Matt Copeman


  1.   Matt Copeman was born in Stanley in1928 to James and Elizabeth. He had  three sisters, Dorothy, Maureen and Laura.  Dorothy (Dorrie) the eldest was 10 years older than Matt. She often gave him treats as she was already working when Matt started school. On leaving school Matt. went to work as a stock taker in the Angle Mill at Consett Iron Works. He later transferred to Bradley Workshops for training as a mill-wright. In 1939 aged 21 he went to Reyrolles of Hebben as a mill-wright improver. Playing football was his great love .closely followed by his motor bike (he later sold this to buy Jeans engagement ring).


  •    During the war he joined the navy serving on minesweepers. In November 1943 he married Jean having met her while she attended the Grammar school in Stanley.  While on special leave for his wedding, Matt’s ship was torpedoed and lost with all the crew. Jean often called this “The hand of providence”. Some seven mine layers were lost in1943, all except the Bramble  in the Mediterranean, (Clacton, Felixstowe, Hebe, Cromarty, Hythe, MMS No.70, Bramble)
  •         Brian, his son was born 1944, and his daughter Margaret in 1950. Matt never forgot his naval service; he and Jean he attended the Royal Naval Patrol Service annual reunions at Lowestoft and made many new friends.
  •       After the war he became an underground fitter at Vane Tempest Colliery, moving to Manor Road. In 1954 the family moved to Crichton Avenue, Chester le Street. Thereafter he was employed by Austen Hopkinson, which later became Pikrose( Hydraulic, transport and lifting equipment for mining). He travelled widely for them including a trip to India. He remained with Pikrose until early retirement in 1981. He and Jean bought a new campervan and  embarked on many exciting trips in it, eventually visiting most of Europe, including countries like Poland. In between trips they frequently visiting Margaret and husband WaIter in Warrington where his only grandson James was born in 1982. James enjoyed many happy holidays in Chester le Street with grandma and grandad.
  •         Shortly after moving to Crichton Avenue he had a workshop built in the garden that enabled him to pursue his interest in model engineering using his lathe and welding equipment to make model engines that took years of intricate work and skill to complete. He was a member of Chester le Street Model Engineers Society and spent many happy weekends at their track near Riverside Park. He was a member of the group of model engineers from Chester-le Street who joined the “Historic Engineers” who later became Beamish Model Engineers group (BMEG). In the early days of building the rack railway he was an enthusiastic and energetic worker.
  • His jokes were legendary, as was the strength of the tea he brewed. When Matt. moved to Lambton House with increasing memory loss he gave the contents of his workshop to the model engineering group at Beamish who were impressed by the range of projects he had tackled. We now keep a number of his models and trophies on display in our workshop.
  •   IMG_0982a
  • In the millennium Matt and Jean completed a computer training course which he found useful in keeping in contact with family members. At that time he was still keeping them virtually self-sufficient in vegetables which he grew in their allotment as he had done for most of their time at Crichton Avenue.
  •   Before Jean sadly died from breast cancer in January 2010 they managed to celebrate 66 years of marriage in November 2009. While she was in St Cuthbert’s Hospice, the staff arranged a cake and close family were all able to attend.   As his memory loss increased Matt. went to live in Lambton House so he could be safely cared for.
  •     Matt  Died in November 2013. I am indebted to Matt’s daughter, Margaret Whiley for providing information from the family history written by Jean Copeman, and to Jim Duncan a long-time friend as well as members of the Chester-Le-Street ME group.


mat copeman
[BMEG] [STOP PRESS] [Social media] [bmegsite] [New Roof] [Projects] [Newsletter] [Organisation] [PHOTOS] [LINKS] [MAIL] [John Moore] [Matt Copeman] [Ken Challoner]