Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Frances Ridley Havergal

After an interesting evening with Andy I promised I'd blog a picture of the woman who features in his address. Here she is. Frances Ridley Havergal. Hymn writer, first organist of St Paul's Church when it was built in 1873 and former Leamingtonian.

A poet and hymnist, she was born at Astley, Worcestershire, in 1836, the youngest daughter of Rev. William Henry Havergal, who composed hymn tunes and other sacred music. The house was a very musical place.

A delicate child, she was initially educated at home by her mother and eldest sister. When she was six years old the family moved to a temporary home at Henwick House, Hallow, outside Worcester. In 1845 they moved into the city of Worcester to St. Nicholas Rectory where her father was to be the minister for the next 15 years. Failing health led him to take a job in 1860 as curate of St Mary and St. Luke, Shareshill, Staffordshire. On retirement in 1867 the family moved to Leamington.

During all these years, Frances lived at home, interspersed with short periods of schooling and extended trips in this country and abroad. On her step-mother's death in 1878 she moved to Caswell Bay, Swansea, South Wales, where she died on 3 June, 1879 after a bout of pneumonia. She was 42.

She was a prolific writer, knowledgeable of at least six languages and whilst in Wales learnt enough Welsh to understand chapel. She sang well.

The hymn 'Take my life and let it be' is perhaps her best known work.

In adulthood she had a series of physical breakdowns and was a periodic sufferer of headaches and depression.

Amazing then that she wrote:

Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee?

My office is in the Upper Havergal Room.

1 comment:

Darren said...

probably when she was on a high betwen the lows of the depression, bi-polarism is quite common. But still wonderful, so much in such a short life.
Thanks for this