Psalms and Hymns for the use of the chapel of King’s School (1859).

On 17 February 1855, the chapel at Sherborne School was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury, Dr Walter Kerr Hamilton, and dedicated to St John the Evangelist.  Located in the former domestic buildings of the monastery, which had been given to School in 1851 by Edward, Earl of Digby, the cost of their conversion into a chapel was paid for by Headmaster Hugo Daniel Harper.

A chapel choir was apparently set up soon afterwards and, although the choir were paid extra pocket money for their services, the quality of the singing was often complained about.

In 1859, a volume of Psalms and Hymns for the use of the Chapel of King’s School was published at Rugby by Crossley and Billington for use in the chapel at Sherborne School.  This appears to have been the School’s first hymn book.

The 1859 hymn book contained a selection of psalms and hymns for Morning, Evening, Advent, Sunday before Christmas, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Whitsunday, Trinity Sunday, Communion, Confirmation, First Sunday in the Half Year, Last Sunday in the Half year, Funeral, Praise, Confidence in God, Faith, Penitence and Prayer, the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the Communion of Saints.

From 1861 the organist at Sherborne Abbey, Edward Herbert Mus. Bac., was employed to train the School choir, although this appears to have had mixed results.  In December 1869, a letter to the Editor appeared in The Shirburnian, complaining about the state of the choir, saying ‘It is impossible for anyone who sits near the Choir not to notice the extreme listlessness of some of its members, not to say three-fourths, who seem to think that they are placed in the Choir for the sole purpose of trying the strength of the high desks which have been place there… Other members seem to imagine that they may lose their chins by too great exertion, so to prevent this they rest them so firmly in their hands that they cannot move at all.  These seem to be the two chief characteristics of the positions adopted by the School Choir during the chants and hymns.  Other still more strange habits are practised during the time the Kyrie ought to be sung; for instance, the head is placed on the desk with the arm curled around it, so that the singer may have the full benefit of his own voice.  Again, large pieces of coat, or a finger or two, sometimes more are taken into the mouth, which for the first time is fully extended.’

Cartoon by P.A.J., The Shirburnian, Summer 1958.

The Uppingham-Sherborne Hymn Book (1874).

Sherborne’s Headmaster Hugo Daniel Harper was close friends with Edward Thring, the Headmaster of Uppingham School.  In 1869, Thring formed the Headmaster’s Conference (HMC) with the first formal conference held at Sherborne School on 28 December 1870.  In October 1874, Tring and Harper compiled a joint Uppingham-Sherborne hymn book published in London by Novello, Ewer and Co.  It contained 253 hymns, five of which were written by Edward Thring and nineteen by his brother Godfrey Thring.  It also included ten hymns written by Old Shirburnian John Mason Neale, including ‘All Glory, Laud and Honour’.

The 1874 hymn book contained hymns for Morning and Evening, Advent, Christmas, New Year, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascensiontide, Whitsuntide, Trinity Sunday, General Hymns, Saints and Martyrs, Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Funeral, Laying the Foundation Stone of a Church, Consecration of a Church, Missions, First and Last Sunday of the Term, Luther’s Reformation Hymn, Canticles and Responses.  The arrangements were also suitable for secular concerts.

Hymns for the use of Sherborne School (1888).

The Uppingham-Sherborne hymn book remained in use at Sherborne until 1888 when it was replaced by a new hymn book compiled by Headmaster Edward YoungHymns for the use of Sherborne School was published at Sherborne in 1888 and remained in use for over 30 years.  It contained 390 hymns, including six hymns written by Edward Young, two by Edward Thring and sixteen by Old Shirburnian John Mason Neale.

The 1888 hymn book contained hymns for Morning, Evening, Sunday, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, The Passion, Easter Eve, Easter, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, Ascension, Whitsuntide, Trinity Sunday, Holy Days, Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Ember Days, Rogation Days, Matrimony, Burial of the Dead, Consecration, Missions, Almsgiving, Hospitals, Harvest, For Those at Sea, Times of Trouble, Old and New Year, Commemoration, First Sunday of Term, Last Sunday of Term, and General Hymns.

Young’s hymn book came under attack in the 1890s when a raven named Morloch took up residence at the School.  In his history of the School, A.B. Gourlay describes how Morloch and his successive wives spent their days sitting on the chapel steps where they pecked latecomers and destroyed the hymn books.  It is hardly surprising that when a new Headmaster arrived at Sherborne in 1909 the birds were swiftly expelled.

Morloch and one of his wives sitting outside the chapel, c.1900.

From 1919 to 1967, The (new) Public School Hymn Book was used in the School chapel.  The Public School Hymn Book was first produced by the Headmaster’s Conference in 1903, with a second edition in 1919.  The Second World War delayed publication of a third edition until 1949.  The third edition was revised by Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams and retained the popular hymns from the previous editions with the addition of over 200 new hymns.

Today, the School uses Hymns Ancient and Modern Standard Revised in the School chapel and the New English Hymnal in Sherborne Abbey.

Rachel Hassall
School Archivist
February 2019

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