Frederick Pitstow (d. 1928, aged 77)

Fred Pitstow (Click on the picture for larger version)

Much detail covered in Stacey's "The Pitstows of Saffron Walden" - see reference. A painter by profession, Fred lived at 1 Bridge Street.

Immediately after Fred Pitstow's funeral on June 16 1928, a peal was rung is his memory.


From the Ringing World - Jan 15th 1928:



There passed away on Tuesday, at Saffron Walden, one of the stalwarts of the Exercise, Mr. Fred Pitstow - a pioneer of change ringing in the eastern counties - and a large circle of friends, particularly among the older generation, will regret the death of a fine ringer and a genial companion. He was 77 years of age.

The late Mr. Pitstow's connection with bells began when he was only 15 years of age, and at a time when change ringing in Saffron Walden, where for over 300 years there has been a ringing society, was at a low ebb. But he and his equally celebrated brother, Nathan, used to walk to the neighbouring villages for practice, and often would go as far as Bennington to meet and ring with the famous Surprise band there. Mr. Fred Pitstow also became a frequent visitor to London where he rang with the Cumberland Youths, at the time George Newson was in the heyday of his career. Mr. Pitstow was one of those who made his own opportunities for practice, and once within the space of a fortnight he rang a peal of Cambridge in London,  Superlative at Duffield, London Surprise at Burton, Stedman, and Double Norwich in London, all of them at the first attempt and without any practice whatever except the periodical to the Bennington men.

After this a young band was got together at Saffron Walden, and they succeeded in ringing the first peal of Cambridge Surprise in the Eastern Counties, and the first peals of London and Superlative in Essex. Mr. Pitstow also took part in a number of other interesting ' first peals,' and altogether his total was over 200 from Maximus downward.

He joined the Essex Association in 1886, and had been an enthusiastic member ever since, having served for many years as District Master of the North Western District. He was also a member of numerous other associations.

In addition to being an able ringer, Mr. Pitstow was an accomplished musician, and for a long period was bandmaster of Saffron Walden town band.

The funeral will take place at Saffron Walden cemetery tomorrow (Saturday) at 3 p.m.

From the Ringing World - Jan 22nd 1928:



The funeral of Mr. Frederick Pitstow, who was for fifty years the conductor, and for the last twenty years Master, of the Saffron Walden company, took place on Saturday, there being a representative gathering of townspeople and ringers to pay a last tribute of respect. The service was conducted by the Vicar (Rev. Dr. L. Hughes), and the interment took place in the cemetery. A course of Grandsire Triples was rung at the graveside by G. R. Pye 1-2, W. J. Nevard 3-4, W. Pye 5-6, F. Dench 7-8. The other ringers present included Messrs. York Green, T. R. Dennis, and John Taylor (Cambridge), Walter Prior and Wm. Prior (Stansted), J. Waghorn (Tottenham), E. Pitstow (brother of deceased), A. E. Pitstow and F. J. Pitstow (sons), A. F. James (brother-in-law), W. Parish, C. Freeman, R. A. Strong, G. H. Sparrow, H. Sketchley, A. L. Simmonds, and Police-inspector Ridgewell (members of the Saffron Walden Company).


There were many floral tributes, including wreaths from the Essex Association, the Saffron Walden Society, and the Saffron Walden Borough band.

In the evening a muffled peal of Stedman Triples was rung on the bells of the Parish Church.

We referred last week to Mr. Pitstow's ringing career, which began in 1867, when, with his brother Nathan, he was elected a member of the Saffron Walden Society.

Outside the Exercise Mr. Pitstow was a man of versatile attainments and interests. As a musician, Mr. Pitstow had outstanding qualities. He could play every kind of instrument, and was a first-class tutor. For some years he was musical-director to the Saffron Walden Musical Society, and conducted the society in many leading oratorios. He was also music master of the Leys School, Cambridge. He took part in the Royal Choral Society's Handel festivals, also the annual festivals at Ely and Norwich Cathedrals, being the possessor of a fine bass voice.

Mr. Pitstow's musical interests also had to do with the conductorship of bands. He was an original member of the 17th Essex Volunteer Band and eventually he formed the Saffron Walden Excelsior Band, being its bandmaster for many years. In 1900 he formed the Saffron Walden Town Band, which he conducted until the outbreak of the war.

His other activities were divided among the Volunteers - he was an excellent shot - the Saffron Bloom Lodge of Oddfellows, of which he was a Past Grand Master, the Fire Brigade, he being one of the first Of the four members of the brigade to receive the Long Service Medal. Whilst a member of the Volunteers he secured the Lord Braybrooke Challenge Cup for shooting. In politics Mr. Pitstow was a staunch Conservative, and in his younger days he took an active share in election campaigns.


Through the death of Mr. Frederick Pitstow of Saffron Walden, the Exercise loses one of its finest exponents. He belonged to one of the oldest and most respected families in the town, and could trace his ancestors back in the records of Saffron Walden for 300 years. He might well be termed the father of Surprise ringing in Essex, for Surprise methods on eight bells were rung at Walden years before anyone else thought about it. He had travelled to London, Burton and Bennington and made himself proficient, and then set to work to graft it into his own band. Being well built, he presented a fine figure on a tenor box. He also possessed the rare gift of infusing keenness into those who rang with him by sheer force of example, and at his own tower this must have had a wonderful effect. I have visited a good many towers during my career, and I must say that I have never heard a local band strike better than they did at Walden. Many ringers had their first touches of Double Norwich and Surprise methods at Walden, including myself. I well remember asking him if he could fix me up for my first peal of Double Norwich. I expected he would offer some lame excuse as several I had previously approached had done. That, however was no game of our departed friend. He fixed me up, and the peal was rung within fourteen days. He believed in the old adage that what is worth is worth doing well, and nobody has done more to raise the standard of ringing than he has. He was a delightful companion, and the more one had of his company the more they wanted. I shall always cherish the happy hours I have spent in his company. May he rest in peace.     W. PYE.

Brief notice of the death of Mrs Pitstow

From the Ringing World - Feb 18 1916:

DEATH OF MRS. F. PITSTOW. Ringers the country over will deeply sympathise with Mr. Fred Pitstow of Saffron Walden, in the loss he has sustained by the death of his wife the sad event. occurring on Saturday. Although Mrs. Pitstow, who was 63 years of age, did not take up the Art, it was always a pleasure to her to welcome and provide for the comfort of her husband's many ringing friends, and a great many members of the Exercise have brought with them from Saffron Walden pleasant recollections of the hospitality extended by the deceased lady, who as the wife and mother of ringers, took a lively interest in their doings. The funeral took place at Saffron Walden Cemetery yesterday (Thursday).

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