Biography Sabine Baring-Gould

Sabine Baring-Gould

photo of Sabine Baring-Gould
  • Time Period1834 - 1924
  • Place
  • CountryEngland

Poet Biography

Sabine Baring-Gould was born in Exeter in 1834. Although well educated much of his learning came from his travels through Europe when he was a boy and young man.

At the age of 3 he travelled through Europe with his parents. This was an incredible 13 year journey during which time he learnt 6 languages but little else. His days at Cambridge University were unusual in that his knowledge of scholarly life was virtually non-existent preferring as he did to be a loner.

Sabine Baring-Gould was a prolific writer. At one point there were more books listed under his name in the British Museum Library than under that of any other English writer.

At 30 Sabine fulfilled his dream of taking Holy Orders. He served his curacy in the Yorkshire mill town of Horbury.

Whilst in Yorkshire he met a young mill girl called Grace Taylor.

It is said that the romance between Sabine and Grace led to the story 'Pygmalion ' which later became 'My Fair Lady '. At the time Sabine was friends with George Bernard Shaw.

Sabine married Grace Taylor in 1868 - they were married for 48 years - they had 15 children, all but one lived to adulthood. When he buried his wife in 1916 he had carved on her tombstone "Dimidium Animae Meae" (Half my Soul)

Whilst serving his curacy in Yorkshire he wrote the hymns 'Onward Christian Soldiers' and 'Now the Day is Over'.

Of the hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers', he was surprised at the fame this brought him for he said he had dashed the words off in no more than ten minutes as an occasional piece for a procession of school children.
In 1871 Sabine Baring-Gould was installed as the rector of East Mersea in Essex. Here he spent 10 years of misery. He never understood the dull Essex peasants and found the mud flats of the countryside depressing.

In 1881, at the age of 47 Sabine Baring-Gould installed himself at Lew Trenchard as both Squire and Parson
He did a great deal of work restoring St. Peter's Church, Lew Trenchard and his home Lew Trenchard Manor.

One of Sabine Baring-Gould's greatest achievements was the collection of local folk songs. He started this quest in 1888 and over three years he tracked down some 60 people and wrote down their songs.

All in all, he worked on this task for 12 years and travelled throughout Devon & Cornwall. He either travelled to singer's homes or invited them to his own home. Sabine Baring-Gould was not a good musician but could just about manage a one-fingered tune on the piano. To help him in this area he was helped by Dr. Frederick Bussell and the Reverend H.W. Fleetwood Sheppard. All his work culminated in the publication of 'Songs of the West'. This collection was first published in 1889.

Sabine Baring-Gould died in 1924, shortly before his 90th birthday at Lew Trenchard and was buried in his own churchyard next to his beloved wife Grace.