Fenwick, Ralph (1819-1907)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1873
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1885
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1907

Early years

Ralph was born on 5 October 1819 at Lanchester, Co Durham, to mother Isabella. He was baptised on 29 October 1819 at Lanchester.  His family soon moved to Easington Lane. He received schooling through attending both Wesleyan and PM Sunday Schools.

At the age of 8, Ralph became a sweeper of the wagon way and later became a colliery engineman, a skill he was to put to good use later.

When aged 17, Ralph went with a companion to an evening service at Easington Lane to see what was going on. Ralph yielded himself to God at the after service, but his companion left to become a tea dealer in Sunderland.

Ralph immediately became a Sunday School teacher and local preacher. He took a great interest in the erection of the first chapel at Easington Lane and became a trustee.


On one occasion Ralph was visiting a mine and found on his tour with the manager that the pit engine had failed. He offered to repair it provided that if he was successful the men of the pit would attend service. Ralph duly stripped the engine down and repaired the fault. At the following service a number of the miners found God.

Ralph was a skilled and much appreciated examiner of probationers and candidates for the ministry. When the Theological Institute opened in Sunderland, Ralph was appointed as a trustee.

Ralph was Book Steward from 1880 and became President of Conference in 1885.

His obituary records that Ralph was gifted with a fine presence, a clear flexible voice, a mind of no ordinary power, a style at once graceful and effective, he was one of the most able and successful ministers our Church has had. His was a fine blend of the intellectual and the emotional, and appealed alike to men cultured and otherwise. O-one who heard, for instance, his sermons on the Parables could ever forget them.


Ralph married Alice Foster (1819-1891) in 1849 at Harrogate, Yorkshire. Alice was the daughter of George Foster, a Deed Poll Member of Conference. Census returns identify three children.

  • George Foster (1853-1906) – a clerk
  • Mary Isabella (b1854)
  • Ralph (1857-1921) – general labourer

Ralph died on 27 February 1907 at Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland.


  • 1844 Ripon
  • 1846 Carlisle
  • 1848 Brompton
  • 1849 Darlington
  • 1851 N Shields
  • 1853 Hexham
  • 1856 Newcastle
  • 1860 Sunderland
  • 1865 Allendale
  • 1867 S Shields
  • 1871 Westgate
  • 1873 Middlesborough
  • 1876 Crook
  • 1880 Book Steward
  • 1885 Clapham & Balham
  • 1886 Hartlepool
  • 1888 Newcastle l
  • 1892 Newcastle ll (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1873 (portrait); 1885 (portrait); 1907/724

PM Minutes 1907/16

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p370

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers



Transcription of an article about Ralph in the 1913 Christian Messenger
Transcription of his obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1907.

Comments about this page

  • Page updated on 22 November 2015 to add a transcription of an article in the 1913 Christian Messenger.

    By Geoff Dickinson (22/11/2015)

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