Henry Heron (1738 – 1795) was a dancing and music teacher in London during the second half of the 18th century and for many years organist of St Mary’s, Ewell, then at the Church of St Magnus the Martyr, beside London Bridge.
Moved to London
Hannah died when Henry was aged nine and his father died when he was 17. William bequeathed him all his instruments and books of music, but his double-stringed spinet by the 17th century London maker John Player went to two of Henry’s three sisters.
Shortly after his father’s death, Henry moved to the City of London and around 1756 married Elizabeth, a woman four years his senior. They lived in Millman Street, Holborn, in a brick-built house opposite St John’s Chapel (Bedford Row) and their first child, Henry Sidney Heron, was born there in 1757 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Holborn, on 20th February.
There, Henry must surely have been acquainted with John Stanley (1712 – 1786), the well-known blind musician, who was organist of St Andrew’s, Holborn, at this time.
At some point in this early part of his life he became organist of St Mary’s Church, Ewell, in Surrey, but he continued living in Holborn. He was definitely there in 1762 when he was listed as organist of Ewell among the subscribers to William Riley’s “Parochial Music Corrected“, containing anthems and hymns by many church musicians of the day, and Henry himself contributed a common metre hymn tune called “Ewell”.
Dancing and singing lessons
Henry Heron’s main income, following in his father’s footsteps, came from giving dancing and music lessons, including singing. In later life he was assisted in this by his son, Henry, who was also a composer and teacher. And like many musicians of the time Henry senior wrote popular songs and pieces for performance at the London pleasure gardens, such as Ranelagh, in Chelsea.
St Magnus the Martyr
After Ewell, Henry was appointed organist at the more prestigious city church of St Magnus the Martyr, next to London Bridge. The precise date of his appointment is not known but he was certainly there by 1770 when he published a set of ten voluntaries for organ or harpsichord. In 1774 he was also listed as organist of St Magnus when he subscribed to a volume of music published by Joseph Ganthony.
Henry Heron was no exception among London musicians in offering his services to raising money to support the various children’s charities of the time. On 13th May, 1781, one of his anthems was performed by the Charity Children of Lime Street Ward before the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Watkin Lewes. And in 1790, he published his own version of Parochial Music Corrected, intended for the use of the charity schools and dedicated to Richard Till, treasurer of the Association of Charity Schools.
Around 1780, Henry moved from Holborn and set up his dancing and music school at 3 York Row, Newington Butts, in Lambeth. It was there in 1794 that his wife, Elizabeth, died, an event that prompted him to re-write his will, leaving everything equally to his five surviving children. They were instructed to keep the house and its contents intact and Henry junior was further required to keep the school going until the lease on the property expired.
Henry Heron died in mid-June, 1795 and was buried alongside his wife in the churchyard of St Magnus.