Bickersteth, Edward Henry
b Islington, N London (Middx) 1825, d Paddington, W London (Middx) 1906. Trinity Coll Cambridge (BA 1847, MA). One of a long and continuing dynasty of mainly Anglican (and clerical) Bickersteths, his father was a classic and godly old-school evangelical with a great concern for sound hymnody. EHB was ordained in 1848 to a curacy at Banningham, nr N Walsham, Norfolk. For 30 years he was Vicar of Christ Church, Hampstead, N London (1855–85); and then after a brief time as Dean of Gloucester he served as Bp of Exeter until illness hastened his retirement in 1900. He remained a keen supporter of the overseas work of CMS and other evangelistic enterprises. In 1849 he published Poems; and Psalms and Hymns in 1858, based on the work of his father Edward senr who wrote the Psalm-based Oh for a single heart for God (see the Introduction to this present book); and in 1867, Christian Psalmody; Yesterday, Today and For Ever (opening with 7 hymns on the Scriptures). He suggested suitable Scripture texts for tombstones, with a dozen varied metrical epitaphs, varying from couplets to 5-stz poems. In 1870 he compiled and edited the 1st edn of what became the standard evangelical book (2nd edn 1877), the Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer, signing the Preface simply ‘E H Exon’ (for Exeter). His own work was collected in 1883 as From Year to Year, including hymns and other verses arranged to match the church’s calendar. 11 of his hymns were chosen for the Church Missionary Hymn Book of 1899, published to mark the CMS centenary. CH includes 3 of these; Christian Praise (1957) had 4. Routley thought that his best hymn was O God, the rock of ages, who evermore hast been, while admitting that it was more popular in the USA than in Britain where, however, some Free Ch books feature it. But not his least gift to today’s church is his editorial ‘rescue from oblivion’ (in 1870) of no.363, at least in England. In the USA it has never needed to be rescued. A biography by Francis K Y Aglionby appeared in 1907. No.797.