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Thomas Pitfield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thomas Pitfield
Born5 April 1903
Died11 November 1999

Thomas Baron Pitfield (5 April 1903 – 11 November 1999)[1] was a British composer, poet, artist, engraver, calligrapher, craftsman, furniture builder and teacher.



He was born in Bolton to elderly parents whose strict Victorian values and lack of support for his creative interests led his withdrawn from school at 14 for a seven-year engineering apprenticeship with Hick, Hargreaves & Co. Ltd, his designs for transmission machinery for the cotton industry survive with indian ink and watercolour paintings of railway engines.[2]

Although he was essentially self-taught as a composer, he studied piano, cello and harmony at the Royal Manchester College of Music, where his teachers were Thomas Keighley, Frank Merrick and Carl Fuchs.[3] In 1930 he won a scholarship to study art and cabinet-making at the Bolton School of Art.[3]

After training as a teacher, he became art master at Tettenhall College, Wolverhampton. Whilst there, as a pacifist, he joined the Peace Pledge Union. In the Second World War, he registered as a conscientious objector, with a condition that he continue teaching. He taught composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music from 1947 to 1973, where his pupils included David Ellis, John Golland, John McCabe, John Ogdon, Philip Spratley and Ronald Stevenson.

Pitfield was a lifelong vegetarian.[3] Between 1986 and 1993 he wrote a three volume autobiography. He continued to create art and music until his nineties. He died in Bowdon, Greater Manchester, in 1999.



As a composer Pitfield was influenced by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger and Frederick Delius. He was a prolific composer and his compositions include collections of miniatures for students and amateurs, a five-movement Sinfonietta, a Trio for flute, oboe and piano, concertos for piano, violin, recorder and percussion, a Xylophone Sonata, an Oboe Sonata, and solo works for accordion, clarsach, and harmonica. He also invented an instrument called “patterphone” to produce rain-like sounds.

He wrote for many notable artists, such as Léon Goossens, Evelyn Rothwell, Archie Camden, Dolmetsch, and Osian Ellis.

His music was published by more than 50 publishers. Hubert J. Foss of the Oxford University Press published many of his compositions, illustrations, frontispieces and cover-designs, which he made for various publications, including the one for Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony.


  1. ^ "Thomas Pitfield". theguardian.com. Retrieved 18 February 2023.
  2. ^ Turner, John (2000). "Thomas Baron Pitfield 1903–1999". About Our Composers. The Musical Times. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Obituary: Thomas Pitfield". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 18 February 2023.