Henry Venn (Clapham Sect)

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Henry Venn
Henry Venn (1725–1797).jpg
OccupationEvangelical minister
Known forFounder of the Clapham Sect

Henry Venn (1725 in Barnes, Surrey, England – 1797), was an English evangelical minister and one of the founders of the Clapham Sect, an influential evangelical group within the Church of England.


He was the third son of Richard Venn, vicar of St Antholin, Budge Row in London. He was educated at the University of Cambridge from 1742, studying at St John's and Jesus colleges; he graduated B.A. in 1745 and M.A. in 1749. He also played cricket, for All England against Surrey.[1]

Venn took orders in 1747, and was elected fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, in 1749.[2] After holding a curacy at Barton, Cambridgeshire, he became curate of both St Matthew, Friday Street, in the City of London, and of West Horsley, Surrey, in 1750. Local clergy already considered him a Methodist (in later terms, an evangelical), since he taught Scripture in his home and the number of communicants at West Horsley increased from twelve to sixty. However, it was only at this time that his beliefs moved from the High Church views of The Whole Duty of Man to the more evangelical position of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. In 1754 he became curate of Clapham and was also elected lecturer of St Swithin's, London Stone and St Alban's Wood Street.

From 1759 to 1771, Venn was vicar of Huddersfield Parish Church. He found a small group of like-minded Yorkshire clergy: Richard Conyers, William Grimshaw of Haworth, James Stillingfleet.[3] In 1771 he exchanged to the living of Yelling, Huntingdonshire where he drew as visitors William Faris, Joseph Jowett, Thomas Robinson and Charles Simeon.[1] He died in the rectory, and is commemorated by a plaque over the pulpit of the parish church.


Venn was well known as the author of The Compleat Duty of Man (London, 1763), a work in which he intended to supplement the teaching embodied in the anonymous Whole Duty of Man from an evangelical perspective.


Henry Venn's descendants also came to prominence over the succeeding generations. His son John Venn (priest) was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society (CMS).

His granddaughter, by his daughter Eling, was Charlotte Elliott, writer of numerous hymns, most notably the well-loved Just as I Am.

His grandson, also named Henry Venn (10 February 1796 - 13 January 1873), was honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873. He expounded the basic principles of indigenous Christian missions later addressed and made widespread by the Lausanne Congress of 1974.

His great-grandson was the logician and philosopher John Venn, famed for the Venn diagram.

His great-great-granddaughter was the English writer Virginia Woolf.


  1. ^ a b Cowie, Leonard W. "Venn, Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28184. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Henry Venn (VN742H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Venn, John (1904). "Annals of a clerical family, being some account of the family and descendants of William Venn, vicar of Otterton, Devon, 1600-1621". Internet Archive. London: Macmillan. p. 90. Retrieved 19 January 2016.