Wessex in The English Hymnal

The English Hymnal was the hymn book associated with the Oxford Movement within Anglicanism and published by Oxford University Press in 1906. The Oxford Movement was a movement to restore the Church of England to what it saw as its Catholic roots, and many of its founder members later went on to convert to Catholicism.

What makes it of interest from our point of view is that many of its hymn tunes were named after the counties and towns where they were recorded. The editors of the hymnal were Percy Dearmer, the Christian Socialist vicar of St Mary the Virgin in Primrose Hill, London, and Ralph Vaughan Williams of Down Ampney in Gloucestershire. Vaughan Williams was actually an atheist at the time, but like Thomas Hardy, retained a love of the trappings of Anglicanism long after he had lost his faith. His background as a collector of folk music made him eminently qualified to seek out the best hymn tunes from across the British Isles, continental Europe and North America.

I have compiled, to the best of my ablity, a table of tunes named after places in Wessex, which I reproduce below.

Hymn #First LineModern TuneMetreSeasonPlainsongAlternates
656See him in raiment rentBridgwater/Langport64.63.D.Litanies, etc.
6Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comesBristolC.M.Advent
602Loving Shepherd of thy sheepBuckland 1E77.77.CatechismApp. 67
460O Lord, who formedst me to wearChristchurch (Ouseley)88.88.88.General
411Jerusalem on highChristchurch (Steggall)66.66.88.General
25In the bleak mid-winterCranhamIrreg.Christmas
198Hark, the sound of holy voicesDeerhurst 1E87.87.D.For any Saint’s DayApp. 32
294The year is swiftly waningDevonshire76.76.Autumn
152Come down, O Love divineDown Ampney66.11.D.Whitsuntide
206O thou, who didst with love untoldCrediton 2EC.M.St Thomas
137The Day of Resurrection!Ellacombe76.76.D.Eastertide
528Father of men, in whom are oneExeter888.888.Societies: Friendly
283Most glorious Lord of life, that on this dayFarley Castle10 10.10 10.Sunday
217Her Virgin eyes saw God incarnate bornFarley Castle10 10.10 10.St Mary the Virgin
355In Paradise reposingHambridge76.76.The Departed
395God of mercy, God of graceHeathlands77.77.77.General
282Now the busy week is doneHeathlands 1E77.77.77.Saturday Evening
260New every morning is the loveMelcolmbe [D major]L.M.Morning
631Spirit of mercy, truth, and loveMelcombeL.M.Processional
498There is a land of pure delightMendipC.M.General
16The Maker of the sun and moonNewburyC.M.Christmas Eve
389Fight the good fight with all thy mightShepton-BeauchampL.M.General
359O Lord, to whom the spirits liveSouth Cerney88.88.88.The Departed
554Thy kingdom come, O GodKingsland 2E66.66.Home and Foreign MissionsApp. 64
545Thy hand, O God, has guidedThornbury 2E76.76.D.The Church45
467Oft in danger, oft in woeUniversity College77.77.General
177Captains of the saintly bandUniversity College 1E77.77.Apostles and Evangelists
53The wingèd herald of the dayWarehamL.M.From the Octave of the Epiphany till LentP
52O splendour of God’s glory brightWarehamL.M.From the Octave of the Epiphany till LentP
475Rejoice, O land, in God thy mightWarehamL.M.General
55Lo! golden light rekindles day:Wareham 1EL.M.From the Octave of the Epiphany till LentP
54Ye clouds and darkness, hosts of nightWareham 1EL.M.From the Octave of the Epiphany till LentP
56Eternal Glory of the skyWareham 1EL.M.From the Octave of the Epiphany till LentP
502Through all the changing scenes of lifeWiltshireC.M.General
9On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cryWinchester NewL.M.Advent
620Ride on! ride on in majesty!Winchester NewL.M.Palm Sunday Processional
30While shepherds watched their flocks by nightWinchester OldC.M.ChristmasApp. 08
158When God of old came down from heavenWinchester OldC.M.Whitsuntide
332There is a fountain filled with BloodWindsorC.M.Holy Communion

You may notice a couple of well-known hymns in there. The tune of Fight the Good Fight is named after Shepton Beauchamp near Ilminster in Somerset, and While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night is sung to Winchester Old (originally known simply as Winchester). What is less well known is that the same tune is also used for a Whitsun carol, When God Of Old Came Down From Heaven, with words by another founder of the Oxford Movement, John Keble of Fairford. Two hymns, On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry and Ride On! Ride On! In Majesty are set to the similar-sounding but unrelated tune Winchester New.

Dearmer and Vaughn Williams aimed to create a “musical landscape” of Britain with their collection of hymn tunes. See this excellent article for further information.