The Irish daughter of a Major, Miss Cecil Frances Humphreys (1818-1895), began writing verse in her childhood. Her religious work was strongly influenced by her contacts with the Oxford Movement and by the 1840s she was already known as a hymn writer. Her book, Hymns for Little Children was intended to make the articles of the Apostles' Creed more understandable to children by using poetry and picture language. Among the hymns included in her collection was this one, which was based on the phrase "maker of Heaven and Earth" in the Apostle's Creed. Miss Humphreys wrote the text in the village of Dunster in South West England.. Hymns for Little Children was a major success reaching its 69th edition before the close of the nineteenth century.
In 1850 Cecil Frances married William Alexander, an Anglican clergyman. They newlyweds began their married life serving together in a church in an impoverished rural area of Ireland.
Mrs. Alexander continued her poetry and hymn writing but also devoted much of her time to visiting the poor and the sick in their parish. She gave the profits of her successful hymnbook to support handicapped children in the north of Ireland. William Alexander later became a Bishop and then Archbishop of Ireland but he is chiefly remembered for being the husband of the woman who wrote "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and other beloved hymns.
The second line of this hymn was used as the title by British veterinary surgeon and writer James Herriot for the first of his best-selling semi-autobiographical stories. It subsequently became the title of the film and television series based on his books. Herriot used the rest of the lines of the refrain for the titles of the books that followed: All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful and The Lord God Made Them All.
In 2009, the English composer John Rutter adapted the hymn into a full choral piece. His adaptation has proved popular with both soloists and choirs including this one by the boys male vocal group Libera.