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


Editors of The English Hymnal

The preface to the hymnal describes 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,[citation needed] and the hymnbook could be considered a musical companion to The Parson's Handbook, Dearmer's 1899 manifesto on English church ceremonial, vestments and furnishings.[3][4]

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 a landmark in English hymnody[5] and one of the most influential hymnals of the 20th century.[6] 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;[7][8] and Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones, a new text for the hymn tune Lasst uns erfreuen. The hymnal also includes many plainsong melodies (in both plainsong and modernised 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,[9] which had been published two years previous.[10]

The book is a characteristic green colour and is sometimes associated with the high-church or Anglo-Catholic movement within Anglicanism.[11] 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.[citation needed]


A new edition of The English Hymnal was issued in 1933,[12] 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 an appendix, which is often referred to as "the chamber of horrors",[13][14][15] a description attributed to Vaughan-Williams himself.[16][17][18][19][20]

A supplement to the hymnal, English Praise, was published in 1975.[21]

The New English Hymnal appeared in 1986,[22] and its supplement, New English Praise in 2006, both under the imprint of the Canterbury Press, now SCM Canterbury Press. A Revised English Hymnal is scheduled for publication in 2022.[23]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Wilkinson 1985, p. 140.
  2. ^ a b Howse 2006.
  3. ^ Palmer Heathman 2017, p. 184.
  4. ^ "Medievalism and Ritualism – Part 1: Percy Dearmer and the scholarly context of the Parson's Handbook". Medieval Art. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  5. ^ "English Hymnal". The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press.
  6. ^ Wilson-Dickson 2003, p. 234.
  7. ^ Wilkinson 1985, p. 131.
  8. ^ Hawes 2000.
  9. ^ Wilkinson 1985, p. 52.
  10. ^ Leaver 1990, p. 482.
  11. ^ Kilcrease 2017, p. 93; Leaver 1990, pp. 483, 503.
  12. ^ Dickinson 1956, p. 244.
  13. ^ Palmer Heathman 2017, pp. 183–200.
  14. ^ Sceats 1951, pp. 235–246.
  15. ^ Anderson 2004, pp. 165–166.
  16. ^ "Ralph Vaughan Williams". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  17. ^ Bradley 2005, pp. 231–241.
  18. ^ "Tune army". The Northern Echo. 31 January 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  19. ^ Garland, M. (2020), Brightest and best (PDF)
  20. ^ Giles, G. (2020). "Sweet Sacrament Divine" (PDF). Church Music Quarterly. RSCM: 44–46.
  21. ^ Luff 2007, pp. 17–18.
  22. ^ Luff 2007, p. 19.
  23. ^ "Revised English Hymnal". Retrieved 4 April 2020.


Further readingEdit

  • 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.

External linksEdit