History of Church Hymns at Abingworth

South Downs


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Activity types:

  • Culture
  • Indoors

Holiday overview

  • Enhance your understanding of this musical genre
  • Talks and informal discussions with our expert leader
  • Free time to explore the local area

Holiday highlights:

Before the 16th century, congregations had very little music during a standard church service and hymns as we know them today only really came into being during the Reformation. We’ll trace the development of hymn writing through five centuries: the regulated metrical psalms of the Calvinists, the infectious tunes of the Wesleys, the sentimentality of the Victorians and the worship songs of Kendrick. Come along and hear the history and context of some of your favourite hymns.

Great reasons to join us:

  • Great value: all prices include Full Board en-suite accommodation, plus all activities
  • Expert leader: we carefully select friendly and knowledgeable leaders for each holiday
  • Accommodation: enjoy high-quality accommodation and excellent food at our Country Houses
  • Sociability: we pride ourselves on the social atmosphere of our holidays – enjoy 



Nestled at the foot of the South Downs, Abingworth Hall is ideally located for a short break or a longer holiday. A peaceful ambiance and excellent facilities make it a relaxing place to stay.4-star Visit Britain Guest Accommodation


Abingworth Hall has 25 en-suite bedrooms.

Our classic bedrooms offer comfortable accommodation and an en-suite bathroom with bath or shower. They also have TV, hairdryer, and tea and coffee making facilities. Single rooms are available for an extra £8 per night.

You can enjoy extra space or exceptional views plus additional facilities including a towelling robe and complimentary slippers when you upgrade to a premium bedroom. Premium rooms are available at just £5 extra per person per night.    

If you are travelling with your family, we have a selection of 3 and 4-bedded family bedrooms. These have all the facilities of our classic rooms plus full sized twin or double beds for adults and bunk beds or occasional beds for children.


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All our Country Houses are tailored to the needs of walkers and outdoor enthusiasts and have excellent boot and drying rooms.

Abingworth Hall has three comfortable lounges, the largest of which opens onto the attractive conservatory and bar. The large ballroom can be used for dancing, evening talks or as a games room with table tennis. There is also a pleasant dining room. Free Wifi is available in some public rooms. There is also a range of board games and books.

Abingworth Hall is surrounded by eight acres of gardens. Outside there is a putting green and croquet lawn. The heated outdoor swimming pool is popular with our guests in the summer (May – September).

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All holidays at our Country Houses are Full Board with all meals included, from dinner on arrival to breakfast on the day of your departure.

Start your day with our extensive breakfast. Choose from a wide selection on the cold buffet and/or a full cooked breakfast. Maybe enjoy a lighter option of fruit and yoghurt followed by scrambled egg, go for porridge followed by a full English breakfast, or select something in between.

Choose from our famous self-select picnic lunches - everything you need to keep you going on a day outdoors. Your own choice of sandwiches is prepared to order, and you can add crisps and snacks, fruit, nuts, chocolate bars, sweets and biscuits as you wish.

Our house-based Leisure Activities include an in-house lunch (generally soup, sandwiches etc).     

The relaxed dinner is a highlight of any stay at our Country Houses. With tables seating up to 10 and no seating plan, it offers a great opportunity to get to know your fellow guests. There is always a choice of dishes for every course, featuring good British cooking and often local specialities. A vegetarian option is always available.

All our Country Houses have a well-stocked bar serving local beers, wine and spirits.

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Guided Walking: enjoy a glass of wine or local beer in the bar before a talk about the next day's walks. After dinner there will be an activity or entertainment which you will be welcome to join. These vary from week to week but could include a talk on wildlife from a local speaker or a team quiz. Alternatively if you prefer, feel free to just relax in our lounge or bar.

Leisure Activities: many of our Leisure Activities holidays continue into the evening with programmed sessions. Other holidays will have the evenings free, and you will be welcome to join in other social activities that may be happening in the house.

Self-Guided Walking: there may be evening social activities happening in the house during your holiday, and you will be most welcome to join in. However, not all self-guided holidays will have evening activities available – if these are important to you, please check before booking.

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Abingworth Hall is generally accessible to wheelchair users and has a bedroom specifically designed for wheelchair access.

