Plumptre, Edward Hayes


b Bloomsbury, Middx (C London) 1821, d Wells, Som 1891. A scholar with a distinguished lineage traceable back to the 14th c, he was taught at home before becoming a prizewinning student of King’s Coll, London, and Univ Coll Oxford (BA, double 1st in maths and classics, 1844). Also a Fellow of Brasenose Coll, he was ordained in 1846, and returned to King’s, London, to spend more than 20 years as its Chaplain, and as Prof of NT and of Pastoral Theology for some of that time. Like his younger contemporary Ellerton (qv), he leaned towards the Christian Socialism of his staff colleague F D Maurice (who for his views on divine judgement was later dismissed, then reinstated) without following him uncritically; in 1848 he married Maurice’s sister Harriet Theodosa. By then he was a Lincoln’s Inn Asst Preacher, and a keen supporter of better education for women in the founding of Queen’s College, London. In its first year his Gk class included the future Cheltenham Headmistress Dorothea Beale, who was soon assisting him in teaching Lat. The college, however enlightened for its time, remained too cautiously conservative for many including Miss Buss and Miss Beale. But Plumptre also did much to provide evening classes for working people. In 1869 he became incumbent of Pluckley with Pevington (nr Ashford, Kent; combined adult pop 777); in 1873 of Bickley (nr Bromley, Kent, an Anglo-catholic ‘flagship’ church in the 20th c and beyond), and in 1881 Dean of Wells, Som. By now a DD (Glasgow), he excelled here at the grand ceremonial occasions, incorporating such processional hymns as Rejoice, ye pure in heart (written earlier) with its 12 SM stzs. He also introduced gas lighting, re-founded the Choir Sch, lectured at the Theological Coll, and was committed to the wider community in such projects as the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Soc and the temperance movement. He was a Hebrew scholar and a member of the OT group for the Revised Version of the Bible, 1869–74. This produced several offshoot studies in Job, Psalms, Isaiah etc; among other works of history, theology, and biblical and Lat studies, he wrote a 2-vol biography of Thos Ken (1888–90), whose affection for the city of Wells he shared. He published verse anthologies, translations of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Dante, and in 1864 Lazarus, and Other Poems. This last included O Light, whose beams illumine all, a treatment of John 14:6 linking salvation with exploration and written for the new chapel of King’s Coll Hospital (cf EP1 p395). His verse and prose also touched on the ‘larger hope’ for those dying beyond the bounds of the visible church.

4 of his hymns are in EH and the Standard edn of A&M; Free Ch books are more likely to be content with one, if any. Julian says that ‘the rhythm of his verse has a special attraction for musicians, its poetry for the cultured, and its stately simplicity for the devout and earnest-minded’. They also explored, as did Chas Kingsley, the rapidly growing (if sometimes tense) partnership between science and theology: ‘Let Faith still light the lamp of Science’; he also wrote personal verses for his wife. See also Bernard Braley in Hymnwriters 3 (1991), which like all in that series is rich in quotation and illustration. Braley sees Plumptre as a broad churchman, innovator rather than visionary, but also ‘an excellent teacher…an effective reconciler’. He died at the age of 69, having survived his wife by 2 years. No.579.

Hymns and songs by Plumptre, Edward Hayes

Number Hymn Name
579 Your hand, O God, has guided