Fringe Box



Parke’s People No.13: The Rev’d John Samuel Bewly Monsell

Published on: 31 Jan, 2013
Updated on: 31 Jan, 2013

In the latest of an occasional series about people who have a connection with Guildford in one way or another, Bernard Parke recalls the Rev’d John Samuel Bewly Monsell, composer of hymns and poetry and who was also a rector of St Nicolas’ Church in Guildford. 

The Rev'd John Monsell. Picture courtesy of the Guildford Institute.

The Rev’d John Monsell. Picture courtesy of the Guildford Institute.

I wonder how many people as they pass St Nicolas’ Church at the foot of Guildford High Street take more than a casual glance at the memorial bearing the name of the Rev’d John Samuel Bewly Monsell?

He was one of the most prolific writers of hymn lyrics the Church of England has ever known. Three hundred hymns can be attributed to his work and perhaps a quarter of them are still being sung in churches today.

In addition to such memorable hymns as Fight the Good Fight and Awake Glad Soul, the Rev’d Monsell was a prolific poet, with 11 volumes of published poems to his credit.

He was responsible for the re-building of the present church we know as St Nicolas, but during it he experienced his fatal accident.

St Nicolas' Church, Guildford, in about 1910.

St Nicolas’ Church, Guildford, in about 1910.

The reverend’s premature death was in 1875, caused by a fall from the roof of the church. The fall caused him to break an arm which became infected to such a degree that brought about his demise.

At the time of his death he was chaplain to Queen Victoria, an honour he had held since 1870.

Memorial plaque to the Rev'd John Monsell.

Memorial plaque to the Rev’d John Monsell.

He was also responsible for the restoration of St Jude’s Church at Englfield Green in Surrey and a church in his native Ireland, at Ballykelly.

St Nicolas’ Church has been rebuilt at least three times. The present church also incorporates the earlier More Molyneux memorial chapel.

Rev’d Monsell is buried in The Mount Cemetery in Guildford.

The Rev'd Monsell's headstone in The Mount Cemetery, Guildford.

The Rev’d Monsell’s headstone in The Mount Cemetery, Guildford.

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