George Harding Wood

George Robert Harding Wood was born on 23 June 1878 in Cork, Ireland. He was the son of Richard Ponsonby Wood, a Hatter, and his wife Catherine Young Taylor.

As a young man, Harding was sent to Criccieth, North Wales in 1903 by the Children's Special Service Mission, now the Scripture Union, to be the first leader of the beach mission there. He also led the Colwyn Bay mission in 1904, and the following year that in Felixstowe, Suffolk.

Harding subsequently entered Christ's College, Cambridge, and was awarded the degree of B.A. in 1909 and that of M.A. in 1927. Having been awarded his bachelor's degree, he entered Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and was ordained Deacon in 1910 and Priest in 1911. Harding was Curate of All Saints', St Marylebone from 1910 to 1913 and that of St Paul's, Canonbury, near Islington from 1913 to 1914. He then served as a Church Parochial Mission Society Missioner from 1914 to 1917.

Harding was instituted as Vicar of St Catherine's, Leyton in 1917. He remained at St Catherine's until 1920, when he was appointed Vicar of Christ Church, Sidcup. He held this benefice until 1928, additionally serving as Chaplain to The Queen's Hospital in Sidcup from 1923 to 1928. In that latter year Harding was instituted Vicar of Holy Trinity, Hampstead, where he remained until 1937. He then served as a Travelling Secretary of the Scripture Union from 1937 to 1938.

'Uncle' Harding became one of the best-known children's evangelists of his time. He founded, with his brothers, Frederick and Arthur Wood, the National Young Life Campaign. He was also one of the first writers of Daily Bread, the Scripture Union Bible reading notes that were launched in 1938.

In 1940 Harding was collated to the Rectory of Thorley, holding the benefice until 1946, when he was succeeded as Rector by Sydney Robinson. After leaving Thorley, he served as a Travelling Representative of the London Bible College from 1948 to 1960.

Harding wrote a number of Sunday School lesson books for the Scripture Union, and numerous other Christian books and tracts. These included one with J. Reginald Hill, a pioneer of the Scripture Union's Sunday School Department in the years immediately following the Second World war, entitled God and the Children. Harding was then touring the country and speaking on the theme Enjoy your Bible, the title of another of his books. He remained active as an evangelist for the remainder of his life. When frail and in his eighties, he would sit benevolently amongst the children during beach services at the Perranporth mission in Cornwall.

Harding's wife, Helen Frances, was also the author of a number of Christian tracts.

Helen died on Good Friday morning, 31 March, 1961, aged 83. Harding died in 1969, aged 91.

Philip Hargrave
January 2012


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