John Ellerton (b. London, England, 1826; d. Torquay, Devonshire, England, 1893) Educated at King William's College on the Isle of Man and at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, he was ordained in the Church of England in 1851. He served six parishes, spending the longest time in Crewe Green (1860-1872), a church of steelworkers and farmers. Ellerton wrote and translated about eighty hymns, many of which are still sung today. He helped to compile Church Hymns and wrote its handbook, Notes and Illustrations to Church Hymns (1882). Some of his other hymn texts were published in The London Mission Hymn Book (1884).
Ellerton, John, M.A., son of George Ellerton, was born in London, Dec. 16, 1826, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A. 1849; M.A. 1854). Taking Holy Orders he was successively Curate of Easebourne, Sussex, 1850; Brighton, and Lecturer of St. Peter's, Brighton, 1852; Vicar of Crewe Green, and Chaplain to Lord Crewe, 1860; Rector of Hinstock, 1872; of Barnes, 1876; and of White Roding, 1886. Mr. Ellerton's prose writings include The Holiest Manhood, 1882; Our Infirmities, 1883, &c. It is, however, as a hymnologist, editor, hymnwriter, and translator, that he is most widely known. As editor he published: Hymns for Schools and Bible Classes, Brighton, 1859. He was also co-editor with Bishop How and others of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Church Hymns, 1871. His Notes and Illustrations of Church Hymns, their authors and translators, were published in the folio edition of 1881. The notes on the hymns which are special to the collection, and many of which were contributed thereto, are full, accurate, and of special value. Those on the older hymns are too general for accuracy. They are written in a popular form, which necessarily precludes extended research, fulness, and exactness of detail. The result is acceptable to the general public, but disappointing to the hymnological expert. Mr. Ellerton's original hymns number about fifty, and his translations from the Latin ten or more. Nearly every one of these are in common use and include:—
1. Before the day draws near its ending. Afternoon. Written April 22, 1880, for a Festival of Choirs at Nantwich, and first published in the Nantwich Festival Book, 1880. In 1883 it passed into the Westminster Abbey Hymn Book.
2. Behold us, Lord, a little space. General for Weekdays. Written in 1870 for a mid-day service in a City Church, and published in Church Hymns in 1871. It has passed into several collections.
3. Come forth, 0 Christian brothers. Processional for Choral Festival. Written for a Festival of Parochial Choirs held at Chester, May, 1870, and 1st printed in the Service-book of the same. In 1871 it passed into Church Hymns.
4. Father, Name of love and fear. Confirmation. Written in 1871 for a Confirmation in the North of England, and published in Church Hymns, 1871, and other collections.
5. God, Creator and Preserver. In Time of Scarcity. Written for and first published in The Hymnary, 1870; and again in the revised edition, 1872, and other hymnbooks.
6. Hail to the Lord Who comes. Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Written Oct. 6, 1880, for Mrs. Brock's Children's Hymn Book, and published therein, 1881.
7. In the Name which earth and heaven. Foundation of a Church. Written for and first published in Church Hymns, 1871, and repeated in several collections. The hymn sung at the re-opening of the Nave of Chester Cathedral, January 25, 1872, was compiled by Mr. Ellerton from this hymn, and his "Lift the strain of high thanksgiving.”
8 King Messiah, long expected. The Circumcision. Written Jan. 14, 1871, and first published in Church Hymns, 1871. It has passed into other collections.
9. King of Saints, to Whom the number. St. Bartholomew. Written for and first published in Church Hymns., 1871. It is very popular, and has been repeated in many hymnals.
10. Mary at the Master's feet. Catechizing. Written for and first published in Church Hymns, 1871.
11. O Father, all-creating. Holy Matrimony. Written Jan. 29, 1876, at the request of the Duke of Westminster, for the marriage of his daughter to the Marquess of Ormonde. It was published in Thring's Collection, 1880 and 1882.
12 O! how fair the morning broke. Septuagesima. Written March 13, 1880, for Mrs. Brock's Children's Hymn Book, and included therein, 1881.
13. O Lord of life and death, welcome. In Time of Pestilence. Written for and first published in Church Hymns, 1871.
14. O shining city of our God. Concerning the Hereafter. First published in the Rev. R. Brown-Borthwick's Sixteen Hymns with Tunes, &c, 1870; and again in Church Hymns, 1871.
15. O Son of God, our Captain of Salvation. St. Barnabas. Written April 5, 1871, and first published in Church Hymns, 1871; and again in Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1875, Thring's Collection, 1882, and others.
16. O Thou in Whom Thy saints repose. Consecration of a Burial Ground. Written for the consecration of an addition to the Parish Churchyard of Tarporley, Cheshire, 1870, and published in Church Hymns, 1871.
17. O Thou Whose bounty fills the earth. Flower Services. Written for a Flower Service at St. Luke's Church, Chelsea, June 6, 1880, and published in Mrs. Brock's Children's Hymn Book, 1881.
18. Praise to our God, Whose bounteous hand. National Thanksgiving. Written in 1870 for Church Hymns, but first published in the Rev. R. Brown-Borthwick's Select Hymns, &c., 1871, and then in Church Hymns later the same year.
