Ernest Alfred Pitstow (d. 1947, aged 86)

Ernest Pitstow (Click on the picture for larger version)

Much detail covered in Stacey's "The Pitstows of Saffron Walden" - see reference. Ernest was a painter and decorator by profession and lived at 21 Debden Road.

Long peal of Superlative

From Bell News - 30 June 1894.


As is well known, on Whit Tuesday last, eight members of the Midland Counties Association, rang at Loughborough the longest peal in the above method which has yet been performed 8800 changes. The record appeared in due course, and we publish this week a group photograph of the company [photograph]. Below a brief notice of each member is given in the order in which they rang.


Born at Saffron Walden on July 30th, 1860. Like his elder brothers was fond of bells from early youth. He is an excellent striker and a reliable ringer, and has rung close upon 100 peals of Stedman Triples, Caters, and Cinques; Grandsire, Bob Major, Double Norwich, Treble Eight, Treble Ten, Maximus, Superlative and Cambridge Surprise. He was one of the unfortunate, like the Rev. G. F. Coleridge, who took part in the mongrel and false peal of Superlative at Southgate, composed and conducted by J. W. Washbrook. Besides taking such a keen interest in ringing, he is a first rate musician, and is Bandmaster of the Saffron Walden Excelsior Band,


From Ringing World - Jan 14th 1938:

A WELL-KNOWN ESSEX RINGING FAMILY. THREE GENERATIONS IN TOUCH AT SAFFRON WALDEN. Three generations of the Pitstow family took part in ringing for service at Saffron Walden on Sunday evening, December 26th. They were Mr. Ernest Pitstow, of Saffron Walden, his son, Mr. Harold Pitstow, and his grandson, Malcolm Pitstow, the two last named now residing at Banstead, Surrey. Malcolm (aged 14) rang the treble to touches of Bob Major and Grandsire Triples and shows great promise. Two other members of the family also rang in these touches, e.g., Messrs. A. E. and L. E. Pitstow. It is hoped that as many as possible of the family will take part in Malcolm's first peal, which we trust will soon be accomplished.


From the Ringing World:

Mr. E. A. Pitstow

Mr. Ernest Alfred Pitstow, whose death at the age of 86 was reported in our last issue, was the youngest of the three brothers who did so much for ringing in the 80's and 90's. It was their enthusiasm for the art which brought Saffron Walden to the forefront as a centre for good ringing and made their name known throughout the Exercise.

Ernest Pitstow never took up composing and conducting - he left that to his brothers Nathan and Frederick - but he was a very safe ringer in all methods and a first-class striker. Of a very modest and kindly disposition, he was beloved by all who knew him.

His list of peals is not a long one - he rang about 120 - but it contains many that are landmarks in the progress made in, his time, and some are historic.

His first peal - Kent Treble Bob Major at Sawbridgeworth on Boxing Day, 1883 - was followed by a trip to London, in January, 1884, he rang four peals in four days for the Cumberlands - Kent Major, Kent Royal, Double Norwich and Grandsire Triples. His next was the first peal of Treble Bob in the City of Ely, and the next the first performance of T. Lockwood's 6,016 of Kent Major - rung at Lavenham in four hours.

In 1885 be went to Long Melford to ring in late W. J. Nevard's first peal, and, so started a lifelong friendship. In 1887 he rang the first peal of Oxford Treble Bob by the Essex Association and followed this with a peal of Kent Royal at Chelmsford, the first on the bells and the first peal on ten by the Association.

The next year saw him in, Berkshire, where with the Rev. F. E. Robinson and J. W. Washbrook he rang four peals in four days.

In 1890 he toured the Eastern Counties with Rev. F. E. Robinson, Canon G. F. Coleridge and J. W. Washbrook, when they rang nine in six days, including Kent Royal at Aylsham and Kent Maximus at St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich both on the one day, a considerable achievement in those days. This tour was rounded off with a peal of Stedman Caters at Great St. Mary, Cambridge, the first in Stedman's home town.

Following a peal of Stedman Cinques at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields in April, 1892, the first by the Essex Association, he toured Devon and Cornwall with the Rev. F. E. Robinson and Canon Coleridge, where they rang six peals. It was during this tour that the party rang the first course (Grandsire Caters) ever to be rung on Exeter Cathedral bells. There were four men on the tenor, the other bells being rung single-handed.

In December of that year he went to Christ Church, Southgate, to ring J. W. Washbrook's 7,072 of Superlative, the longest length yet attempted in this method. The peal was successfully accomplished in 4 hours 58 minutes, but he had the mortification of being told a week or so later by his brother Nathan that the figures were false.

He next rang at Saffron Walden in the first peal of Superlative in Essex and followed this with the 8,800 Superlative at Loughborough, rung in 6 hours 16 minutes, composed and conducted by Nathan Pitstow. Caron Coleridge rang in this peal and is believed to be now the only survivor of the band. This peal stood as the record for the method for many years.

Within a month of this achievement he rang at Saffron Walden in the first peal of Cambridge in the Eastern Counties. In 1895 he was in Devon again with the Rev. F. G. Robinson and rang four peals. The next peal of note was the first peal of London Surprise Major in Essex, rung at Saffron Walden on January 10th, 1899. Another notable peal was one of Stedman Triples on the bells of the Roman Catholic Church, Cambridge, in January, 1904 (tenor 32 cwt.), the only peal to be rung on this grand ring until last year.

His last peal was at Saffron Walden on October 6th, 1936, when at the age of 76 he rang the 8th to the first peal (Stedman Cinques) on the twelve bells.

In addition to his ringing activities, Ernest Pitstow had taken leading part in the musical life of Saffron Walden. His exceptional qualities as a musician enabled him to teach and inspire others, and for 40 years, he was conductor of the Saffron Walden Excelsior Band.

The funeral service was held at Saffron Walden Parish Church on February 12th and was attended by a large congregation. It was conducted by the Vicar (the Rev. M. R. Sinker), assisted by the Rev. Humphries, and the music was beautifully, rendered by the organist and choir. As the cortege left the church for the Borough Cemetery the bells were rung muffled.

He leaves two sons Harold and Leonard to carry on the work which was nearest his heart, for both are ringers, and conductors of music. His three grandchildren also are ringers.

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