Gill, Thomas Hornblower


b Bristol Rd, Birmingham 1819, d Grove Park, SE London 1906. King Edward’s Grammar Sch, Birmingham. Prevented from attending Oxford Univ by the Unitarian family faith (formerly Presbyterian) which he then shared, he was nourished on Watts, largely self-taught, and later associated with and eventually joined the evangelical Anglicans. He seems to have moved nearer to their doctrinal position, paradoxically, by his love for the hymns of Isaac Watts and his study of the Gk NT. Later, however, he dubbed himself an ‘Emersonian Puritan’, a reference to the American Ralph W Emerson. He began writing verse early. Birmingham’s noted preacher-theologian Dr R W Dale thought him the finest hymnwriter of his generation, including 39 of his hymns in his English Hymn Book of 1874 compiled for Carrs Lane Chapel where Gill often attended. Others allowed him to be at least the leading Free Church writer of his time. He wrote some 200 texts, some of which have been variously compared to those of G Wither, J Mason and even C Wesley; they proved popular in N America, but Anglicans have been slower to recognise their value. There are none in A&M (except for the 1904 edn), EH or the 1965 Anglican Hymn Book, but 5 feature in the 1962 Baptist Hymn Book and 4 in the URC’s Rejoice and Sing (1991). He began writing verse early; among his published works were The Fortunes of Faith (1841), The Golden Chain of Praise (in 1869, with 165 of his texts, enlarged 1894) and Songs of the Spirit (1871). His life overlapped that of Rosamond Herklots (qv) by 9 months, each having a home at Grove Park in SE London. No.578.

Hymns and songs by Gill, Thomas Hornblower

Number Hymn Name
578 We come before our Fathers’ God