Arrival & car parking facilities

  • There is ample (gravel) car parking available at the rear of the House
  • Disabled parking is available closer to the front door
  • The driveway from the main B2139 is tarmac up to the front door
  • It is possible to load and unload cars directly at the front door
  • Assistance can be provided with luggage

Main entrance & reception

  • There is a small step (6cm high) into the porch at the front door of the house
  • The front door can open double to 151cm wide
  • The step into the main reception hallway is 12cm high with double doors opening up to 162cm wide
  • A hatch immediately inside the front doorway opens to reveal a check-in desk
  • The reception hallway gives access to the drawing room, large lounge with conservatory, dining room, reception / office, powder room and gents
  • A well-lit corridor leads off to the ballroom and bedrooms 1 - 8
  • There is no lift. The main stairway (112cm wide) leads up to rooms 9 – 25

Public areas - hall, stairs, landing, corridors etc

  • All public areas are carpeted
  • The corridor leading to rooms 1 - 8. Minimum width is 99cm
  • The main stairway leading up to rooms 9 - 25 is 112cm wide

Public areas - sitting room, lounges, lobbies etc

Drawing room:

  • Door is 86cm wide
  • A carpeted, wood panelled lounge with relaxed seating for 12

Large lounge:

  • Door is 86cm wide. Impressive lounge with a baby grand piano and a large mirror. Carpeted with comfortable seating for 26. Leads into the conservatory

Conservatory & bar

  • Carpeted with relaxed rattan furniture. Bar in the corner (bar height 117cm)
  • Accessed though the large lounge, doorway is 117cm wide and a step down 17cm high or alternatively accessed from the reception hallway, down the corridor which is ramped. The door from the corridor is 79cm wide


  • Entrance through double doors (total width 150cm)
  • A large room, 7m by 11m with windows on two walls. Carpeted around a wooden dance floor, which measures 5m by 9m
  • Chairs are movable, armless and stackable

Public WCs


  • Ground level from the reception hallway, carpeted, door 79cm wide
  • Two cubicles, doors 59cm wide, with standard toilets of 42cm high
  • One basin with hot and cold taps
  • A vanity unit with good lighting and a large mirror with two upright padded chairs


  • Tiled floor (door width 81cm)
  • One cubicle with standard toilet of 44cm high
  • Four self-flushing urinals, 67cm high
  • One basin with hot and cold taps
  • Good lighting and mirrors

Dining room

  • From the reception hallway, three steps up into the main stairway (154cm wide with handrail) is the entrance to the dining room. Further two steps up (120cm wide with hand rail)
  • The dining room is L-shaped, carpeted throughout
  • Tables are rectangular, six legged and 72cm high, each seating five to eight diners
  • Seats are without arms, 48cm high, padded seats with 40cm wooden backs
  • A portable stainless steel mobility ramp is available

Bedrooms & sleeping areas

  • Bedrooms 1 - 8 are on ground floor, down a well lit corridor from the reception hall
  • Bedrooms 9 - 14 are up a main L-shaped stairway, 16 steps to the first floor landing
  • Bedrooms 15 and 16 are through a door and further 7 steps up from the first floor landing
  • Bedrooms 17 - 23 are through another door from the first floor landing, up a second flight of stairs, 16 steps up through a landing door onto the second floor
  • Bedroom 24 is situated above room 16, up a curved narrow stairway of 15 steps
  • Bedroom doors are 72cm - 87cm wide
  • Beds are 55cm high. Rooms are single, twin or double bedded
  • Usually made up with hollow fibre duvets and pillows, blankets and feather pillows available on request
  • All rooms are carpeted and well lit
  • All furniture, including beds are movable
  • Most rooms have baths, although some have only a walk-in shower
  • Rooms with baths have mostly mixer taps with a shower attachment
  • Most rooms have vinyl or tiled floor, rooms 9 / 10 / 11 and 24 have carpet

Room 6:

  • Room 6 has been specially adapted for wheelchair users
  • A low level shower tray, 62cm by 105cm, with the step-in of 7cm
  • An adjustable free standing mobility shower seat is available
  • The shower is thermostatically controlled to give even water pressure with an adjustable shower head
  • The toilet is 47cm high with left side static hand rail and adjustable right side rail
  • The basin has level mixer taps and is wall-mounted for wheelchair access
  • Tiled floor

Grounds and gardens

  • There are around eight acres of grounds. Most of the pathways are gravel and therefore uneven
  • Grass meadows and lawns are also uneven. Steep, uneven steps lead to the meadows
  • There is a stone terrace along the front of the house. The surface is uneven. The terrace is accessible either via the front door or through the conservatory doors with 2 / 3 steps down to the terrace. The conservatory door width is 113cm
  • The outdoor swimming pool is situated between the main house and the car park
  • The pool is heated May - September
  • Due to the secluded location of the pool, guests are advised not to swim alone. Pool emergency alarm at the side of the pool, attached to changing room

