William Henry Havergal

18 January 1793–19 April 1870

William Henry Havergal, in Jane Miriam Crane, Records of the Life of the Rev. W.H. Havergal, M.A. (1883).

WILLIAM HENRY HAVERGAL, the eminent musician of the Church, was the son of William Havergal, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, where he was born, January 18, 1793. He was fitted for the University, at the Merchant Taylors’ Grammar-School, London. He entered St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, in 1811, graduating, B.A., in 1815, and, M.A., 1819. He was ordained a deacon in 1816, and a priest in 1817. He held, for several years, two cu­racies successively, in Gloucestershire.

He was preferred (1829) to the Rectorship of Astley, on the Severn, Worcestershire; and (1842) to the Rectorship of St. Nicholas in the city of Worcester. He was made (1845) Honorary Canon of Worcester Cathedral. Impaired health constrained him, in 1860, to resign the living of St. Nicholas, and to accept the Perpetual Curacy of Shareshill.

Throughout his ministry he cultivated the Art and Sci­ence of Music, in which he became a great proficient. He composed both music and poetry with remarkable facility. Dr. Lowell Mason, of Boston, an eminent musical critic, who visited Worcester, in January, 1852, says of him: “He is well known by numerous sacred songs, published with piano-forte accompaniment. But it is metrical psalm­ody and the chant in which he is most interested, and in which he has produced some very fine specimens. He only devotes odds and ends of time to music, and never writes music when he is able to write sermons; but it has been when weary with the labors of the day, or when travelling, that he has composed most of his popular and excellent tunes.” He describes the musical service in Mr. Havergal’s church as excellent in all particulars, and far in advance of anything that he heard in England.

Mr. Havergal competed successfully, in 1836, and again in 1841, for the Gresham Prize Medal, given for the best composition of a church service of music, or anthem. In the Prize Anthem for 1841 (No. XI of the Gresham Com­positions), he introduced “the Old Hundredth Tune,” with marked effect. He published (1844) an edition of Ravens­croft’s Psalter, of 1611; and (1847) his Old Church Psalm­ody,—“probably,” says Bishop Wainwright, of New York, “the best book of the kind which has appeared since the days of Ravenscroft.”

Two volumes of his Sermons on Historical Subjects from the Old and New Testaments appeared in 1853; A His­tory of the Old Hundredth Psalm Tune with Specimens, in 1854, of which a New York edition was issued the same year; Memorial Notices of J. Davies, in 1858; A Hun­dred Psalm and Hymn Tunes, original, in 1859; and Charles and Josiah, or Friendly Conversations between a Churchman and a Quaker, in 1862. He published alto­gether about fifty musical works, besides occasional ser­mons and contributions to musical and religious periodi­cals. He wrote, also, about a hundred hymns, some of which were included in the Rev. William Carus Wilson’s [Book of General Psalmody] (1838), and the most of them in the Worcester Diocesan Hymn Book.

Mr. Havergal was the father of Miss Frances Ridley Hav­ergal, whose numerous poetical and prose works have been received with such marked favor. He died, at Leam­ington, April 19, 1870, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

by Edwin Hatfield
The Poets of the Church (1884)

Featured Tunes:


Collections of Hymns & Tunes:

An Evening Service and a Hundred Antiphonal Chants (1836): WorldCat

Book of General Psalmody, ed. W. Carus Wilson

1st ed. (1838): WorldCat
2nd ed. (1842): WorldCat
3rd ed. (1853): PDF

Old Church Psalmody

1st ed. (1847): WorldCat
2nd ed. (1850): WorldCat
3rd ed. (1853): WorldCat
4th ed. (1860): WorldCat
5th ed. (1864): WorldCat

A Reprint of the Tunes in Ravenscroft’s Book of Psalms (London: Novello, 1845): WorldCat

Metrical Psalms & Hymns for Singing in Churches (1849): PDF [4th ed.]

A History of the Old Hundredth Psalm Tune (NY: Mason Brothers, 1854): PDF

A Hundred Psalm & Hymn Tunes (1859): WorldCat

Christmas Carols & Sacred Songs (1869): PDF

Havergal’s Psalmody & Century of Chants (London: Robert Cocks & Co., 1871): PDF

Songs of Grace & Glory, ed. Charles Snepp (1872): PDF

Life Echoes, ed. Francis Havergal (1883): PDF

Related Resources:

Charles Bullock, The Pastor Remembered: A Memorial of the Rev. W.H. Havergal, M.A. (London: Home Words, 1870): PDF

Jane Miriam Crane, Records of the Life of the Rev. W.H. Havergal, M.A. (London: Home Words, 1883): PDF

Edwin Hatfield, “William Henry Havergal,” Poets of the Church (NY, 1884), pp. 302-304: HathiTrust

“William Henry Havergal,” Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Leslie Stephen & Sidney Lee, vol. 25 (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1891) pp. 181-182: Google Books

John Julian, “William Henry Havergal,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), p. 498: Google Books

G. C. Boase & Clive Brown, “William Henry Havergal,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

J.R. Watson, “William Henry Havergal,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:

W.H. Havergal, Hymnary.org: