Thomas Ken

Last updated

Thomas Ken
Thomas Ken by F. Scheffer.jpg
BornJuly 1637
Little Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, England
Died19 March 1711
Longleat, Wiltshire, England
Venerated in Anglican Communion
Major shrine
  • 20 March (Episcopal Church)
  • 8 June (Church of England)

Thomas Ken (July 1637 – 19 March 1711) was an English cleric who was considered the most eminent of the English non-juring bishops, and one of the fathers of modern English hymnody.

Nonjuring schism split in the Anglican church of the 17th and 18th centuries over whether William III and Mary II could legally be recognised as sovereigns

The nonjuring schism was a split in the Anglican churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, over whether William III and Mary II could legally be recognised as sovereigns.


Early life

Ken was born in 1637 at Little Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire. His father was Thomas Ken of Furnival's Inn, of the Ken family of Ken Place, in Somerset; his mother was the daughter of little known English poet John Chalkhill. In 1646 Ken's stepsister, Anne, married Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler , a connection which brought Ken under the influence of this gentle and devout man. [1]

Berkhamsted civil parish and town in Dacorum, Hertfordshire in England

Berkhamsted is a historic market town close to the western boundary of Hertfordshire, England. It is situated in the small Bulbourne valley in the Chiltern Hills, 26 miles (42 km) northwest of London. The town is a civil parish with a town council within the borough of Dacorum, based at the much larger town of Hemel Hempstead. Berkhamsted and the adjoining village of Northchurch are surrounded by countryside, much of it classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Furnivals Inn Inn of Chancery (demolished 1897)

Furnival's Inn was an Inn of Chancery which formerly stood on the site of the present Holborn Bars building in Holborn, London, England.

Somerset County of England

Somerset is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, its coastline facing southeastern Wales. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's county town is Taunton.

In 1652 Ken entered Winchester College, and in 1656 became a student of Hart Hall, Oxford. He gained a fellowship at New College in 1657, and proceeded B.A. in 1661 and M.A. in 1664. [1] He was for some time tutor of his college; but the most characteristic reminiscence of his university life is the mention made by Anthony Wood that in the musical gatherings of the time Thomas Ken of New College, a junior, would be sometimes among them, and sing his part. Ordained in 1662, he successively held the livings of Little Easton in Essex, St. Mary's Church, Brighstone [2] in the Isle of Wight, and East Woodhay in Hampshire; in 1672 he resigned the last of these, and returned to Winchester, being by this time a prebendary of the cathedral, and chaplain to the bishop, as well as a fellow of Winchester College.

Winchester College school in Winchester, Hampshire, England

Winchester College is an independent boarding school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years. It is the oldest of the original seven English public schools defined by the Clarendon Commission and regulated by the Public Schools Act 1868.

Hertford College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford

Hertford College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. It is located on Catte Street in the centre of Oxford, directly opposite the main gate to the Bodleian Library. The College is known for its iconic bridge, the Bridge of Sighs. There are around 600 students at the College at any one time, comprising undergraduates, graduates and visiting students from overseas. As of 2015, the college had a financial endowment of £56m.

New College, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom

New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, the full name of the college is St Mary's College of Winchester in Oxford. The name "New College", however, soon came to be used following its completion in 1386 to distinguish it from the older existing college of St. Mary, now known as Oriel College.

He remained there for several years, acting as curate in one of the lowest districts, preparing his Manual of Prayers for the use of the Scholars of Winchester College (first published in 1674), and composing hymns. [1] It was at this time that he wrote, primarily for the same body as his prayers, his morning, evening and midnight hymns, the first two of which, beginning "Awake, my soul, and with the sun" and "Glory to Thee, my God, this night," are well known. The latter is often made to begin with the line "All praise to Thee, my God, this night," but in the earlier editions over which Ken had control, the line is as first given. Both of these hymns end with a doxology beginning "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow," which is widely sung today by itself, often to the tune Old 100th.

Curate person who is invested with the care or cure (cura) of souls of a parish

A curate is a person who is invested with the care or cure (cura) of souls of a parish. In this sense, "curate" correctly means a parish priest; but in English-speaking countries the term curate is commonly used to describe clergy who are assistants to the parish priest. The duties or office of a curate are called a curacy.

A doxology is a short hymn of praises to God in various forms of Christian worship, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. The tradition derives from a similar practice in the Jewish synagogue, where some version of the Kaddish serves to terminate each section of the service.

"Old 100th" or "Old Hundredth" is a hymn tune in Long Metre from Pseaumes Octante Trois de David (1551) and is one of the best known melodies in all Christian musical traditions. The tune is usually attributed to the French composer Louis Bourgeois.

