November 14, 1816, Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, England.

May 26, 1880, Heaton Mersey, Stockport, England.


Son of Reverend S. Curwen, from an old Cumberland family, John was educated at Coward College, and University College, London. In 1883, he became assistant minister in the Independent Church, Basingstoke, Hampshire; co-pastor at Stowmarket, Suffolk, in 1841; and pastor at Plaistow, Essex, in 1844. There he developed and promoted the Tonic Sol-fa method of teaching to sing, using it in his own schools and church, and lecturing upon it in various parts of the country.

In 1853 he helped found the Tonic Sol-fa Association, for the promotion of the method, and in 1862 the Tonic Sol-fa College. Resigning his ministry due to ill health in 1867, he established a printing and publishing business in order to put out Tonic Sol-fa literature. In addition to his publications on the Tonic Sol-Fa system, his works include:

  1. Brightly Glows the Day
  2. I’m a Little Pilgrim
  3. O What Has Jesus Done for Me?
  4. We Are Little Pilgrims

Curwen’s burial place