Sunderland Flag Lane Primitive Methodist chapel

the agency of persons lightly thought of in the world's estimation

Return from Sunderland Primitive Methodist chapel in the 1851 Census of Places of Public Religious Worship
transcribed by David Tonks

Sunderland Flag Lane Primitive Methodist chapel, in a small alley in a poor working class area of the town, was first opened in September 1824, two years after Primitive Methodists missionaries “commenced their regular work in Sunderland.” Flag Street was brought about by “the agency of persons lightly thought of in the world’s estimation .. the active agents in the erection of this building were mostly labouring men of small means, that had only been for a short time brought to God.

It was particularly impressive, given the scale of the chapel.  It measured 39′(w) x 78′(l) and was built to hold at least 1,000 and could accommodate over 1,500

The opening is described in the Primitive Methodist magazine by Nathaniel West who in masterly understatement notes that there was an eventful story behind the buildingof the chapel. Opening services were held on Friday and Sunday 3rd and 5th September 1824. Preachers were Brothers J Farrar, J Nelson, J Gilbert, F N Jersey and N West.

With the chapel schools for 600 were built. The gospel spread quickly; by 1858 within the borough of Sunderland there were 6 chapels and 6 Sunday schools, with 244 teachers, 1275 scholars and 786 society members.

In March 1858 there was a major problem, described in the Primitive Methodist magazine by John Lightfoot. Major sewer repairs in the road behind the chapel caused the back wall to “shrink” and put the building in danger of collapse. The society became trapped in a protracted legal dispute between the corporation and the contractor. The rebuilding cost the society £600; they hoped that £405 would come from arbitration in the legal dispute.

The chapel re-opened from 23rd August 1858 with services and a tea meeting for 700. Speakers included Rev W Sanderson of Kirton Lindsey, Rev S Antliff of Nottingham and John Halcro.


Primitive Methodist magazine 1825 pages 159-165

Primitive Methodist magazine November 1858 pp.682-683


Comments about this page

  • I was wondering if 1772 was a typo as the happy couple were your great-grandparents. Sunderland Registry Office will provide a copy of the marriage certificate, if you haven’t already got one, which will tell you exactly which Primitive Methodist chapel they married in. The records for the chapel should be in Tyne and Wear Archives, if it is no longer in use. The guide to Methodist registers in Tyne and Wear Archives suggest it was replaced by Cleveland Road. Perhaps someone else, who is an expert on the Sunderland chapels, will also respond to your request. Happy hunting.

    By Philip Thornborow (06/09/2023)
  • I do apologise regarding my earlier post the date should have been 1872

    By Dawn King (05/09/2023)
  • To follow on from Chris Hill’s comment, Thomas W. Elstob and Sarah Copeland must have married in an Anglican parish church as that was the only way to be legally wed before 1837.

    By Philip Thornborow (05/09/2023)
  • Thomas W. Elstob and Sarah Copeland could not have been married in a Methodist chapel in 1772. Primitive Methodism dates from 1807/1810, although other Methodist followers of John Wesley date back to 1784.

    By Christopher Hill (04/09/2023)
  • I believe my great grandparents Thomas W. Elstob and Sarah Copeland were married here in 1772. Would there be any records, is the chapel still there.

    By Dawn King (04/09/2023)
  • Just learning that my gg/grandmother attended this church, perhaps the mid 1800’s if not earlier. Her name was Jane Parker, who was the mother of Margaret Morrell, who was the mother of Jane Moralee.

    By Irene Harwood (31/08/2023)
  • The National Archives :
    Flag Lane Primitive Methodist Chapel, Sunderland,
    ref. RG 4/1098, births/baptisms 1837-1857, etc.*

    *etc.: also leading up to civil registration 1823/4-1837.


    By Raymond E. O. Ælla (08/03/2022)

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