The English Hymnal

The English Hymnal is a hymn book which was published in 1906[1] for the Church of England by Oxford University Press. It was edited by the clergyman and writer Percy Dearmer and the composer and music historian Ralph Vaughan Williams, and was a significant publication in the history of Anglican church music.

The preface to the hymnal began by describing itself as "a collection of the best hymns in the English language."[2] Much of the contents was used for the first time at St Mary's, Primrose Hill, in north London, and the book could be considered a musical companion to Dearmer's book on English ceremonial, The Parson's Handbook.[3]

The high quality of the music is due largely to the work of Vaughan Williams as musical editor. The standard of the arrangements and original compositions made it one of the most influential hymnals of the 20th century.[4] The hymnal included the first printing of several arrangements and hymn settings by Vaughan Williams. Among the most famous are Sine Nomine, a new tune to "For All the Saints";[5][6] and "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones", a new text for the hymn tune Lasst uns erfreuen. The hymnal also includes many original plainsong melodies (in plainsong notation).

After its publication, use of the hymnal had been banned for a time by the Archbishop of Canterbury.[2] Ultimately, The English Hymnal, along with the Church Hymnal for the Christian Year, "undermined the uniformity of the Church of England and successfully challenged [the] hegemony" of Hymns Ancient and Modern,[7] which had been published two years previous.[8]

The book is a characteristic green colour and is traditionally associated with the high-church or Anglo-Catholic movement within Anglicanism.[9] When the book was published, high and broad churches used Hymns Ancient and Modern and evangelical churches normally used the Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer. The hymnal has, however, been adopted not only in various movements of Anglicanism but also in several other denominations in Britain, such as some Roman Catholic churches.

A new edition of the musical content of The English Hymnal was issued in 1933,[10] which principally had better accompaniments by J. H. Arnold to the plainsong melodies, and over 100 new tunes. This was achieved without renumbering hymns or extending the book excessively. Instead many formerly duplicated tunes were changed to new tunes. Where unique tunes were changed, the old tunes were moved into the appendix.

A supplement to the hymnal, English Praise, was published in 1975.[11]

The New English Hymnal appeared in 1986,[12] and its supplement, New English Praise in 2006, both under the imprint of the Canterbury Press, now SCM Canterbury Press.

The English Hymnal
Front cover
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectReligious sheet music
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback)
ISBN978-0-19-231111-5 (later edition)

See also



  1. ^ Wilkinson 1985, p. 140.
  2. ^ a b Howse, Christopher (25 November 2006). "Sacred Mysteries". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  3. ^ Palmer Heathman 2017, p. 184.
  4. ^ Wilson-Dickson 2003, p. 234.
  5. ^ Wilkinson 1985, p. 131.
  6. ^ Hawes, John (2000). "The English Hymnal". London: Parish Church of St Mary-the-Virgin, Primrose Hill. Archived from the original on 17 February 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  7. ^ Wilkinson 1985, p. 52.
  8. ^ Leaver 1990, p. 482.
  9. ^ Kilcrease 2017, p. 93; Leaver 1990, pp. 483, 503.
  10. ^ Dickinson 1956, p. 244.
  11. ^ Luff 2007, pp. 17–18.
  12. ^ Luff 2007, p. 19.


Dickinson, A. E. F. (1956). "Some Thoughts About 'The English Hymnal'". The Musical Times. 97 (1359): 243–245. doi:10.2307/936457. ISSN 2397-5318.
Kilcrease, Bethany (2017). The Great Church Crisis and the End of English Erastianism, 1898–1906. Abingdon, England: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-02992-2.
Leaver, Robin A. (1990). "British Hymnody, 1900–1950". In Glover, Raymond F. The Hymnal 1982 Companion. 1. New York: Church Hymnal Corporation. pp. 474–504. ISBN 978-0-89869-143-6.
Luff, Alan (2007). "The Twentieth-Century Hymn Explosion: Where the Fuse Was Lit". The Hymn. 58 (4): 11–21. ISSN 0018-8271.
Palmer Heathman, Katie (2017). "'Lift Up a Living Nation': Community and Nation, Socialism and Religion in The English Hymnal, 1906". Cultural and Social History. 14 (2): 183–200. doi:10.1080/14780038.2017.1290995. ISSN 1478-0046.
Wilkinson, Richard William (1985). A History of Hymns Ancient and Modern (PhD thesis). Hull, England: University of Hull. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
Wilson-Dickson, Andrew (2003) [1992]. The Story of Christian Music: From Gregorian Chant to Black Gospel; An Authoritative Illustrated Guide to All the Major Traditions of Music for Worship. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-3474-2.

