Does anyone remember Freddy the Shrimp Man?

Freddy Chapman was a well-known figure in Colchester up to the late 1960s, selling shell and wet fish, from a barrow, to passers-by at the top of Scheregate Steps.

Now MP Bob Russell plans to donate a painting of Freddy by local tattooist and artist Dave Ross, to Colchester Art Society, and would like to find out more about the subject of his gift.

“Dave had a charity exhibition of his work at the Reeman Dansie saleroom on the Severalls Business Park – and he invited me to open it,” he said.

“The painting of Freddy particularly attracted me, so I bought it with the intention of presenting it to the town as a triple tribute to ‘Three Colchester characters: Freddy the Shrimp Man, tattooist Dave Ross and MP Bob Russell’.

Mr Russell added: “I can remember Freddy in Trinity Street, near the junction with Eld Lane and Scheregate Steps, at some point in the early 1960s. I also recall canvassing him when I stood for election to the borough council in New Town ward in the 1970s.

“One resident told me that Freddy also sold shrimps from his barrow in Morant Road, Harsnett Road and King Stephen Road – recalling one occasion when there was something of a territorial sales war between him and fishmongers Green’s in this area.

“Another told me that he believed Freddy got his shrimps, which arrived in a sack transported as luggage on the Eastern National Bus, from West Mersea – while another version has the port being Brightlingsea, but the means of transport to Colchester being the same.”

Colchester historian Patrick Denney, who included the above photo in his 1998 book Images of England: Colchester, said: “Freddy Chapman was born in Colchester in 1894 and, as a young lad, began working for someone who paid him 6d for every Saturday morning that he went out selling oysters.

“The oysters were sold for 3d a half dozen.

“Having later decided to set up business for himself, he used to go out with a tray of bloaters, wet fish, dry fish, winkles and whelks – and later, of course, he began to specalise in selling shrimps.

“Over the 60-odd years that he was trading, he went through three barrows, and was finally forced to call it a day in the late 1960s, when his supply of fresh Tollesbury shrimps dried up.

“His barrow was sold to a Tiptree family for £12 ten shillings (£12.50). They planned to make use of it on their smallholding selling strawberries to passers-by.

“Even then, Freddy didn’t stop working and continued to come into town to do a bit of cleaning work for a couple of firms.”

Val Perry, of Ladbrook Drive, Colchester, is able to add some more details.

“He always stood at the top of Scheregate Steps with his little barrow, which had green bodywork with red wheels. He was there almost every workday and always on Saturday,” she said.

“He lived in Winchester Road, next to the shop that was at the corner of Albion Grove and Winchester Road. He used to go out early in the morning, pushing his barrow. We could hear it trundling along.

“I’m not sure where he got his supply of shrimps from, but if you were in town around 10.30am, there would be Freddy with his ‘shrimps’ cry. We used to watch for him to come back from town. We lived in Myrtle Grove, which is just round the corner, and we would see if he had any shrimps left. We were allowed to knock at his home and buy them.”

* Do you remember Freddy the Shrimp Man? Write to Essex County Standard, 43-44 North Hill, Colchester, CO1 1TZ or e-mail