Whether as the writer of the well known hymn “Take My Life and Let it Be” or for having a road named after her in Leamington, Frances Havergal is familiar to many people.
Leamington historian Alan Griffin included her in his book Leamington Lives Remembered, published last year.
He says Frances Ridley Havergal was one of the significant figures of the Victorian era who, through her Christian writings, became a household name. Her influence was such that a memoir of her life, published by her sister Maria after Frances’s death, was reprinted many times over and sold a quarter of a million copies worldwide.
Frances was born on December 14 1836 in the parsonage at Astley in Worcestershire, where her father, Canon William Havergal MA was rector. William was a notable composer of music and Frances inherited her father’s talent.
Frances’s mother Jane died in 1847. Her father, who had been seriously injured some years earlier, retired from his Astley ministry in 1867. He and his new wife Caroline moved with Frances to a newly-built house in the fashionable Binswood Terrace, Leamington.
Frances enjoyed Leamington but had a strained relationship with her stepmother. In her room at the top of the house she immersed herself in her writing and produced numerous little books of poems and hymn texts. She received hundreds of letters each month and travelled thoughout England speaking at Evangelical Missions. She was the driving force behind the local branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Irish Society and the Temperance Movement.
She worshipped at St Paul’s church in Leicester Street where she became the organist. Despite all her philanthropic work, Frances found time for her leisure time pursuits, sketching and mountaineering (she climbed peaks over 11,000 ft).
But when her father died in Leamington in 1870 things were never the same again for Frances. She moved to Caswell Bay in South Wales to stay with her sister Maria but became seriously ill with peritonitis and died in June 1879, aged 42.
Read the full story of Frances Havergal in Leamington Lives Remembered by Alan Griffin, published by Feldon Books, priced £6.95.