In 1674 Ken paid a visit to Rome in company with his nephew, the young Izaak Walton, and this journey seems mainly to have resulted in confirming his regard for the Anglican communion. [1]

Izaak Walton English author and biographer

Izaak Walton was an English writer. Best known as the author of The Compleat Angler, he also wrote a number of short biographies that have been collected under the title of Walton's Lives.

Ken and Charles II

In 1679, Ken was appointed by Charles II chaplain to the Princess Mary, wife of William of Orange. While with the court at the Hague, he incurred the displeasure of William by insisting that a promise of marriage, made to an English lady of high birth by a relative of the prince, should be kept; and he therefore gladly returned to England in 1680, when he was immediately appointed one of the king's chaplains. [1]

Charles II of England King of England, Ireland and Scotland

Charles II was king of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 until his death.

Mary II of England joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland

Mary II was Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, co-reigning with her husband and first cousin, King William III and II, from 1689 until her death; popular histories usually refer to their joint reign as that of William and Mary. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the adoption of the English Bill of Rights and the deposition of her Roman Catholic father, James II and VII. William became sole ruler upon her death in 1694. He reigned as such until his own death in 1702, when he was succeeded by Mary's sister Anne.

William III of England Stadtholder, Prince of Orange and King of England, Scotland and Ireland

William III, also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from 1672 and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II. He is sometimes informally known in Northern Ireland and Scotland as "King Billy".

He was once more residing at Winchester in 1683 when Charles came to the city with his slightly disreputable court. His residence was chosen as the home of Nell Gwynne, the King's official mistress. Ken stoutly objected and succeeded in making the favourite find quarters elsewhere. [3] In August of this same year he accompanied Lord Dartmouth to Tangier as chaplain to the fleet, and Pepys, who was one of the company, has left on record some quaint and kindly reminiscences of him and of his services on board. [1]

The fleet returned in April 1684, and a few months after, upon a vacancy occurring in the see of Bath and Wells, Ken was appointed bishop. It is said that, upon the, occurrence of the vacancy, the King, mindful of the spirit he had shown at Winchester, exclaimed, "Where is the good little man that refused his lodging to poor Nell?" and determined that no other should be bishop. The consecration took place at Lambeth on 25 January 1685; and one of Ken's first duties was to attend the death-bed of Charles, where his wise and faithful ministrations won the admiration of everybody except Bishop Burnet.

In this year he published his Exposition on the Church Catechism, perhaps better known by its sub-title, The Practice of Divine Love.

Ken and James II

Group portrait of the Seven Bishops The Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688 from NPG (2).jpg
Group portrait of the Seven Bishops

In 1688, when James reissued his Declaration of Indulgence , Ken was one of the Seven Bishops who refused to publish it. He was probably influenced by two considerations: first, by his profound aversion to Roman Catholicism, to which he felt he would be giving some episcopal recognition by compliance; but, second and more especially, by the feeling that James was compromising the spiritual freedom of the church. Along with his six brethren, Ken was committed to the Tower on 8 June 1688, on a charge of high misdemeanour. Ken was put on trial with the others on 29 and 30 June, which resulted in a verdict of acquittal. [1]

The nonjuring schism

With the Glorious Revolution which speedily followed this impolitic trial, new troubles encountered Ken; for, having sworn allegiance to James, he thought himself thereby precluded from taking the oath to William of Orange. Accordingly, he took his place among the non-jurors, and, as he stood firm to his refusal, he was, in August 1691, superseded in his bishopric by Dr Richard Kidder, dean of Peterborough. [1]

From this time he lived mostly in retirement, finding a congenial home with Lord Weymouth, his friend from college days, at Longleat in Wiltshire; and though pressed by Queen Anne to resume his diocese in 1703, upon the death of Bishop Kidder, he declined, partly on the ground of growing weakness, but partly no doubt from his love for the quiet life of devotion which he was able to lead at Longleat. He did however persuade George Hooper to accept and made a cession to him. At Hooper's instigation, Queen Anne granted Ken a pension of £200. [4] His death took place there on 19 March 1711. and at dawn the following day, whilst his faithful friends sang "Awake, my soul, and with the sun" Bishop Ken's remains were laid to rest beneath the East Window of the Church of St. John in Frome – the nearest parish in his old Diocese of Bath and Wells. "I am dying," Ken had written, "in the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West; and, more particularly, in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from both Papal and Protestant innovation, and adheres to the Doctrine of the Cross." [1]

Lodger at Longleat

A View of Longleat, Jan Siberechts, 1675 Siberechts-ViewovLongleat.jpg
A View of Longleat, Jan Siberechts, 1675

When deprived of his see by William and Mary in 1691 after he refused to transfer his oath of allegiance from James, on the grounds that once given, it could not be forsworn, he was given lodgings at Longleat and an £80 annuity by Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth, a friend since Oxford days.

