How, William Walsham
b Shrewsbury, Shrops 1823, d Leenane, Co Mayo, Ireland 1897. Shrewsbury Sch; Wadham Coll Oxford (BA 1845). A hymn-lover from childhood, he would provide hymns as with his small siblings he held ‘services’ in the absence of their parents; his earliest surviving text appeared at the age of 12 and much later he pioneered the practice of giving children’s addresses. He trained for the CofE ministry at Durham and was ordained in 1846. After curacies at Kidderminster and Shrewsbury (1846–51) he became Rector of Whittington nr Oswestry (Shrops) where he remained for 28 years, humbly self-critical but with reverent worship, home visiting and schools among his priorities. In growing demand as a speaker he led parish missions; at the Wolverhampton Church Congress of 1867 he pleaded for loyal Anglicanism: protestant, gospel-preaching, neither ritualist nor ‘anti-ritualist’, and avoiding the opposite evils of slovenly devotion or Roman error. The next year was notable for a narrow escape from drowning (cf F Houghton), and for his joining the committee for revising the AV (King James) Bible, while in April 1875 he was ‘agreeably surprised’ at a Moody and Sankey meeting, praising the grand singing and the ‘simple but vivid…sermon’.
Having rejected many possible appointments including bishoprics from the 1860s onwards, he was eventually called in 1879 to be the suffragan Bp of Bedford, a legal title he had to endure, but effectively the first ever bishop for E London long before there could be a Bp of Stepney, or what Bp John Jackson called the ‘eastern portion…of (his) unwieldy diocese …where many of the parishes are spiritually in a very depressed and unsatisfactory state’. How’s own view, before starting, was that ‘the church is nowhere in East London’ [his italics]. For legal reasons he was also Rector of St Andrew Undershaft, a post he took seriously and a parish joined in 1977 with St Helen’s Bishopsgate, served by Dick Lucas 1961–98. But from his new home base at Clapton Common WWH earned the nicknames of ‘the poor man’s bishop’, ‘the children’s bishop’ (and enthralling story-teller and partygiver) and ‘the omnibus bishop’ from his priorities and habits of travel. He was methodical, well-prepared even for his own death; he had a gentle sense of humour, an expert love of flowers and of animals including dogs, and of fly-fishing (but not in Lent), and was a ready author of comic verse and serious sonnets. He delighted in Scottish holidays, and two in Norway. In 1886 Oxford made him Hon DD; the next year he anticipated CSSM’s beach missions in leading a ‘children’s service’ on the Barmouth sands, shortly before his wife’s death. A few days after her funeral he gave an address in Manchester which earned the praise of Thomas Huxley (whose view of E London was ‘no hope here’) for his openness to new scientific discoveries. To WWH, science and Christian faith were never at war. He was a bridge-builder, too, between rich and poor, and Anglican and Free churches. A pastor without worldly ambition (‘his ambition was not be remembered, but to be helpful’—Wm Boyd-Carpenter), and a loyal ‘Prayer Book’ man with an alcohol-free lifestyle and a Friday fast, he is said to have declined two ‘larger’ bishoprics without telling his wife; but in 1888, aged 64 and with at first a heavy heart, he became the first bishop of the smoky industrial diocese of Wakefield, Yorks. There he normally travelled by train, and vercame initial suspicion by ‘the sympathy of his large heart, and [his] love and single-hearted earnestness…[he] always seemed to bring sunshine with him’ (Ingham Brooke, Rector of Thornhill, to whom he soon wrote, ‘Will you do me a favour, and be-lord me no more, please’). Early in Wakefield he comforted the bereaved after a mining disaster, tried unsuccessfully to resolve a miners’ strike, and declined the prestigious post of Bishop of Durham; for all three, cf HCG Moule. He enjoyed novels, but found the ‘sneers’ in one of Thos Hardy’s so offensive that he threw it on the fire. He died while on holiday near Galway on the W coast of Ireland.
WWH’s own writings were mainly completed long before his years as a bishop, beginning with Plain Words, a series of collected short sermons which from 1859 onwards established him as an author. Between 1863 and 1868 he wrote a popular commentary on the Gospels and in 1874 Pastor in Parochia, mainly for clergy. Among other practical and pastoral works he compiled Daily Family Prayers for Churchmen (1852) and a pocket manual for Holy Communion (1878). With Thos B Morrell he co-edited his first hymn-book in 1854, but gradually abandoned his dream of an authorised CofE collection. He was committee chairman and joint editor for Church Hymns (1871), which for a time challenged the supremacy of A&M on behalf of moderate evangelicals; he also enabled Mrs Carey Brock to publish The Children’s Hymn Book (1881). More hymns and other verses were published in 1886; 54 of them were collected posthumously. One, requested by the Prince of Wales for the Queen’s diamond Jubilee, was highly singable and widely sung, but too limited in focus to last and causing some offence by using the word ‘England’ (it was sung ‘from Land’s End to Berwick-on-Tweed’); but Sullivan’s tune, also written by royal request, has endured: see notes to 931 (EP1). WWH has been held in high regard among 19th-c Anglican hymnwriters; see also the notes on his younger contemporary Baring-Gould. 17 hymns were chosen for the Congregational Hymnary; 8 by EH, 11 by the 1965 Anglican Hymn Book, 9 by Congregational Praise (1950), 8 by CH. His son Frederick wrote a full and loving memoir published in 1898 including 5 pages by Boyd-Carpenter, dated but perceptive, on his and other hymns; see also notes to Wm Jones (Composers’ index). At his death, his hymns were particularly remembered and his character compared to that of Thos Ken, qv. Nos.429, 585, 708.