Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), religious poet and hymn-writer

Frances Ridley Havergal was born in Astley Rectory, Stourport on 14th December 1836, youngest child of Rev William Henry Havergal (1793-1870), and his first wife Jane.

William Henry Havergal became Curate at Astley, Worcestershire in 1822, and Rector three years later. After an accident in 1829, he was subject to bouts of paralysis, and had to lead a quiet life. This enforced leisure turned his attention to his favourite subject of music, and hymn tunes, chants, anthems and complete services flowed from his pen and were well received. He also wrote many sacred songs and carols which he set to music, the most famous of which is probably From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.

Frances wrote verses from the age of seven with remarkable fluency and her poems were published in Good Words and the best religious periodicals.

In 1852 she accompanied her father and his second wife to Germany where she studied music. She returned to England in December 1853 but revisited Germany in 1865-6 where she sought the opinion of the musician Hiller on her musical talents. Hiller saw talent in her melodies and highly praised her harmonies.

Frances Ridley Havergal’s first book of poems The Ministry of Song was published in 1869.

In 1878 she moved from Leamington to the Mumbles, South Wales where she died on 3rd June 1879. She is buried in Astley Churchyard. After her death in 1879, FRH’s works achieved a tremendous popularity, and many were reprinted in miniature or booklet form. Her most famous hymn is probably Take My Life and Let it Be.

Thirty of her books were published including:
Life Mosaic, 1879
Life Chords, 1880
Life Echoes, 1883
Collected Letters, 1887
My Bible Study – for the Sundays of the Year, 1885
Under His Shadow, 1879

More information about Frances Ridley Havergal at the Havergal Trust

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