Alfred E Pitstow (d. 1966, aged 90)

Alfred Pitstow (Click on the picture for larger version)

Much detail covered in Stacey's "The Pitstows of Saffron Walden" - see reference.

Resignation letter

January 9th 1940

Dear Lewis

I think you are aware, that for a long time I have been thinking of giving up taking an active part in ringing and I am now writing to tell you I have decided to take this step.

I have had to make a big effort to make this decision, but I feel it is the right thing to do, knowing the effect the climbing of the belfry steps has upon me at times.

I was in hope that I could put this off until the Saffron Walden Society was stronger in numbers, but the war coming along makes it appear to be hopeless in this respect.

Please do not think I have thrown down the rope never to pick it up again for this is not the case, and if ever the occasion arises, that I can help, I shall be pleased to do so.

The object of me writing in the first place is to thank you for your co-operation and help given to the Saffron Walden Company, especially recently, when that help was so urgently needed.

I shall always be able to recall the happy times I have spent with you, as pleasant memories and I hope you will continue to enjoy ringing in the future as I have done in the past.

Yours very sincerely

Alfred Pitstow


From the Ringing World:

February 4, 1966.


The death occurred at Saffron Walden on January 18th of Mr. Alfred E. Pitstow at the age of 90. He was the eldest son of the late Frederick Pitstow, who conducted the " Surprise " peals on the local bells between 1890 and 1900, and Alfred was the last survivor of that band. He became Master of the Saffron Walden Society on the resignation of his father through old age in 1926, and held that position until 1944, when the 52 steps up to the belfry became too much for him. He conducted many peals of Surprise between the two wars, most of these being London Major. He conducted the first peal on the 12 bells.

Mr. Pitstow was probably the last survivor of those who joined the Rev. F. E. Robinson's peal tours of the West Country in 1897 and 1898. He was a fine handbell ringer.

In 1899 he volunteered for service in the South African War and served as a sergeant for two years in the campaign. On his return he received the Freedom of the Borough of Cambridge. Appointments he held at Saffron Walden were collector of taxes for the area, and sanitary engineer and surveyor of the Saffron Walden Rural District Council. He was responsible for the building of all council houses in the 33 parishes under his council and for the many water schemes linking up various villages. He retired in 1947. A most genial companion, he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

The funeral was held in the Parish Church on January 22nd in the presence of a large congregation and was conducted by the Vicar. As the cortege left the church the bells were rung half-muffled by the local ringers.

And from the local press:


Alfred Ernest Pitstow of 25 West Road, Saffron Walden who died on Tuesday at the age of 90, was "father" of the Saffron Walden bellringers.

He started bell ringing at the age of 12 and rang for Queen Victoria's Jubilee. He was one of the eight members of the Saffron Walden Society who tackled, and mastered, the most difficult methods in change ringing, He was the last surviving member of that band.

He conducted the first peal rang on the 12 bells at Saffron Walden. Mr. Pitstow was also a pianist and started a quadrille band. After teaching himself the clarinet, he joined the local band. He also played in the Cambridge band for several years.

Bugler at 14

He was made a juvenile member of the Oddfellows and after becoming a member of the adult lodge, held all posts. He was made a trustee of the lodge and was Provincial Grand Master of the Cambridge District in 1927.

Mr. Pitstow joined the forces as a bugler at the age of 14, He went into the ranks at 16 and soon became a corporal.

In August, 1899, he was made a sergeant, and within five months, was chosen as sergeant-in-command of the Cambridge Volunteers for the South African war.

He was transferred to the University Section for a few weeks, and later commanded the Ipswich Section, and remained with them until he returned to England.

For his service, he was publicly thanked by the Mayor and Corporation of Ipswich and the Mayor and Corporation of Saffron Walden. He also received the freedom of the Borough of Cambridge and was presented with a silver cup by the university.


Mr. Pitstow was born in 1875, and was educated at the Boys' British School.

When he left school, he worked as a plumber and decorator. At the age of 28, he was appointed Sanitary Inspector, Engineer and Surveyor to Saffron Walden Rural Council, and he held that post until his retirement in 1946.

He leaves two sons.

Back ] Up ] Next ]


  Contact webmaster  Top