Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edward Shirley Chapman (1859–1925)

by Raymond Nobbs

This article was published:

Edward Shirley Chapman (1859-1925), insurance manager, was born on 9 September 1859 at Lower Fort Street, Sydney, son of Edward Chapman, insurance-manager and merchant from Cornwall, and his wife Elizabeth Steele, née Perkins, born in Devon, England. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, and later at Alleyn's College of God's Gift (Dulwich College), London, in 1878 he went to St John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1882; M.A., 1885), where he won his blue for Rugby football. On returning to Australia he played for New South Wales between 1883 and 1884 against Queensland and New Zealand.

His father had established the insurance firm of Edward Chapman & Co. in Sydney in 1854 and extended operations to Melbourne in 1875; in 1884 he retired and Edward became a senior partner of the firm with his brother Percy Steele. The main office remained at Bond Street, Sydney; by 1908 he had opened branches in Brisbane and Perth, with chief agencies in Adelaide, Hobart, in Newcastle and Tamworth, New South Wales, and Bendigo and Geelong in Victoria. The firm had the unusual feature of conducting only insurance business at a time when most of it was largely carried on as a side-line by estate agents, chartered accountants and importers. While Chapman & Co. were the Australian managers and underwriters for the Aachen & Munich Fire Insurance Co., Reliance Marine Insurance Co. Ltd, Merchants' Marine Insurance Co. Ltd and World Marine and General Insurance Co. Ltd, the greatest volume of business came from representing the Employers' Liability Assurance Corporation Ltd of London. Chapman was an ardent worker in the interests of his profession, and was a foundation member and later chairman of the Fire Underwriters' Association of New South Wales, and vice-president of the Council of Underwriters. He was also a director of the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Co. Ltd, the Port Jackson Investment and Insurance Co. Ltd and D. Mitchell & Co. Ltd, wholesale grocers and general merchants.

Chapman was closely associated with the Australian Jockey Club and was a member of the Australian clubs in Sydney and Melbourne, the Royal Sydney Golf Club, and the National Liberal Club, London. On 11 January 1905 at Glebe, he married a widow Mina Rowland, née Aird. They were enthusiastic supporters of the (Royal) Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals, becoming life governors in 1922. A stall and a kennel were named the 'Shirley Chapman' after he made donations to the Convalescent Home for Horses at Little Bay and to the King Edward Dogs' Home at Waterloo. Mina's gifts, totalling £450, in 1922-23 helped to established a dispensary and motor ambulance for dogs. In June 1924 the Chapmans represented the Australian branches of the society at its centenary congress in London.

Survived by his wife, Chapman died of cancer at his Longueville home on 31 December 1925 and was buried in the Church of England section of the Northern Suburbs cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £11,395.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Commerce in Congress (Syd, 1909)
  • D. Mitchell & Co. Ltd, 50 Years of Progress, 1866-1916 (Syd, 1916)
  • S.P.C.A. (Lond), Report of the International Humane Congress (Lond, 1924)
  • R.S.P.C.A., Annual Report, 1922-26
  • R.S.P.C.A. Journal, Nov, Dec 1924, Nov 1926
  • Australasian Insurance and Banking Record, 21 Jan 1926
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Jan 1926
  • G. G. Pursell, The Development of Non-Life Insurance in Australia (Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1963).

Citation details

Raymond Nobbs, 'Chapman, Edward Shirley (1859–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 September, 1859
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


31 December, 1925 (aged 66)
Longueville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.