Henry Venn (Clapham Sect)

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Henry Venn
Henry Venn (1725–1797).jpg
Born 1725
Barnes, Surrey
Died 1797
Yelling, Huntingdonshire
Nationality English
Occupation Evangelical minister
Known for Founder 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, a small but highly influential evangelical group within the Anglican Church.


Venn was educated at Cambridge University, where he found time to play cricket for England as well as studying at St John's and Jesus colleges.

He took orders in 1747, and was elected fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, in 1749.[1] 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. He was vicar of Huddersfield Parish Church from 1759 to 1771, when he exchanged to the living of Yelling, Huntingdonshire where he died in the rectory - he is commemorated by a plaque over the pulpit of the parish church.

Besides being a leader of the evangelical revival, he 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. A portrait of him, by John Russell, is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.


Henry Venn's descendants also came to prominence over the succeeding generations. His son John Venn (1759–1813) was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society (CMS).

His granddaughter, by his daughter Eling, was Charlotte Elliott (18 March 1789 - 22 September 1871), 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 John Venn (4 August 1834 – 4 April 1923), the mathematician, who devised the eponymous Venn Diagram.

His great-great grandson was John Archibald Venn, who became President of Queens' College, Cambridge.


  1. ^ "Henry Venn (VN742H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.