Chapman, Matthew Henry (1873-1923)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference by S Palmer

Matthew H. Chapman was a North man, and the South Shields Circuit, where he was born in 1873, and so was only fifty when he died. His mother, a charming lady survives him, and is still resident in his native town. His first wife was a Shields’ lady, and the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elstob, who for many years have taken a prominent part in the work of our churches there. I first met Harry Chapman, as we always called him, at the Hartley College in 1895. In appearance and behaviour he was always the Christian gentleman. He was a fairly frequent visitor to our home during the long span of twenty-six years, and never did he by speech or act therein, detract from the high estimate we formed of him at the outset of our acquaintance. Courtesy was his native air. He left College in 1897, and travelled successively on the following circuits: Widnes, Hornsea, Louth, Leeds VIII., Coxhoe, Leamington, Bottesford, and Midsomer Norton. While at Bottesford he acted as G.C.D. for his District, and did the work so efficiently that he was highly commended by the District leaders. 

Early in his married life the cloud of heavy affliction settled upon his home, resulting in the death of his wife, who left with her husband a darling baby girl to share the loss. For years he remained a widower, and then married a lady from near Grimsby. But again his bliss was short-lived, as since after the birth of a third child, she passed away at Coxhoe. I know of no man in the ranks of our ministry whose life was so shot through with affliction, pain and loss: surely his lot was a modern counterpart to that of Job himself. 

It is nearly seven years since he sustained his second domestic bereavement, and to his motherless children during those years he was both mother and father. During prolonged sickness he nursed them with the patience and gentleness of a woman, and in health he was their close chum and happy playmate. Often our emotions have been stirred to the depths at the sight of this true gentleman ministering to his children. He forgot self, and thereby neglected himself, with the result that when the stress of his own illness came, he hadn’t physical strength to withstand it, and so passed tragically away in the close of April, 1923.

Loyalty was his characteristic. His friends were never betrayed. At a cost he stood by them. Rudeness, insincerity, and disloyalty he literally hated. Despite the tragedy of his lot, he never complained, and like a true Christian concealed his sackcloth. He was a man of the deepest feeling, but his life’s severe discipline had trained him to keep it under remarkable control. Suffering kept him tender, and did not make him callous as so often happens. He served his Circuits unstintedly. 

As a preacher he excelled, and put into his pulpit work the best of brain, and heart, and conscience. His Circuits prospered under his intensive ministry. He was a hard student, and kept in touch with the best books right up to the last. He anticipated in Midsomer Norton a prolonged ministry, and then lo! death came, and he was gone. A crowded chapel on the day of his funeral testified to his place in the hearts of his own people, and many others besides. A touching tribute to his memory was paid by the Rev. W. Fisher, and the body of Harry Chapman was then laid to rest in the local cemetery. We shall treasure the memory of him while time lasts. 


Matthew was born in 1873 at Bowden Close, Co. Durham, to parents George, a coal miner, and Margaret. he was baptised on 17 February 1873 at Crook Primitive Methodist Chapel. Before entering the ministry, he worked as a tailor (1891)

He married Edith Ethel Elstob (1875-1902) on 10 September 1901 at South Shields, Co. Durham. They had one child.

  • Edith Elstob (b1902)

He married Susanna Archer (1887-1916) in early 1910 at Grimsby, Lincolnshire. Records identify three children.

  • Frances Mary (b1911)
  • Henry D (b1913)
  • Barbara May (1915-1996) – a grocer’s shop assistant (1939); married Freddie White in 1940

Matthew died on 4 April 1923 at Midsomer Norton, Somerset.


  • Hartley
  • 1897 Warrington
  • 1901 Horncastle
  • 1903 Louth
  • 1906 Hornsea
  • 1909 Leeds VIII
  • 1912 Coxhoe
  • 1916 Leanington on Tyne
  • 1918 Bottesford
  • 1921 Bath


PM Minutes 1923/257

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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