Brown, Sarah (1812-1879)

Transcription of Obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine.

SARAH FIRBANK was born April 17, 1812, in the village of Hunmanby, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. She was the child of good old Methodist parents; her grandfather was one of Mr. Wesley’s class-leaders. She was therefore trained in all the principles and practices of Methodism. She could not remember the time when she did not love the cause of God and religion. When the first Primitives visited the East Riding, where Primitive Methodism gained some of its greatest victories, she was among its first converts, and having joined the infant cause was soon marked as having more than usual talent for usefulness, and was soon sent out to break up new ground in Westmoreland and Cumberland, with some of the first preachers who visited those parts. This was in the year 1833. Her way was made open, and she soon became popular; her services were greatly sought after. She was about seventeen years of age when first called upon to speak for Jesus in public, and having been put on the plan, her maiden name of Sarah Brown soon became widely known. For about two years she was engaged as a travelling preacher in the Primitive Methodist Connexion. The journeys then taken were frequently very long. It was not an uncommon thing for her to walk eighteen or twenty miles and preach three times on a Sunday, and travel from eighty to one hundred miles during the week up to the following Sunday. 

In January, 1835, she was united in marriage to Mr. C. Firbank, and discontinued the regular work, but still anxious and earnest to labour as a local preacher in the Darlington Circuit. She was frequently engaged in preaching at Chapel and School Anniversaries, in the various circuits in the district. She had a large family, and her domestic duties were a great tax on her time and strength. It was only by strict and careful use of her time and making great personal sacrifice, that she was able to continue her Master’s work. 

She was a most cheerful worker in the cause of religion, and to raise fallen humanity by preaching, was her greatest delight. She continued to labour in public until twelve months ago, when her failing health prevented her taking an active part in the Church; but she was ever ready to do her utmost to forward the cause of Christ, to seek out the desolate and afflicted, and tell them of the consolation of religion. At home in the midst of her family her highest aim was to increase the happiness of those around her.

Her last sufferings were very great, so much so, that it would have been cruel to have asked her any questions. It was impossible for her to talk or give instructions. What a blessing it was that she had not religion to seek when her sufferings were so acute, but that having loved and served God for years, she was ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus,’ and could peacefully pillow her head on ‘Christ’s gentle breast.’ She never murmured at her sufferings nor thought them hard to bear, but said, ‘I am satisfied.’ She loved the cause she had spent her life in, cheerfully supported it, and loved its ministers. She travelled hundreds of miles to benefit its funds, as an unpaid agent, and collected hundreds of pounds for its support. Now she ‘rests from her labours, and her works follow her.’

In connection with the London 9th Circuit, she laboured cheerfully and acceptably. Her motherly presence will be much missed, and her kindly voice will be no more heard on earth. Our loss is her infinite gain. She exchanged mortality for life, August 30, 1879, in the sixty-eighth year of her age. She has left a sorrowing husband and nine children to mourn her loss, and to follow her sweetly to Heaven.


Sarah was born on 17 April 1812 at Hunmanby, Yorkshire, into a Wesleyan Methodist family.  She was baptised on 18 April 1812 at Hunmanby. Her parents were John and Ellen. Sarah was one of the first converts when the PMs visited the East Riding of Yorkshire. She became a local preacher at 17 (1829), then a travelling preacher (1833/4) and was pledged by the Hull circuit (1834). After marriage  she reverted to local preacher status in the Darlington circuit. Sarah married Christopher Firbank (1814-1883), a coal miner, on 7 February 1835 at Etherley, Co. Durham. Christopher later became a railway inspector. Census returns identify ten children.

  • Jane (1836-1900)
  • Ralph (1837-1882) – a civil engineer (1871)
  • Thomas (abt1839-1901) – a railway engine driver (1871)
  • John Brown (1840-1910) – a mechanical engineer (1871); a blacksmith (1901)
  • Elizabeth Ellen (b1842) – a house-keeper (1871)
  • Sarah (b1844) – a dressmaker (1871); married John Hadley, a carpenter, in 1884
  • Joseph (abt1847-1924) – a builder’s general foreman (1901); verger at parish church (1911)
  • Jabez Henry (1849-1913) – a manager to railways contractor (1911)
  • Christopher (1853-1922) – a superintendent of railway works (1881)
  • Barbara Harriet (1854-1872)

Sarah died on the 20th August 1879 in the Pancras Registration District, London.


  • 1834 Hull
  • 1835 disappears


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1881/631

E Dorothy Graham, Primitive Methodist Women

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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