Further reading

The English Hymnal with Tunes (2nd ed.). London: Oxford University Press. 1933.
Luff, Alan, ed. (2005). Strengthen for Service: 100 Years of the English Hymnal, 1906–2006. Norwich, England: Canterbury Press. ISBN 978-1-85311-662-9.
Routley, Erik R. (1956). "The English Hymnal, 1906–56". Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland Bulletin. 4 (2): 17–26.
Sceats, Godfrey (1951). "English Hymnal and Hymns A. & M.". Music and Letters. 32 (3): 235–246. doi:10.1093/ml/XXXII.3.235. ISSN 1477-4631.

External links

Arthur Hutchings

Arthur James Bramwell Hutchings (1906–1989) was an English musicologist, composer, and professor of music at the University of Durham, England. He wrote extensively on topics as varied as nineteenth-century English liturgical composition, Schubert, Purcell, Edmund Rubbra, and baroque concertos; but his most famous book was the Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos, published in 1948 and often reissued since. Among his other books are The Invention and Composition of Music and Church Music in the Nineteenth Century. During the late 1970s his articles on music regularly appeared in the monthly magazine Records and Recording. His compositions include the Seasonal Preludes for organ, the overture Oriana Triumphans, the opera Marriage à la Mode, and the operetta The Plumber's Arms. Among his choral works are Hosanna to the Son of David, God is Gone Up, Grant Them Rest, and the Communion Service on Russian Themes. Professor Hutchings served for many years as a Director of the English Hymnal Company and a number of his tunes were included in the 1986 New English Hymnal.

Athelstan Riley

John Athelstan Laurie Riley (10 August 1858 – 17 November 1945) was an English hymn writer and hymn translator.

Riley was born in Paddington, London, and attended Pembroke College, Oxford, where obtained his BA in 1881 and MA in 1883. Active in the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England, he energised the development of The English Hymnal (1906) and was chairman of its editorial board. His best-known hymn is "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones". He also created an English adaption of the eucharistic hymn "O Esca Viatorum".

In later life he moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands, where he purchased Trinity Manor in 1909, thereby acquiring the feudal title of Seigneur de La Trinité. Finding the manor house in a ruined condition, he undertook an elaborate restoration (or "imaginative reconstruction", which has been criticised as turning the building into a French-style château). The reconstruction was carried out 1910–1913 by C. Messervy to designs by Sir Reginald Blomfield. Riley also bought the historic property L'Ancienneté in Saint Brélade, and removed architectural features of interest to incorporate into Trinity Manor, carefully recording the provenance of items and nature of alterations made in his project. He remained in Jersey through the German occupation, and died shortly after its liberation.

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, also known as the Tallis Fantasia, is a work for string orchestra by the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was composed in 1910 and performed for the first time on 10 September that year at Gloucester Cathedral for the Three Choirs Festival. Vaughan Williams himself conducted and the composition proved to be a major success. He revised the work twice, in 1913 and 1919. Performances generally run between 14 and 16 minutes.

The work takes its name from the original composer of the melody, Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 – 1585). Many of Vaughan Williams' works are associated with or inspired by the music of the English Renaissance. In 1906 Vaughan Williams included Tallis's Third Mode Melody in the English Hymnal, which he was then editing, as the melody for Joseph Addison's hymn When Rising from the Bed of Death. The tune is in Double Common Meter (D.C.M. or C.M.D.).

