Craster Primitive Methodist Chapel (1879)



Craster is a fishing village pure and simple, though there are indications that it may before long develop into a seaside resort. How Primitive Methodism was introduced into it is an interesting story. About 1869 or 1870, while fishing out of the Tyne, Matthew Stephenson, who was fond of singing, heard some of Sankey’s hymns sung, and caught several of the tunes. On his return home, he spent his Sunday afternoons in teaching his own children to sing them, then his neighbours children were attracted, and speedily his house was full of youngsters. In course of time, first one and then another of the parents found their way to Stephenson’s house to hear the children sing, and ere long the two capacious rooms were filled with young and old every Sunday afternoon. On one occasion, a few of the parents remained behind for a talk, and one of them William Archbold, most probably suggested that it was now time there should be prayer as well as singing. This led to one of their number being sent to North Sunderland to ask the young Methodist minister (Mr. French) to preach to them. He went, and the people heard the word with gladness. He went again and again, and many believed and turned to the Lord in Stephenson s kitchen. Mr. French had the great joy to read to the next quarterly meeting a letter from the Craster people asking for regular preaching, and giving the names of twenty-six persons who desired to become members. These included Matthew Stephenson, William, Ralph, Joseph, and Robert Archbold, Robert and John Smailes, Robert Sanderson, George Dawson, Richard Simpson, William Simpson, and their women people. Services were afterwards held in the houses of Ralph Archbold and Edward Dawson. Eventually the former was enabled to give a site for a chapel, and William Archbold gave a piece of ground to make a roadway to it. The chapel was opened in 1880, was improved in 1894, and a shoolroom was added in 1897. The attractive place of worship has been made an abundant blessing to the village. Some months before it was built, under the labours of John Moffatt and Ralph Shields, there was a revival, in which some of the worst men in the place were converted. Few villages have witnessed more gracious times than Craster.

‘Northern Primitive Methodism’ by W M Patterson, published 1909, page 380.

The decision by Craster Methodists to build their own church may additionally have been influenced by the continuing success of the local revivalist campaign, the extent of this reflected in the entries of another diarist, fish curer Joseph Henderson Archbold.

"December 7. - Revival going on, several young people brought in. John Stanton, Robert Stuart, young John Smailes, Thomas Smailes, our Charles and Joseph, with some more.

" December 11. - Great revival still going on - 15 or 16 brought in to-night. " December 12. - The revivalists round the place every night and doing great work for the Lord. " Christmas Day.-We had a grand soiree down in the Shade (`shade' or shed, implying herring shed). Several young men told of their conversion and experience."

Four weeks later, early in his diary for 1880, Joseph made the first of the entries which summarise the origin of Craster Method­ist Church, built that year at a cost of £474 from whinstone quar­ried locally, and first opened for public worship at a thanksgiving service held on Christmas Day morning.

From Craster Community Website. www.crastercommunity.org.uk/Churches/Chapel%20Decision%20to%20Build.htm


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