AN AUTHOR's manuscript of one of the best-known hymns in
English, "Onward, Christian soldiers" (right), is expected
to sell for as much as £1500 when it comes up for auction in the
It was written by the Revd Sabine Baring-Gould and first
published, over his initials, in the Church Times on 15
October 1864, the year of Baring-Gould's ordination. It was No. VII
in a series of "Mission Hymns", and headed "Hymn for Procession
with Cross and Banners".
When, in later years, Baring-Gould was asked about the
circumstances of its writing, his accounts varied; and he dated it
1865. But, in a letter of 1918 to Canon J. B. Hill of Horbury, near
Wakefield, where he had served as an assistant curate, he said:
"The hymn, 'Onward, Christian Soldiers', was written on Whitsun
Eve, 1865. It had been resolved that the Brig Children should come
up to the parish church on Whitsun Tuesday; and Mr Fred Knowles
came to me at the Vicarage and asked what they were to sing on the
long walk. We discussed one thing and then an-other and I said I
would write a processional. 'You must be sharp about it', said Mr
Knowles, 'for this is Saturday and there will shortly be not
"So I set to work and knocked off the hymn in about ten minutes.
We got it printed and practised on Sunday afternoon at School, and
it was sung to a tune by Haydn on the Tuesday. I sent it to the
Church Times and it was therein printed and
The tune was from the slow movement of Haydn's Symphony in D,
No. 15. It was not until 1871, when Sir Arthur Sullivan wrote the
tune St Gertrude, that the hymn's popularity
Baring-Gould published more than 1240 works, including a book on
the history of werewolves.
The manuscript will be offered for sale at Bonhams' London
saleroom on 10 April.