Taking up residence on the top floor at Longleat for a period of some twenty years, he exerted a profound influence upon Thomas Thynne, becoming what some might describe as his conscience. Thynne thus acquired a reputation for good deeds, which he himself regarded as spontaneous enough, but which the friends of his youth were inclined to regard as having been inspired by his devout friend, the Bishop.

An example of such benevolence: In 1707, Thynne, influenced by Ken, founded a grammar school for boys in the nearby market town of Warminster, with 23 free places for local boys. Originally The Lord Weymouth School (and known locally as The Latin School), in 1973 this school merged with St Monica's School for Girls to become the co-educational Warminster School, which continues to this day. Ken is remembered at Warminster School by the naming of a competitive 'house' after him.

Notable too is the fact that a portion of the West Wing of Longleat was transformed into a chapel for the household's daily worship. Not that its interior ever matched the architectural finery of equivalent chapels in other stately homes, but it was in any case evidence of the devout spirit which prevailed at Longleat over that particular historical period.

While living in the house at Longleat, Ken wrote many of his famous hymns, including 'Awake my soul', and, when he died in 1711, bequeathed his extensive library to the 1st Viscount.

Ken's reputation and legacy

Although Ken wrote much poetry, besides his hymns, he cannot be called a great poet; but he had that fine combination of spiritual insight and feeling with poetic taste which marks all great hymn-writers. As a hymn-writer he has had few equals in England; he wrote Praise God from whom all blessings flow. [5] It can scarcely be said that even John Keble, though possessed of much rarer poetic gifts, surpassed him in his own sphere. In his own day he took high rank as a pulpit orator, and even royalty had to beg for a seat amongst his audiences; but his sermons are now forgotten. He lives in history, apart from his three hymns, mainly as a man of unstained purity and invincible fidelity to conscience, weak only in a certain narrowness of view. As an ecclesiastic he was a High Churchman of the old school.

Crypt of Thomas Ken at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome Crypt of Thomas Ken.jpg
Crypt of Thomas Ken at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome

Ken's poetical works were published in collected form in four volumes by W. Hawkins, his relative and executor, in 1721; his prose works were issued in 1838 in one volume, under the editorship of J. T. Round. A brief memoir was prefixed by Hawkins to a selection from Ken's works which he published in 1713; and a life, in two volumes, by the Rev. W. L. Bowles, appeared in 1830. But the standard biographies of Ken are those of J. Lavicount Anderdon (The Life of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, by a Layman, 1851; 2nd ed., 1854) and of Dean Plumptre (2 vols., 1888; revised, 1890). See also the Rev. W. Hunt's article in the Dictionary of National Biography .

He was buried at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome, where his crypt can still be seen. He is remembered in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival on 8 June. He is also commemorated with a statue in niche 177 on the West Front of Salisbury Cathedral.

Ken is honoured with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 20 March.

See also

The Tomb of Bishop T. Ken

The interior has a coffin-shaped slab with empty metal banding over with only a crozier and a mitre on it. Bishop Ken (1637–1711) was one of the seven Bishops who refused the oath of Indulgence 1689 to William and Mary and was consequently deprived of his See of Bath and Wells. Hence the symbolism: an empty grave, and empty coffin, outside the church.


In literature

Thomas Ken appears in a number of novels:

Related Research Articles

Thomas Thynne, 1st Marquess of Bath 18th-century English noble

Thomas Thynne, 1st Marquess of Bath, KG, PC, of Longleat in Wiltshire, was a British politician who held office under King George III. He served as Southern Secretary, Northern Secretary and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Between 1751 and 1789, he was known as the 3rd Viscount Weymouth. He is possibly best known for his role in the Falklands Crisis of 1770.

Marquess of Bath

Marquess of Bath is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1789 for Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth. The Marquess holds the subsidiary titles Baron Thynne, of Warminster in the County of Wiltshire , and Viscount Weymouth, both created in 1682 in the Peerage of England. He is also a baronet in the Baronetage of England.