Additional information

  • Fire procedure is displayed in each room and explained to guests on arrival. Guests requiring assistance at an evacuation are identified at this time and door hanger cards are issued
  • Mobile phone reception is generally good from the main building
  • Assistance dogs accompanying visually or hearing impaired guests are welcome; dogs must be kept on a lead or harness at all times
  • Information can be provided in large print
  • Staff have received disability awareness training
  • Special diets can be catered for. Specialist food can be obtained with prior notice
  • Fridge for medication can be supplied


Monday: Arrival day

You can check-in to your room from 2.30pm onwards. Please join us for afternoon tea at 4pm. All guests are invited – we’ll introduce your leader and welcome you to your holiday.

Enjoy your first music appreciation session after dinner:

Church music before hymns: what did the congregation sing before 1500?

Tuesday: Hymn writing in the 16th century

9.30am – 11am The Reformation

Luther (German chorale: A mighty fortress is our God).

Calvin (Geneva Psalter). William Kethe: All people that on Earth do dwell (metrical psalm setting, Psalm 100)

John Knox and the Scottish Psalter

Other popular German chorales in translation (Now thank we all our God, We plough the fields)

11am: Coffee

11.30am - 12.30pm Hymn writing in 17th century England

Isaac Watts (When I survey the wondrous cross, O God our help in ages past, Joy to the world)

Enjoy a house-based lunch, eg soup & sandwich

The afternoons are free for you to explore the local area or to relax in the County House

5pm - 6.30pm: Methodist hymnody in the 18th century

Charles and John Wesley (And can it be that I should gain, O for a thousand tongues, O thou who camest from above, Love divine, Lo he comes with clouds descending)

After dinner: The 18th century (continued)

John Newton (Amazing Grace, Glorious Things of Thee are spoken, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds)

Hymns of the Moravian Church

Wednesday: Hymn writing in the 19th century

 9.30am - 12.30pm: The first hymn book in the Anglican church (1819):

James  Montgomery (Angels from the realms, Hail to the Lord’s anointed, Stand up and bless the Lord)

Reginald Heber – hymns for specific Sundays (Brightest and best – Epiphany; Holy, Holy, Holy – Trinity)

The Great Awakening – revivalist hymns (How great thou art, The ninety and nine (Moody and Sankey)

The Oxford movement:

John Keble (New every morning; Blessed are the pure in heart)

Henry Francis Lyte (Praise my soul, Abide with me)

Newman (lead kindly light)

Enjoy a house-based lunch, eg soup & sandwich

The afternoons are free for you to explore the local area or to relax in the County House

5pm - 6.30pm: Hymn writing in the 19th century (continued)

Mrs Cecil Francis Alexander (All things bright and beautiful, I bind unto myself, Jesus calls us o’er the tumult)

After dinner: Other traditions

Orthodox music

Thursday: Hymn writing in the 20th/21st century

9.30am - 12.30pm Ralph Vaughan Williams and The English Hymnal (New tunes to old words: Come down O Love divine, Father hear the prayer we offer, For all the saints, He who would valiant be)

Hymns and place names

Enjoy a house-based lunch, eg soup & sandwich

The afternoons are free for you to explore the local area or to relax in the County House

5pm - 6.30pm: Contemporary trends

Vatican II, Kendrick and the worship song, Pentecostal music (Hillsong)

After dinner enjoy a piano recital

Friday: Depart after a leisurely breakfast

Please note: Every effort is made to adhere to this itinerary; however there may be circumstances beyond our control which could lead to a change in the programme

What to bring

All of the music will be provided for you. You may want to bring a notebook and pen to make notes of the music you listen to.

Local area

Abingworth Hall is situated amidst gentle rolling farmland at the foot of the South Downs.

The nearest facilities are in the village of Storrington, about two miles away. Here you’ll find a small supermarket, post office, newsagent, pubs and a bank.

