Edwin Monk

Portrait photograph of Edwin Monk
Portrait photograph of Edwin Monk

Edwin George Monk was born at Frome, Somerset, in 1819. After studying in London, he became Precentor at St Columba’s College in 1844. In 1847 he moved to Oxford, where he helped to found the University Motet and Madrigal Society. He graduated BMus in 1848 and was awarded a doctorate in 1856.

In 1848 he rejoined Singleton to become the first Fellow of St Peter’s College, again as Precentor. By the time he left in 1858, he had firmly established the Radley choral tradition and overseen the installation of Singleton’s organ. On his departure from Radley, he became Precentor at York Minister, where he would oversee the rebuilding of both organs.

His most significant work was with Anglican psalms, several of his compositions still being in regular use. In addition, he wrote a number of choral concert works, some forty hymn tunes, and five anthems, as well as the librettos for three oratorios. In addition to his musical career, he was an amateur astronomer (becoming a Fellow of the Royal Astronmical Society in 1871) and a Biblical scholar.

He returned to Radley for the final sixteen years of his life, living in a house in the village near to the Bowyers’ Arms. His wife, who died in 1883, was buried in Radley churchyard, and on his death in 1900 he was interred beside her. There is no formal memorial to him in Radley College, but the organ in St James’s Church, Radley, was installed in his memory.

This article was adapted from the obituary in The Radleian Magazine, April 7th 1900, and from the entry on Monk in Oxford Music Online.