top of page

Frank Champion - Basketmaker

In October 1770, Abraham Champion, originally from Curry Rivel, married Unity Winslade, a member of one of Stoke’s oldest families. In 1782 they called their third child Abraham, who, in 1811, married into an even older Stoke family when he wed Joan (also recorded as Jean and Johanne) Hembrow, daughter of Richard & Sarah Hembrow. When Abraham and Joan’s first child was christened Alfred in 1813, Abraham was listed as a stone mason. In the 1841 census Alfred was also listed as a Mason, and building became  regular family occupaion. In 1861, at the age of 14, Alfred’s son George was already listed as a Mason. And we all remember ‘Stoke’s Biggest Builder’ - Rex Champion.


In February 1837 Alfred joined the Champions with yet another old Stoke family when he married Charlotte Dare. They lived in a house by the river, now Chatsworth Cottage where John & Paddy Scott lived, and by 1841 they had Ann, age 3, William, 2 and James 1 month. Twenty years later James was still living at home along with the more recent children, Henry, 17, George, 14, Jane, 12 & Ann, 4.


The Old Footbridge at Turkey

It’s George we follow now. In 1871 he was a qualified Mason, still living at Chatworth Cottage, but shortly after that he married Ann Winchester of the Kings Head in Athelney. They lived in a cottage, now demolished, very near the south end of the present bridge at Turkey. George died in December 1880, age 34, leaving his widow, Annie with twins Oliver & Albert, age 6, Frank, 4, Amelia, 2 & Fanny, 5 months. The family then moved to the Kings Head, to live with Ann,s widowed father, Samuel Winchester and his son, also Samuel. In the 1991 Census, Annie’s son Frank, age 14, was listed as an employee ‘Learning Basket Work’


Mrs Winchester Outside the Kings Head, Athelney

Frank went to work for Thomas Hector of Willow House, East Lyng and, in May 1896,  he married the boss’s daughter, 19 year old Beatrice Anne. By 1901 he was already an employer in the wicker chair business and the couple had two children, Walter, age 2, and Elsie, 1. In about 1906 the moved back to the river bank in Stanmoor to the building known then (as now), as Stanmoor Cottage.


Next week we hear more about Frank’s son, Albert, but we finish this episode with a picture of the first wicker coffin made in the area. Frank Champion made it for a Mr E House of Curry Rivel in 1916, a year that brought great sadness to the family and many more people in Stoke . . .

bottom of page