By Frank Holmes

“Barnstaple Patriarch”

Victory Press

First published in 1956
Printed in Great Britain at the Press of the Publishers Clapham Crescent, London, S.W.4.
All rights reserved


This is the book which Dr. A. T. Pierson wanted to write. Had he done so, the public would have been presented with something far more exhaustive than is attempted in these pages. From his time to the present, Chapman has lacked a biographer.

The only work of any significance on Chapman’s life is “Robert Cleaver Chapman of Barnstaple,” by W. H. Bennet. But this, though accurate, is simply a portrait of an elderly gentleman. It says little or nothing of Chapman’s early years.

The fact that Chapman lived to be nearly a hundred years old, and purposely destroyed most of his papers, makes the writing of his life extremely difficult. When I commenced my research I found that the details of his life prior to 1848 had been lost. Yet that is the most important period in the history of Brethren. The Lord’s guidance, however, has now brought much that was lost to light, so that well over half of this volume is concerned with Chapman’s life up to the age of forty-five. Obviously this is not a full biography—I do not think the materials for that will ever be available. But my sincere hope is that it will lead to a renewed study of the principles for which Chapman stood.

My view of Chapman is that he demonstrated, in very practical ways, the meaning of the word “brother.” Are not the church and the world in need of such “brethren”?

I am grateful to a host of friends at Barnstaple and elsewhere who have assisted me in my task. Mr. K. Swaine Bourne in particular has done everything in his power to ensure that this life of his very dear friend should be published.

I certainly did not realise when I wrote this book that before it was published I should be in fellowship with those who meet in the way described in Chapter Seven.

I am grateful to Messrs. Wm. Heinemann Ltd. for permission to quote extensively from “Mary Lee,” by Geoffrey Dennis.

Frank Holmes
Crowborough, 1956