Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Samuel Chapman (1831–1899)

by R. J. Barke-Hall

This article was published:

Samuel Chapman (1831-1899), by unknown engraver, 1878

Samuel Chapman (1831-1899), by unknown engraver, 1878

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN03/10/78/165

Samuel Chapman (1831-1899), Baptist minister, was born on 28 November 1831 at Sheffield, England, son of Samuel Chapman, pawnbroker, and his wife Mary, née Sissons. His parents were mainstays of the Baptist Church at Town Head Street, Sheffield. At 15 he left school to learn the business of a Sheffield manufacturer and merchant with Francis Newton & Sons. He was faced early with responsibility because of the ill health of his employer and while with the firm he became a commercial traveller.

Chapman was baptized at 24 and in 1859 abandoned commerce to study for the ministry. He went to the University of Edinburgh and then to the Baptist Theological College, Rawdon, Leeds. In 1861 with his wife Sarah Ann, née Bradshaw, and his three children he moved to Birmingham and became pastor of the Heneage Street Baptist Church. After six years of heavy and largely unrewarding work he went to Rochdale, where his son Arnold died. From Rochdale Chapman was called to Hope Street, Glasgow, one of Scotland's most important Baptist chapels. There he more than doubled the congregation but his wife's health caused him such anxiety that he accepted the call from Collins Street Baptist Church, Melbourne, in 1877 to replace Rev. James Martin.

A forceful evangelist, Chapman soon attracted attention and became the leading minister of his denomination in Victoria. As well as fulfilling his pastoral duties he served in most of the important posts of the Baptist Association of Victoria and was its chairman in 1879, 1881, 1885 and 1888. He founded the Victorian Baptist Fund (later Jubilee Fund), which had as one of its objects 'The establishment and maintenance of a college for the training of students for the ministry of the Baptist Churches'. With William McLean, who had been instrumental in his call to Collins Street, Chapman played a leading role in raising £50,000 in four years. He was chairman of the Victorian Baptist Home Missionary Society for nineteen years; he also gave strong support to overseas missionary activity, especially the Baptist Mission at Mymensingh, India, and the interdenominational China Inland Mission. In 1885 because of structural alterations to the Collins Street Church the congregation met at the Theatre Royal where, as a Bible expositor of renown, Chapman drew congregations of more than two thousand to the Sunday evening services; in a poll conducted by the Daily Telegraph to find the foremost preacher in the city, he was easily rated first. He rarely appeared as a platform speaker on public issues but his sermons were often applied to subjects of contemporary importance. Throughout his years in Victoria he followed a single purpose to proclaim the gospel and persuade men to look to Christ, and he used his energy, intellect, vigour and eloquence to this end.

After fourteen years of hard work in Melbourne Chapman and his wife took a sea trip to benefit his health; from England they travelled to the Continent, Egypt and Palestine. When he returned, his assistant pastor, Rev. George Hill, accepted a call to Nottingham, leaving Chapman with full responsibility for the services. Under this heavy strain he broke down while conducting special services in Sydney in March 1897. He was unable to resume duty for six months and although he preached for a time he never fully recovered. He died on 10 September 1899, survived by his wife, six daughters and two sons. His brother, Rev. Stacey Chapman, of St Paul's Anglican Church in Kyneton, was well known in Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Moore and S. P. Carey (eds), The Old Paths (Melb, 1902)
  • B. S. Brown, Members One of Another (Melb, 1962)
  • Southern Baptist, 5 (1899), Sept
  • Victorian Freeman, Feb 1889
  • Argus (Melbourne), 11 Sept 1899.

Citation details

R. J. Barke-Hall, 'Chapman, Samuel (1831–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 1 March 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Samuel Chapman (1831-1899), by unknown engraver, 1878

Samuel Chapman (1831-1899), by unknown engraver, 1878

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN03/10/78/165

Life Summary [details]


28 November, 1831
Sheffield, Yorkshire, England


10 September, 1899 (aged 67)

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