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus is a work for harp and string orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The composition is based on the folk tune "Dives and Lazarus", one of the folk songs quoted in Vaughan Williams' English Folk Song Suite.Vaughan Williams composed the work on commission from the British Council to be played at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. The first performance was by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall on 10 June 1939, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. The other works premiered on that occasion were Arthur Bliss's Piano Concerto in B-flat, and Arnold Bax's Symphony No. 7.

Boult also directed the first UK performance in November 1939 in Bristol.The folk tune was also arranged by Vaughan Williams as a hymn tune "Kingsfold," appearing as "O Sing a Song of Bethlehem," in The English Hymnal as "I Heard the Voice of Jesus say," (no. 574 in the original 1906 edition). The village of Kingsfold is in West Sussex, a few miles south from Vaughan Williams' home at Leith Hill.

For the Beauty of the Earth

"For the Beauty of the Earth" is a Christian hymn by Folliott S. Pierpoint (1835-1917).

Pierpoint was 29 at the time he wrote this hymn; he was mesmerized by the beauty of the countryside that surrounded him. It first appeared in 1864 in a book of Eucharistic Hymns and Poems entitled "Lyra Eucharistica, Hymns and Verses on The Holy Communion, Ancient and Modern, with other Poems." It was written as a Eucharistic hymn - hence the title of "The Sacrifice of Praise", the refrain "Christ, our God, to Thee we raise, This, our sacrifice of praise", and as is seen throughout the original text of 1864, especially the last two lines which had replaced the Refrain in verse 8. This is how it appears in the 'English Hymnal' of 1933, with the two exceptions, that Pierpoint's last two lines which had replaced the Refrain after verse 8, were omitted and the Refrain sung instead, and the first two words of the last line in verse (three) "sinking sense", in common with all other hymnbooks was modified to "linking sense". The text was more radically modified by the publishers of "Hymns Ancient and Modern" for the 1916 Hymnbook, so it could serve as a general hymn.

The tune most widely used for this hymn is the same tune used for William Chatterton Dix's "As with Gladness Men of Old," a Christmas carol composed five years prior but not released publicly until three years after Pierpont. (Although the tune is known traditionally as "Dix" in deference to William Dix, it was originally composed by Conrad Kocher in 1838.)

Recently, one of the most popular tunes to which this hymn is sung is Lucerna Laudoniæ by David Evans ("E.Arthur") [1874–1948]. This is the set tune, for example, in The Hymnal 1982 of the Protestant Episcopal Church and Australia's 1999 Together in Song, the first set tune in the Church of Ireland's 2000 Church Hymnal and the Church of Scotland's 2005 Church Hymnary 4th Edition (Moseley the other), and the second set tune in England's 2000 Common Praise.

Other tunes used are: "Warden" by James Turle (1802-1882) - as appeared in the 1916 Hymns A&M Standard, and England’s Lane by Geoffrey Turton Shaw (1879–1943) as it appeared in the English Hymnal.


Hyfrydol (Welsh pronunciation: [həvˈrədɔl], meaning "cheerful") is a Welsh hymn tune that appears in a number of Christian hymnals in various arrangements. Composed by Rowland Prichard, it was originally published in the composer's handbook to the children's songbook Cyfaill y Cantorion ("The Singers' Friend"). Prichard composed the tune before he was twenty years old.

Hymns Ancient and Modern

Hymns Ancient and Modern is a hymnal in common use within the Church of England, a result of the efforts of the Oxford Movement. Over the years it has grown into a large family of hymnals. As such, the Hymns Ancient and Modern set the standard for the current hymnal in the Church of England.

In the Bleak Midwinter

"In the Bleak Midwinter" is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti. The poem was published, under the title "A Christmas Carol", in the January 1872 issue of Scribner's Monthly.The poem first appeared set to music in The English Hymnal in 1906 with a setting by Gustav Holst.

