Probably better known in his day as an organist, church musician, and music editor, William Henry Monk composed a fair number of popular hymn tunes, including one of the most famous from nineteenth century England, Eventide, used for the hymn Abide with Me. He also wrote music for church services and a number of anthems. Monk was born in London on March 16, 1823. His youth is not well documented, but it seems he developed quickly on the keyboard, but perhaps less so in composition. By age 18 he was organist at St. Peter's Church, Eaton Square (Central London). He left after two years, and moved onto two more organist posts in London (St. George's Church, Albemarle Street, and St. Paul's Church, Portman Square), each also for two years and each serving as a stepping stone toward fostering his musical ambitions.
In 1847 Monk secured the post of choirmaster at King's College, London. There he would develop an interest in incorporating plainchant into Anglican service, an idea suggested by William Dyce, a King's College professor with whom Monk had much contact. Monk also became organist at King's (1849), then in 1852 became organist and choirmaster at St. Matthias Church, Stoke Newington, where he began instituting many changes: plainchant was used in singing psalms and the music performed was more appropriate in regards to the church calendar. By now Monk was also arranging hymns, as well as writing his own hymn melodies. In 1857 his talents as composer, arranger, and editor were recognized when he was appointed the musical editor for Hymns Ancient and Modern, a volume first published in 1861 containing hundreds of hymns that would become, after supplements were added (second edition -- 1875; later additions or supplements -- 1889, 1904, and 1916) one of the best-selling hymn books ever produced.
It was for this publication that Monk supplied his famous Eventide tune, as well as several others, including Gethsemane, Ascension, and St. Denys. In 1874 Monk was appointed professor of vocal studies at King's College; subsequently he accepted similar posts at two other prestigious London music schools, the first at the National Training School for Music, in 1876, and the second at Bedford College, in 1878. Monk remained active in composition in his later years, writing not only hymn tunes but also anthems and other works. He died on March 18, 1889.