Sir Hubert Parry wrote the music to the hymn Jerusalem in 1916, during the gloom of World War I. It uses William Blake’s poem And Did Those Feet In Ancient Times which itself was written around 1804, and first published in 1808. Parry’s hymn was originally written for the ‘Fight for Right’ movement, formed to sustain the resolve of Britain during the Great War. The hymn received its première on the 28th March 1916 in the Queen’s Hall, London at a ‘Fight for Right’ meeting.
In 1917, Parry conducted it for the ladies of the Albert Hall choir as part of a call in favour of National Service for Women. This signalled a closer relationship with the women’s suffrage movement which Parry and his wife, Maude, supported. A year later, Jerusalem was sung at a suffrage demonstration concert and was adopted by the Women’s Institute as their anthem in 1924. There are regular calls for the hymn to be adopted as the official National Anthem of England, but this is not new. The first such call can be traced back to the centenary of Blake’s death in 1927 and the call continues undimmed to this present day.