Harold Darke's anthem setting of 1911 is more complex and was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world's leading choirmasters and choral experts in 2008.

Lasst uns erfreuen

"Lasst uns erfreuen herzlich sehr" (Let us rejoice most heartily) is a hymn tune that originated from Germany in 1623, and which found widespread popularity after The English Hymnal published a 1906 version in strong triple meter with new lyrics. The triumphant melody and repeated "Alleluia" phrases have supported the tune's widespread usage during the Easter season and other festive occasions, especially with the English texts "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" and "All Creatures of Our God and King".

The tune's first known appearance was in the 1623 hymnal Auserlesene, Catholische, Geistliche Kirchengesäng (Selected Catholic Spiritual Church-Songs) during the Counter-Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, and the oldest published version that still exists is from 1625. The original 1623 hymnal was edited by Friedrich Spee, an influential Jesuit priest, professor, and activist against witch-hunts, who is often credited as the hymn's composer and original lyricist. The 1906 hymnal was edited by notable composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose arrangement of the hymn has become the standard for English-speaking churches.


A lyricist or lyrist is a person who writes lyrics—words for songs—as opposed to a composer, who writes the song's melody.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

"O Come, All Ye Faithful" (originally written in Latin as Adeste Fideles) is a Christmas carol that has been attributed to various authors, including John Francis Wade (1711–1786), John Reading (1645–1692), King John IV of Portugal (1604–1656), and anonymous monks. The earliest printed version is in a book published by Wade, but the earliest manuscript bears the name of King John IV, and is located in the library of the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa. A manuscript by Wade, dating to 1751, is held by Stonyhurst College in Lancashire.The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages. The English translation of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley, written in 1841, is widespread in most English-speaking countries. The present harmonisation is from the English Hymnal (1906).

Percy Dearmer

Percival Dearmer (1867–1936), known as Percy Dearmer, was an English priest and liturgist best known as the author of The Parson's Handbook, a liturgical manual for Anglican clergy. A lifelong socialist, he was an early advocate of the public ministry of women (but not their ordination to the priesthood) and concerned with social justice. Dearmer also had a strong influence on the music of the church and, with Ralph Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw, is credited with the revival and spread of traditional and medieval English musical forms.

Picardy (hymn)

"Picardy" is a hymn tune used in Christian churches, based on a French carol; it is in a minor key and its meter is Its name comes from the province of France from where it is thought to originate. The tune dates back at least to the 17th century, and was originally used for the folk song "Jésus-Christ s'habille en pauvre". First published in the 1848 collection Chansons populaires des provinces de France, "Picardy" was most famously arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906 for the hymn "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence", in The English Hymnal, the words of which are taken from the Byzantine Greek Liturgy of St. James translated by Gerard Moultrie a chaplain at Shrewsbury School.

In addition, Gustav Holst used the hymn in his "3 Festival Choruses" Op. 36a.

While "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" is the most popular hymn for this tune, it is not the only one. "Christians, Let Us Love One Another" uses this same tune and has been sung in churches as well for many years.

Processional hymn

A processional hymn is a chant, hymn or other music sung during the Procession, usually at the start of a Christian service, although occasionally during the service itself. The procession usually contains members of the clergy and the choir walking behind the processional cross. Occasionally, a service will also contain a recessional hymn, although in the Protestant tradition this is usually an organ voluntary.The genre first appears in the early Middle Ages, and is a distinct genre from breviary hymns, often containing a refrain. With its longer cathedrals and churches, England was particularly rich in these and several are to be found in the Sarum Processional.In The English Hymnal nos. 613 to 640 are described as "Processional" and nos. 641 to 646 are "Suitable for use in procession". The processional hymns include "Of the Father's Heart Begotten" (Corde natus ex parentis, by Prudentius), "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty!"(by H. H. Milman), "Hail thee, Festival Day!" (Salve, festa dies, by Venantius Fortunatus) and "Jerusalem, my happy home" (by F.B.P. c. 1580).


