Chapman, William Robert M.C. (1893-1991)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

WILLIAM ROBERT CHAPMAN: born on 3rd November 1893 in the mining village of Easington Lane, County Durham. He was carried to the Primitive Methodist Class meeting when six weeks old and regarded as a church member from that day onward. He served a seven-year apprenticeship as a printer. When 14 he preached his first sermon and almost immediately was given a note to prepare to become a local preacher. After two brief terms as a lay missionary he entered Hartley College in 1915 to prepare for the ministry. After half a term he enrolled in the Royal Army Medical Corps, served for two periods in France and experienced trench fever. Later at the end of the Somme battle he was recommended for an infantry commission, trained in the Durham Light Infantry, and returned to France. He was seriously wounded with five shrapnel wounds, two being in the lung. After recuperation he was sent back again to the front for the final battles of the war. He was again wounded, awarded the Military Cross for outstanding bravery, and invalided out of the Army. 

He returned to Hartley College for training and was ordained in 1921. He married Winifred Margaret Barber of Ipswich, a nursing sister, whom he had met when he was in hospital. They worked in complete and loving harmony and had two children, Bill and Doreen. 

They served in Rehoboth Central Mission, Leeds, and then in Barnsley, Woodfalls, Jersey (Aquila Road), Gravesend and Dartford, and Sheringham. When the Second World War was imminent William volunteered as an Army Chaplain. He served through the North Africa and Italian campaigns, often in the front line. When the war ended he returned to circuit work in Broadstairs and then volunteered to serve overseas if there was a need. He was sent to Southern Rhodesia and Bechuanaland but suffered a series of heart attacks and was obliged to retire early and return home in 1952. 

He and Winifred lived in the village of Woodgreen in the New Forest for many years in contented retirement, but went to Australia in 1970 to be near their son, Bill, a doctor. In 1975 Winifred died after much illness, as did Bill soon afterwards. William returned to live with his daughter, Doreen, at first in Bromley and then in a tranquil setting by the River Orwell, near Ipswich. He continued preaching until his late 80s when his voice became too weak. 

William Chapman’s varied and remarkable life had one supreme aim: to make known the unsearchable riches in Christ. To that end he read widely and deeply. He was a constant inspiration to all who knew him. He was wholly consecrated to his ministry and to all pastoral need. He died on 13th January 1991 in the ninety-eighth year of his age and the seventy-fourth year of his ministry.


William was born on 3 November 1893 at Easington Lane, Co. Durham, to parents John H Chapman, a printer & stationer, and Ursula Sexton.

He married Winifred Margaret Barber in the spring of 1921 in Manchester, Lancashire.

  • William (Bill) H (b1922) – a doctor
  • Doreen (b1925)

William died on 13 January 1991 at Ipswich, Suffolk.


  • 1919 Hartley
  • 1921 Leeds III
  • 1924 Barnsley II
  • 1927 Woodfalls
  • 1930 Jersey
  • 1935 Gravesend & Dartford
  • 1937 Sheringham
  • 1940 Chaplain H.M. Forces
  • 1945 Ramsgate
  • 1950 S Rhodesia
  • 1954 Salisbury (S)


Methodist Minutes 1991/29

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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