Longleat stately home in Wiltshire, England, UK

Longleat is an English stately home and the seat of the Marquesses of Bath. It is a leading and early example of the Elizabethan prodigy house. It is adjacent to the village of Horningsham and near the towns of Warminster and Westbury in Wiltshire and Frome in Somerset. It is noted for its Elizabethan country house, maze, landscaped parkland and safari park. The house is set in 1,000 acres (400 ha) of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown, with 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of let farmland and 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of woodland, which includes a Center Parcs holiday village. It was the first stately home to open to the public, and the Longleat estate includes the first safari park outside Africa.

East Woodhay village in the United Kingdom

East Woodhay is a village and civil parish in Hampshire, England, situated approximately 6 miles (10 km) south-west of Newbury in Berkshire. As of the 2001 census, it had a population of 2,794, increasing to 2,914 at the 2011 Census.

Henry Thynne, 6th Marquess of Bath British politician

Henry Frederick Thynne, 6th Marquess of Bath, JP, styled Lord Henry Thynne until 1916 and Viscount Weymouth between 1916 and 1946, was a British aristocrat, landowner and Conservative Party politician.

John Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath British diplomat

John Alexander Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath, styled Viscount Weymouth between March and June 1837, was a British peer and a diplomat for almost sixty years.

Henry Thynne, 3rd Marquess of Bath British naval commander and politician

Henry Frederick Thynne, 3rd Marquess of Bath, styled Lord Henry Thynne until January 1837 and Viscount Weymouth between January and March 1837, was a British naval commander and politician.

Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath British politician

Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath KG, styled Viscount Weymouth from 1789 until 1796, was a British peer.

Ceawlin Henry Laszlo Thynn, Viscount Weymouth is a British businessman and the second child of Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, and his wife, Anna Gael Gyarmathy. He is involved in a number of companies in the leisure, tourism, real estate and financial services sectors.

Warminster School, formed in 1973 by the amalgamation of Lord Weymouth's Grammar School and St Monica's, is a co-educational independent day and boarding school at Warminster, Wiltshire, England, for students aged three to eighteen. It now comprises the Preparatory School for pupils aged three to eleven, and the Senior School for students aged eleven to eighteen.

Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth English politician and Viscount

Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth was a British peer in the peerage of England.

Corsley village in United Kingdom

Corsley is a hamlet and civil parish 3 miles (5 km) west of Warminster in Wiltshire, England. The parish is on the county border with Somerset; the Somerset town of Frome is about 3 miles (5 km) to the northwest. The largest settlement in the parish is Corsley Heath, which is on the A362 Warminster-Frome road.

Horningsham village in United Kingdom

Horningsham is a small village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, on the county border with Somerset. The village lies about 4 miles (6 km) southwest of the town of Warminster and 4 12 miles (7 km) southeast of Frome, Somerset.

Brighstone village in the United Kingdom

Brighstone is a village and civil parish on the Isle of Wight, 6 miles southwest of Newport on the B3399 road. Brighstone was previously known as "Brixton". The name derives from the Saxon name "Ecgbert's Tun".

John Thynne English Member of Parliament, died 1580

Sir John Thynne was the steward to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and a member of parliament. He was the builder of Longleat House and his descendants became Marquesses of Bath.

Henry Carteret, 1st Baron Carteret British politician and Baron

Henry Frederick Carteret, 1st Baron Carteret PC (1735–1826) of Hawnes, Bedfordshire, was Member of Parliament for Staffordshire (1757–61), for Weobley in Herefordshire (1761–70) and was Master of the Household to King George III 1768–1771. He was hereditary Bailiff of Jersey 1776–1826.

Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth English Viscount

Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth of Longleat House in Wiltshire was an English peer, descended from Sir John Thynne (c.1515-1580) builder of Longleat.

Robert Jenkin Master of St Johns College

Robert Jenkin was an English clergyman, a nonjuror of 1698, later Master of St. John's College, Cambridge, Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity, and opponent of John Locke.

Sir John Thynne of Longleat, Wiltshire, was an English landowner and Member of Parliament.

Emma Karen Thynn, Viscountess Weymouth, commonly known as Emma Weymouth, is an English chef, model, and philanthropist. If her husband, Ceawlin Thynn, Viscount Weymouth, succeeds his father, Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath as the 8th Marquess of Bath, she will become the first Black marchioness in British history.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Hunt 1892.
  2. "Three famous men of Brighstone" Sibley,P Brighstone, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Brighstone ISBN   0-906328-31-4
  3. Southey, Robert (1812). "Bishop Kenn" Omniana, Longman London
  4. JWC Wand The High Church Schism, The Faith Press, 1951.
  5. Baptist hymn Book,Psalms and Hymn Trust,London,1962


Church of England titles
Preceded by
Peter Mews
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Succeeded by
Richard Kidder