
Sevenoaks, Kent, England


11 September, 1886 (aged 55)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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