Henry Edward Denison Hammond was born at Priston, Somerset, in 1866, and his brother Robert Francis Frederick two years later in the same place. They were the second and third sons of Henry Walmsley Hammond, who had retired prematurely from the H.M. Bengal Civil Service due to ill health. Their father's condition eventually resulted in a move to Madeira in 1873 where the unfortunate Henry Walmsley died within eight days of arrival, leaving a widow and six young children. They returned to Clevedon in Somerset where their mother, Catherine, remained until her death in 1905.
Henry was educated at Lancing College and then, from 1885, at Corpus Christi College, Oxford where he excelled at association football obtaining one cap for his country. From there he spent a year at Blairlodge School before joining the staff of the Edinburgh Academy, where he taught classics, became renowned for his work on the theory of education and met George Gardiner. In 1899, he was appointed Director-General of Education in Rhodesia until his health failed and he returned home after only a year.
Henry teamed up with George Gardiner for his first foray into folk song collecting in 1904 (Henry noting the tunes) and continued in a more serious manner with his brother Robert (who noted the texts) the following year in Minehead, Somerset, where they were “trying to collect some of the gleanings of Mr Sharp's harvest”. Maybe it was Gardiner, with whom they worked intermittently, who first inspired Henry and Robert, but it should be noted that the Hammond family was connected with both Cecil Sharp's family and the Reverend Charles Marson, Sharp's first collaborator.
Correspondence with Lucy Broadwood in June 1905 resulted in the brothers turning their attention to Dorset where, in August, September and October, they noted 193 songs. From then until the end of 1907 they worked tirelessly, meeting a number of singers with impressive repertoires, including Mrs Russell at Upwey in 1907, who finally gave them 100 songs. Over 900 songs were noted in total from 193 singers in six counties, the vast majority from Dorset.
A selection of songs were published in the Folk-Song Society's Journal in 1907 and Folk-Songs of England, Book 1, under the general editorship of Cecil Sharp, comprised sixteen songs collected by the Hammonds in Dorset, arranged for piano by Sharp.
Henry, whose health never really recovered from his year in Rhodesia, died of pneumonia on 16 June 1910 and was buried in Edinburgh. Robert's life is still something of a mystery.
The Hammond papers reside with the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (VWML).