19. The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended. The darkness, &c. Evening. Written in 1870 for A Liturgy for Missionary Meetings (Frome, Hodges), and revised for Church Hymns, 1871. The revised form has passed into other collections.
20. The Lord be with us when we bend. Close of Afternoon Service. Written [in 1870] at the request of a friend for use at the close of Service on Sunday afternoons when (as in summer) strictly Evening hymns would be unsuitable. It was published in Church Hymns, 1871, Thring's Collection, 1882, and others.
21. This day the Lord's disciples met. Whitsuntide. "Originally written in 1855 for a class of children, as a hymn of 8 verses of 5 lines each, beginning, 'The Fiftieth day was come at last.’ It was abridged, revised, and compressed into C.M. for Mrs. Brock's Children's Hymn Book, 1880," and published therein, 1881.
22. Thou in Whose Name the two or three. Wednesday. Appeared in the Parish Magazine, May, 1871, as a hymn for Wednesday. After revision it was included in Church Hymns, 1871, and repeated in other collections.
23. Thou Who sentest Thine Apostles. SS. Simon and Jude. Written in June, 1874, for the revised edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern, and published in the same in 1875.
24. We sing the glorious conquest. Conversion of St. Paul. Written Feb. 28, 1871, for and published later the same year in Church Hymns. It was repeated in Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1875.
25. When the day of toil is done. Eternal Best. Written in Jan., 1870, and first published in the Rev. R. Brown-Borthwick's Sixteen Hymns with Tunes, &c. 1870, Church Hymns, 1871, and subsequently in several Scottish hymn-books. The tune "Preston," in Church Hymns was written for this hymn.
To these hymns must be added those which are annotated under their respective first lines, and the translations from the Latin. The grandest of his original compositions is, "Throned upon the awful tree," and the most beautiful and tender, "Saviour, again to Thy dear Name we raise"; and of his translations, "Sing Alleluia forth in duteous praise," and "Welcome, happy morning, age to age shall say," are the most successful and popular. The subjects of Mr. Ellerton's hymns, and the circumstances under which they were written, had much to do with the concentration of thought and terseness of expression by which they are characterized. The words which he uses are usually short and simple; the thought is clear and well stated; the rhythm is good and stately. Ordinary facts in sacred history and in daily life are lifted above the commonplace rhymes with which they are usually associated, thereby rendering the hymns bearable to the cultured, and instructive to the devout. His antitheses are frequent and terse, almost too much so for devotional verse, and are in danger of interrupting the tranquil flow of devotion. His sympathy with nature, especially in her sadder moods, is great; he loves the fading light and the peace of eve, and lingers in the shadows. Unlike many writers who set forth their illustrations in detail, and then tie to them the moral which they are to teach, he weaves his moral into his metaphor, and pleases the imagination and refreshes the spirit together. Now and again he falls into the weakness of ringing changes on words; but taken as a whole his verse is elevated in tone, devotional in spirit, and elegant in diction.
-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Ellerton, John, p. 326, i. Other hymns are:—
1. O Father, bless the children. Holy Baptism. Written in 1886, and published in his Hymns, &c, 1888, in 4 stanzas of 8 lines. Also in the 1889 Suppl. Hymns to Hymns Ancient & Modern.
2. O Thou Who givest food to all. Temperance. Written Aug. 30, 1882, and printed in the Church of England Temperance Chronicle, Sept. 1882. Also in his Hymns, &c, 1888.
3. Praise our God for all the wonders. St. Nicholas's Day. Dated in his Hymns, 1888, "December 1882." It was written for the Dedication Festival of St. Nicholas's Church, Brighton, and first printed as a leaflet in 1882.
4. Praise our God, Whose open hand. Bad Harvest. Written as a hymn for the bad harvest of 1881, and printed in the Guardian in August of that year. Also in his Hymns, &c, 1888.
5. Praise to the Heavenly Wisdom. St. Matthias's Day. Dated in his Hymns, &c, 1888, "January, 1888." Also in the 1889 Suppl. Hymns to Hymns Ancient & Modern.
6. Shine Thou upon us, Lord. For a Teachers' Meeting. Contributed to the 1889 Suppl. Hymns to Hymns Ancient & Modern.
7. Thou Who wearied by the well. Temperance. Written for the Opening of a Workmen's Coffee Tavern, and dated in his Hymns, &c, 1888, "September 23, 1882." It was printed in the Church of England Temperance Chronicle the same year.
8. Throned upon the awful Tree. Good Friday. Written in 1875, and published in the 1875 ed. of Hymns Ancient & Modern. It has passed into many collections, and is one of the finest of Mr. Ellerton's productions.
Mr. Ellerton's original and translated hymns to the number of 76 were collected, and published by Skeffington & Son in 1888, as Hymns, Original and Translated. By John Ellerton, Rector of White Roding.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)
Ellerton, J., pp. 326, ii.; 1561, ii. He was appointed Hon. Canon of St. Albans in 1892. and died June 15, 1893. His Life and Works, by H. Housman, was published in 1896.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)