During your stay at Abingworth Hall you may enjoy visiting the following places of interest:

Arundel Castle from the airArundel
The quaint town of Arundel, about 30 minutes' drive away, is dominated by its castle, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. During your visit you may enjoy a walk in the Castle's extensive grounds, or beside the river Arun. www.arundelcastle.org



Frontage to Uppark HouseUppark House
Completely restored after an extensive fire, this stately National Trust property has ornate rooms and gardens. Uppark is around 50 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/uppark



The cosmopolitan seaside city of Brighton is about 40 minutes' drive from Abingworth Hall and has an excellent range of specialist shops, entertainment, and its famous beach. You may also enjoy a visit to the Royal Pavilion, built in the early 19th century by George IV. www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk

Amberley Working Museum
Just 15 minutes' drive from Abingworth Hall, this large open-air museum tells the industrial story of the downs, complete with a steam railway, vintage buses and restored quarry machinery. www.amberleymuseum.co.uk

Parham House
Just 10 to 15 minutes' drive away, Elizabethan Parham House  is surrounded by an extensive deer park. www.parhaminsussex.co.uk

The historic cathedral city of Chichester, about 45 minutes' drive away, has plenty of interest. Just a couple of miles away is the fascinating Fishbourne Roman Palace, uncovered in 1960, which has many superb mosaics. www.chichestercathedral.org.uk or www.sussexpast.co.uk/fishbourne

Imposing stone fascade of Petworth HousePetworth House
A large late 17th century mansion, now run by the National Trust with extensive grounds that were landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. Around 30 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house



Historic Houses at museumWeald & Downland Museum
Located on the Downs, near the village of Singleton, this excellent open-air museum contains many restored buildings that bring the history of Sussex to life. These include a working watermill and a re-creation of a typical downland village. The museum is around 45 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.wealddown.co.uk


Bluebell Railway
One of Britain’s premier steam railways with an impressive collection of 50 locomotives, representing the Southern Railway and its predecessors. The line runs through rolling countryside from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, about 40 minutes' drive from Abingworth. www.bluebell-railway.co.uk


Uppark House and Petworth House image ©National Trust Images/John Miller


Abingworth Hall, Storrington Road, Thakeham, West Sussex, RH20 3EF

By train: The nearest railway station is Pulborough. Please note that Pulborough station has a short platform and we advise that you check the departure boards for which carriage to sit in. For train times and general rail enquiries visit www.nationalrail.co.uk or call 03457 484950 (from outside the UK call +44 20 7278 5240).

By taxi: The 6 mile journey from Pulborough railway station takes approximately 15 minutes. Taxis cost approx £13. Every year we negotiate a pre-booked rate for these journeys.  Details of our current recommended taxi company and rates will be sent to you with your booking. We recommend pre-booking your taxi and the taxi company will arrange shared taxis wherever possible. The return taxi journey can be arranged on your behalf by the Abingworth Hall Manager.

By car: From the north leave the M25 on either the A24 or the M23 and A264 to Horsham. Continue south on the A24 towards Worthing. About 5 miles south of Horsham turn right onto the A272 signposted to Billingshurst and Petersfield. After 3 miles turn onto the B2139 in the village of Coolham. After 3½ miles pass the turning for Thakeham on your left. Abingworth Hall is on the left after the Thakeham turn.

From the south take the M27 and continue on to the A27 and around Chichester. 4 miles before Arundel at Fontwell Park turn left on to the A29. After approx 4 miles at a roundabout, turn onto the A283 to Storrington. Turn right onto the A283 in Storrington. Continue through Storrington and left at the mini-roundabout at the Anchor Inn onto the B2139 towards Thakeham and Coolham. Go straight across at the next roundabout and then take a left at the Rydon Community College roundabout. Abingworth Hall is on the right, 2 miles north of Storrington.

Car parking is available in the grounds and is free of charge

To help you plan your journey, use www.traveline.info


Steven Robinson

Steven Robinson is a freelance music lecturer. Following the completion of a PhD on the symphonies of Beethoven's pupil, Ferdinand Ries, he taught for 10 years at Liverpool University and also contributed to undergraduate courses at Manchester University and the Royal Northern College of Music.  He has led for HF Holidays since 2002, presenting holidays on Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Ries, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Bartok and Shostakovich, as well as general surveys of the main periods of music history (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Twentieth Century), and Festival holidays including Cheltenham Music Festival, Three Choirs, Welsh National Opera and Opera North. Steven teaches piano at home and plays the organ at several churches in the Manchester area. 

Dates & Prices

We're sorry, there are no dates available for this holiday at the moment. Please check out our other tours and breaks or call our team on 0345 470 8558 to be notified of new dates as soon as they become available.

Prices are per person


  • Standard single room: (2016) £8 per night; (2017) no supplement
  • Premium single room: £15 per night (2017 only)
  • Premium twin/double room: (2016) £5 per person per night; (2017) £10 per person per night
  • Non-member associate fee: (2016) £5 per person; (2017) £10 per person

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