b Tiverton, Devon 1751, d Surrey (SE London) 1836. He trained for the ministry at the ‘moderate Calvinist’ Baptist Coll in Bristol, and in 1773 became the youthful pastor of the Baptist congregation in Carter La, Tooley St, Southwark. There he succeeded the ‘high Calvinist’ John Gill (1697–1771), the two men ministering for a combined total of 117 years. 1000 members joined in Rippon’s time (see also under J Swain); the congregation later moved to New Park St to allow for the building of the new London Bridge. Rippon remained there for more than 60 years until his death. In 1792 he was awarded an hon DD by the Baptist Coll at Providence, Rhode Island, USA. From 1790 to 1802 he edited the Baptist Annual Register, covering events in the UK and N America and now an invaluable reference work; among his other historical and biographical writings was a Brief Memoir of the Life and Writings of Rev Jn Gill. Some 40,000 [sic] burials in Bunhill Fields were recorded in the list he compiled. He took the American side in the War of Independence, campaigned for full civil liberties for Dissenters, publicised the work of Wm Carey and the work of the BMS, conducted a vast correspondence in Britain, Europe and N America, and found time for village evangelism at home. In 1812 he was a leading figure in the founding of the Baptist Union and became its first chairman; calling himself ‘the willing servant of all the churches’, he not only was London’s leading Baptist minister, but gave a new sense of cohesion and identity to Baptists throughout England.
The year 1787 saw the appearance of the 1st edn of what became his most famous production, A selection of Hymns from the best authors, intended as an Appendix to Dr Watts’s Psalms and Hymns. This became known as Rippon’s Selection; a tune book was published in 1791, and subsequent edns of the hymn-book pioneered the practice of noting the tune names for each text. By 1800 the Selection had reached its 10th edn, with a further 60 hymns; another enlarged edn came in 1827, and after his death came The Comprehensive Edition of 1844 (the 44th), now grown to 1174 hymns in 100 different metres. As he did not attach his name to any of the hymns, it is now uncertain how many, and which ones, are definitely his. Though lacking the hymnwriting genius of Watts or the Wesleys, by these compilations he became a key figure in the story of English hymns, and certainly did for the Baptists what other pioneers had done for Independency and Methodism—and like them for all the English-speaking churches. His editing is acknowledged to have improved many of the hymns. Kenneth R Manley has written extensively about his life and work. No.281*.