Dr. Isaac Watts, Congregationalist minister and noted hymn writer, was born in Southampton in 1674, the eldest of nine children. His father, also called Isaac, was a schoolteacher and a man of deep religious principles. The family home was at Hampton Court, a large house on the east side of French Street now destroyed. Hampton Court is often cited as Isaac junior's birthplace, but it is more likely that he was born in Above Bar Street, the family moving to the French Street house soon after his birth. In the 1660s Isaac Watts senior was involved in setting up the first nonconformist congregation in the town. It was known as the Southampton Independent society and met in a house in Above Bar Street. Its members opened the Above Bar Street chapel on the same site. This later became the Above Bar Congregational Church.

Isaac junior was educated at the nearby King Edward VI Grammar School and then moved to London. By 1702 he had been ordained as an Independent minister. He became famous as an author, educator and philosopher, but is best remembered as a hymn writer. His hymns included When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and Our God, Our Help in Ages Past. He died at Stoke Newington in 1748. After his death Samuel Johnson wrote a biography of his life.

Isaac Watts

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An engraving by George Vertue after Isaac Whood, c.1710. Now in the National Portrait Gallery

See also:

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 57
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p94-95. (HS/t)
Familiar and Forgotten, by Southampton City Art Gallery. (HS/lt)
Isaac Watts Remembered, by David Fountain. (HS/t)
The Life of the Reverend Isaac Watts, by Samuel Johnson. (HS/t)
The Life and Correspondence of the Reverend Isaac Watts, by Thomas Milner. (HS/t)


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