* * *
REPRODUCED FROM AN ARTICLE IN THE HAMPSHIRE MAGAZINE. MARCH 2001
BODIES HIS BUSINESS - by Lesley Drew
Among the many thousands of people who visit Winchester are some who head not for the Cathedral, St Cross or the Round Table. Their destination is premises in Bridge Street, nestling below St.Giles Hill, a stone's throw from the Old Chesil Rectory. Highly polished brass plaques announce the services of those within and at the top is that of John Chapman ND,DO,FRH.
In this corner of the city, quietly and for nearly thirty years, John Chapman, Osteopath, Homoeopath and Medical Herbalist, has been helping his fellow man with compassion and dedication.
Housed in one room of the Clinic are patient files, numbering around 14,000. Though modern technology is used, the patient files have not been computerised; the personal touch is maintained.
Although there is still scepticism today over the benefits of alternative medicine, more and more people are embracing it, and the word Osteopath no longer raises dark suspicion, as it once did. It was a strange route that led John Chapman towards a profession about which the average man in the street knew very little.
Born in Dagenham in 1935, where father was a Ford Car Worker, John was the eldest of a family of six children. He attended the local schools until the age of fourteen, when his mother died. Being of an age when he could go to work, it was deemed he could remain in the family home with father, but his five siblings were all sent away to different orphanages. Father was rarely at home, and John's life became somewhat solitary. He obtained an office job, where he remained as a general factotum, for three years. Then at 17, he went to work in a garage. Although called up for National Service at 18, John failed the medical examination when it was discovered he had a tubercular lung and so he remained at the garage, becoming an apprentice mechanic.
Garage work was not for him however and he decided to train for the jewellery business. Within three years he was a jewellery shop manager, remaining so for five years, but although successful, he knew he wanted to do more with his life. He knew he had the potential for something else.
Having read an advertising feature about Osteopaths in a newspaper, his interest was aroused. He contacted the Osteopathic Training School in Bournemouth, discovered more about the virtually unknown subject, and joined the training course. It was a good move. From the outset John Chapman proved a complete `natural'. Before he had completed his training, the School was asking him to take on the teaching of some students and when he was trained, asked him to remain on the staff.
The school, known as The Guild of Osteopaths, moved to premises in Worthy Road, Winchester. So it was that John Chapman came to the city, in possession of a Diploma in Osteopathy to which he subsequently added Homoeopathy and Medical Herbalist qualifications.
It was in Winchester in 1971, that John's personal fortunes were to take a change. He had married in Bournemouth, but not successfully, and he was now a single parent with three children to care for. Working for the establishment was an attractive lady, who, like him, was also bringing up three children single-handedly. Before long, partnership in all directions, was proposed, as it was agreed John would teach Gillian osteopathy.
The couple decided to set up their own practice and in 1973 found a dilapidated premises to rent in Bridge Street. They were told in two years the building was due for demolition to make way for road building. They however set to work creating suitable surgery and reception areas, undertaking much of the work themselves. They also created a home upstairs for their large family, which was shortly to be sealed as one, with the birth of a seventh child, a daughter. Five years later the road scheme was abandoned.
The practice began with John working alone. With seven children, they were agreed Gillian's priority was as a mother. As business grew, Gillian worked in reception. The early years required a lot of faith and patience for patients arrived at the clinic slowly. The Chapmans did not advertise, preferring to wait for the word of mouth recommendations. However a big breakthrough came when the local BBC Radio studio in Southampton asked John Chapman if he would be willing to take part in a series of programmes. It did not get off to an auspicious start, when, due to traffice, John arrived in the studio late and had to go in front of the microphone without any pre-knowledge of what he would be asked. What he did say, obviously had a strong impact on listeners, for that evening the telephone did not cease ringing with requests for appointments.
As the children grew older, so Gillian was able to join the clinic professionally in her own right, as well as taking charge of the dispensing side of the business. Then one daughter announced that she too would like to become a Homoeopath and join the family firm. Maria was sent to train at a Homoeopathic School in London. Hers is now the third brass plaque on the door.
The years have seen a lowering of barriers between general practice medicine and alternative medicine, and John Chapman frequently has contact with General Practitioners over patients. The Prince of Wales has had much to do with the promotion and acceptance of natural cures by the public and a member of the Royal Household has been a visitor to the Winchester Clinic. Patients now come from well beyond Hampshire, indeed, from many parts of the country, and prescriptions are dispatched to people in Spain, France and Germany. They come from all walks of life, builders and postmen, judges and medical doctors. A large percentage of the people on the patient list are families and almost one third are children, from babies with teething problems upwards. Many could tell a story of care and gratitude, but John Chapman's confidentiality is absolute. One elderly man attended the clinic with an unknown condition which had failed to respond to general medicine over a vast number of years. He was not promised a cure at the clinic, but he came away with tears in his eyes.
"I really felt he cared about me" he said of Mr Chapman. And that is the core of the man. John Chapman cares. Behind his quiet calm serenity is a passion to do the best he can for those who come to him. He is constantly researching possibilities into various conditions and in 1991 the result in the field of asthma was his book "Asthmatics Action Plan".
It was widely acclaimed by all connected with the medical world, as was its sequel, in 1993 "The Asthma Action Plan". Currently he is writing a book on "Case Histories".
Up until the end of last year, John Chapman was also a "mentor" for students of osteopathy who require clinical experience before going out to practice themselves.
In private life, John is first and foremost a man devoted to his wife and family of seven, now added to by in-laws and grandchildren. A younger daughter, Julie, has in the past couple of years joined the practice as a receptionist. Never a man to sit and do nothing, he has demonstrated a talent for painting and novel writing. A more recent interest is photography. One patient once asked if there was anything he couldn't do. "No," he replied, not immodestly, but rather humorously, adding "but there is nothing you cannot do either if you really want to do it."
The work of the Osteopath-Homoeopath is exacting, both physically, mentally and emotionally. The dedication of John Chapman is phenominal and as such, it drives his family to distraction that he has to be dragged away occasionally for a short-break holiday. The day will inevitably come when he will need, however unwillingly, to hang up his white coat. Maybe when that day arrives, and given the climate of acceptance of alternative medicine, there will be others inspired by such as he, to continue the dispensing of hope and care. There is no doubt there are very many people whose lives have been touched by the compassion and skill of John Chapman.
Send mail to
questions or comments about this web site.