Rhuddlan (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈr̥ɨðlan]) is a town, community and electoral ward in the county of Denbighshire within the historic boundaries of Flintshire, on the north coast of Wales. It is situated to the south of the coastal town of Rhyl and overlooks the River Clwyd. The town gave its name to the Welsh district of Rhuddlan from 1974 to 1996. At the 2001 Census, the population was 4,296, decreasing to 3,709 at the 2011 census.

The New English Hymnal

The New English Hymnal is a hymn book and liturgical source, aimed towards the Church of England, first published in 1986. It was published by the Canterbury Press (now SCM Canterbury Press). The copyright is held by The English Hymnal Company Limited. It is a successor to, and published in the same style as, the 1906 English Hymnal. It inherits much music from the earlier book, and although a few hymns are dropped many newer or re-written hymns are added, most of which had previously appeared in the intervening supplement English Praise. Although the words of several hymns have been altered slightly, it nonetheless enjoys continuing favour in a considerable number of cathedrals and collegiate chapels worldwide and it is a significant publication in Anglican church music. Its extensive provision of hymns for saints' days and mid-week religious festivals has proved popular with those schools still maintaining hymn-singing in daily acts of worship.

The then chairman of the English Hymnal Company, George Timms, was its general editor. The musical editor was Anthony Caesar with significant assistance from Arthur Hutchings, Christopher Dearnley and Michael Fleming.

To Be a Pilgrim

"To Be a Pilgrim" (also commonly known as "He who would Valiant be") is the only hymn John Bunyan is credited with writing, and is indelibly associated with him. It first appeared in Part 2 of The Pilgrim's Progress, written in 1684. The hymn recalls the words of Hebrews 11:13: "...and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."

The words were modified extensively by Percy Dearmer for the 1906 The English Hymnal.

At the same time it was given a new tune by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who used a melody taken from the traditional song "Our Captain Cried All Hands" which he collected in the hamlet of Monk's Gate in West Sussex. The melody is referred to in hymn books as "Monks Gate" but that is the name of the place where it was collected.The hymn has also been sung to the melody "Moab" (John Roberts, 1870) and "St. Dunstans" (Charles W. Douglas, 1917).

For a time, Bunyan's original version was not commonly sung in churches, perhaps because of the references to "hobgoblin" and "foul fiend." However, one commentator has said: "Bunyan's burly song strikes a new and welcome note in our Hymnal. The quaint sincerity of the words stirs us out of our easygoing dull Christianity to the thrill of great adventure." Recent hymn books have tended to return to the original, for example, the Church of England's Common Praise and the Church of Scotland's Church Hymnary 4th Edition (Hymns of Glory, Songs of Praise).

While shepherds watched their flocks

"While shepherds watched their flocks" is a Christmas carol describing the Annunciation to the Shepherds, with words attributed to Irish hymnist, lyricist and England's Poet Laureate Nahum Tate.The exact date of Tate's composition is not known, but the words appeared in Tate and Nicholas Brady's 1700 supplement to their New Version of the Psalms of David of 1696. It was the only Christmas hymn authorised to be sung by the Anglican Church; before 1700 only the Psalms of David were permitted to be sung. It is written in common metre and based on the Gospel of Luke 2:8–14.

It is the only one of the sixteen works in the 1700 supplement to still be sung today. It was published by Davies Gilbert (London, 1822), and William B. Sandys (London, 1833). The carol is most commonly sung to two different tunes: Winchester Old in the United Kingdom and a variation on a Handel aria arranged by Lowell Mason in the United States.

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

"Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" (Latin: Vigiles et Sancti) is a popular Christian hymn with text by Athelstan Riley, first published in the English Hymnal (1906). It is sung to the German tune Lasst uns erfreuen (1623). Its uplifting melody and repeated "Alleluias" make this a favourite Anglo-Catholic hymn during the Easter season, the Feast of All Saints, and other times of great rejoicing.

The hymn was also notably adapted for the final movement of The Company of Heaven (1937), a cantata by Benjamin Britten.

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