HADOW, Sir Henry William



27th December 1859 to 8th April 1937

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Biographical Text

Henry Hadow was an eminent music critic and historian of music who taught variously at Malvern College, Durham University and the University of Sheffield. He also played a major role in educational reform in the 1920s. 

Hadow was born in Ebrington, Gloucestershire on 27 December 1859, the son of a Church of England clergyman. He was educated at Malvern College and then, from 1878, at Worcester College, Oxford where he obtained a first in classical moderations (1880) and literae humaniores (1882). Following his degree he studied music for a time at Darmstadt in Germany. He became a lecturer and fellow at Worcester College in 1885, and dean in 1889. He became an honorary fellow of the college in 1909 when he departed to become principal of Armstrong College in Newcastle, an outpost of Durham University. 

In 1918 Hadow was appointed as an assistant director of staff duties at the War Office, responsible for education, and also became director of the YMCA education with the British Army in France. Also in 1918 he was knighted as knight bachelor for his services to education. He received a further honour, the CBE in 1920. In 1919 Hadow was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, which post he held until his official retirement in 1930. Just before he retired Hadow married his long-time friend Edith Troutbeck, the daughter of a clergyman. Hadow died in London on 8 April 1937. 

From 1920 to 1934 Hadow was chairman of the consultative committee of the Board of Education, and exercised considerable influence on the educational reforms of the 1920s. His book The Education of the Adolescent, published in 1926, was one of a series of reports produced by the committee, which became known as the Hadow Reports, and continued to be read and referred to long after his lifetime. Among the reforms that Hadow helped to influence were the creation of secondary modern schools and the restructuring of elementary schools as well as, unsurprisingly, a stronger emphasis on music in the syllabus of all schools. Hadow believed very strongly in music education as force for good, expanding the minds of young people and helping them to develop mentally and morally. 

That theme is present in many of his books, including textbooks and handbooks such as MusicChurch Music and English Music. Another workThe Needs of Popular Musical Education, made the case for the importance of music education, while the earlier Songs of the British Islands was an attempt to reconnect people with their own traditional music. Hadow also wrote on poetry and literature, and with his sister Grace Hadow, herself a noted a social worker and educationalist, compiled the three-volume Oxford Treasury of English Literature. 

The Education of Adolescents, which may be the work that brought Hadow to the attention of the Rowntree conference organisers, was one of the foundations on which many later educational reforms were based, including the Education Act of 1944. Its principal recommendation was to bring an end to all-age schools and divide education into primary and secondary levels, with a break age of eleven. Hadow was prepared to accept a vocational focus in secondary education, but he argued that the school leaving age should be raised to fifteen, or even higher. The habits of orderly work and intelligent cooperation, which it is part of the function of a good school to promote, are more likely to be a power in later life, if the seeds sown at school have been sheltered sufficiently long for them to take root and grow, before boys and girls are plunged into the stress and turmoil of wage-earning employment (Hadow 1926: 140). The report also recommended improvements in the staffing and equipment in schools, and argued that state secondary schools should elevate themselves to the same level as grammar schools. 

Hadow was tasked with summing up the September 1929 conference. He builds his lecture around a theme drawn from Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum, where Bacon discusses four common sources of human error. The first is an inability to perceive the world around us correctly, and Hadow remarks that the British have ‘an extraordinary ability of withholding attention from what is going on; sometimes even from what we ourselves are doing’. An inability to concentrate or remember is a natural part of the human condition, Hadow believes, but reading between the lines he also suggests that we should make an effort to do better. 

The second source is the defects of individuals. Each of us is different, and each has our own special abilities, but each of us also has our weaknesses. Understanding the weaknesses of ourselves, and of others, is essential to overcoming errors and problems. The third source of error is the mis-use of words, which promotes confusion and lack of understanding. Hadow discusses the various ways in which the word ‘rationalisation’ is used in industry and comments that with so many different ways of defining the terms, confusion and error are bound to occur. Finally, says Hadow, there is ‘our undue subservience to established ideas and methods and traditions, our undue subservience, in short, to authority and tradition.’ Hadow is not advocating cutting ties with the past entirely, but we need to know both when we should learn from the past, and when we need to move on. 

Hadow ends with a rallying call that reflects one of the leitmotifs of the entire conference series, the need for industry and business leaders to recognise their role in society. 

Yet we know well that all true artists, and all true healers and helpers of mankind, have striven after something that far transcends any material reward. And I feel quite certain that industry should be content with no lower level of motive and achievement. Its real task, its real objective, is to serve the community and, through that, to promote to the utmost of its power, the truest and highest object of human welfare. 

These words were spoken less than a month before the Wall Street crash of October 1929. 

Major works 

A Croatian Composer, 1897. 

Songs of the British Islands, 1903. 

A Course of Lectures in the History of Instrumental Forms, 1906. 

(with G.E. Hadow) Oxford Treasury of English Literature, 1908. 

The Needs of Popular Musical Education, 1918. 

Music, 1924. 

Church Music, 1926. 

A Comparison of Poetry and Music, 1926. 

The Education of the Adolescent, 1926.  

English Music, 1931.e 

Richard Wagner, 1934. 



Cox, G., A History of Music Education in England, 1872-1928, London: Scholar Press, 1993. 

Fortune, N., ‘Hadow, William Henry’, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. 

Shera, F.H., ‘Hadow, Sir (William) Henry’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 


Original Source

‘Concluding address’, 29 September 1929, Balliol College


“HADOW, Sir Henry William,” The Rowntree Business Lectures and the Interwar British Management Movement, accessed August 5, 2020, http://rowntree.exeter.ac.uk/items/show/613.