About Walter Parratt
Sir Walter Parratt KCVO
(10 February 1841 – 27 March 1924) was an English organist and composer.
Born in Huddersfield, son of a parish organist, Parratt began to play the pipe organ from an early age, and held posts as an organist while still a child. He was child prodigy: on one occasion he played Bach's complete The Well-Tempered Clavier by heart, without notice, at the age of only ten.
From 1854 to 1861 he was an organist at St Paul's Church in his native town and, as successor to John Stainer, in 1872 at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he remained for ten years. From 1882 he held the post of organist of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. He became Heather Professor of Music at Oxford University in 1908, taking over from Hubert Parry.
He became one of the foremost organ teachers of his day, with many important posts in Britain being filled by his students. He was president of the Royal College of Organists.
Parratt was also a distinguished chess player, and was able to simultaneously play chess and a complex organ piece--at first sight. He served for a few months as president of the Oxford University Chess Club and for two years was captain of the eight chosen to play against Cambridge.
He was knighted in 1892. In 1893 he was appointed Master of the Queen's Musick to Queen Victoria, and afterward held the same office under Kings Edward VII and George V.
Later honours included: Member (MVO, 1901), Commander (CVO, 1917), and Knight Commander (KCVO, 1921) of the Royal Victorian Order.
After Parratt's death in 1924 a monument to him was erected in the grounds of Huddersfield Parish Church. There is also a monument to him in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, next to the entrance to King George VI Memorial Chapel where King George VI and the Queen mother are buried.
Armitage Bridge Church, 1852-1854 St. Paul's Church, Huddersfield, 1854-1861 private organist to the Earl of Dudley, Witley Court, 1861-1868 organist of Wigan Parish Church, 1868-1872 Magdalen College, Oxford, 1872-1882 St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle 1882-1924
Sir William Cusins Master of the Queen's (later King's) Musick 1893–1924
Sir Edward Elgar
1.^ "Obituary: WALTER PARRATT". Musical Times. May 1, 1924. 2.^ Grove's Dictionary, 5th edition, 1954, Vol. 6, p. 559 3.^ Pearson, Arthur (June 1903). "Famous Yorkshire Musicians". The Non-Conformist Musical Journal 186: 73, 88–90. Retrieved 2010-03-24. 4.^ "PARRATT, Sir Walter". Who's Who, 59: p. 1359. 1907. 5.^ The London Gazette: no. 27363. p. 6569. 8 October 1901.
Rosemary Firman, 'Parratt, Sir Walter (1841–1924)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 25 March 2008 Donald Tovey & Geoffrey Parratt, Walter Parratt: Master Of The Music (Oxford University Press, 1941). Organ Recitals at St George's Chapel
From Yorkshire Chess History
Walter Parratt – Family and Career
Walter was the second son of Thomas and younger brother of Henry. He was a child prodigy. There’s a story that at the age of ten he was asked without prior notice to play Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, which he thereupon played from start to finish.
At the age of twelve Walter became organist at Armitage Bridge Church. He then held various successive organist posts as follows:
1852 to 1854, organist at Armitage Bridge Church, near Huddersfield,
1854 to 1861, organist at the parish church of St. Peter, Huddersfield,
1861 to 1868, private organist to the Earl of Dudley, at Witley Court,
1868 to 1872, organist at Wigan Parish Church,
1872 to 1882, organist at Magdalen College, Oxford,
1882 to 1924; organist at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
At the time of the 1861 census, Walter was unmarried and still living with his parents in Ramsden Street. At some time from 1861 to 1871, Walter married his wife Emma. The couple had at least the following five children:
Amy T. Parratt,
born 1871/72, at Wigan;
born 1873/74, at Oxford;
Dorothy T. Parratt,
born 1875/76, at Oxford;
Geoffrey T. Parratt,
born 1877/78, at Oxford;
born 1879/80, at Oxford.
In 1861, Walter became private organist to the Earl of Dudley, at Witley Court, in Great Witley, Worcestershire, 5 miles SW of Stourport. Witley Court was an 18th-century mansion inherited by William Humble Ward, who in 1860 became the first Earl of Dudley. The mansion was reduced to ruins by fire in 1937, but English Heritage was since done restoration work on part of the gardens.
In 1868, Walter moved to Wigan to become organist at the parish church. The 1871 census found Walter, an organist and teacher of music, and his wife Emma, at 19 Clifton Street, Wigan.
Then followed a move, in 1872, to Oxford, to take up the post of organist at Magdalen College, replacing Sir John Stainer famed for his “Crucifixion”. While organist at Magdalen, Walter took the degree of Batchelor of Music, graduating on 15th May 1873.
In 1881 Walter and his family, with three domestic servants, lived at 17 St Giles, Oxford. This was his third address with the number 17. The family consisted of Walter, wife Emma and the five children.
1882 saw Walter and his family moved to Windsor, when Walter became organist at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
From 1883 to 1923 he taught organ-playing at the Royal College of Music in London, where he was the first Organ Professor there.
The 1891 census found Walter, his wife and the five children living at 12 Horseshoe Cloisters, New Windsor. Walter was listed as an organist and teacher of music. The children were all scholars. They has two live-in servants.
In 1892 he was knighted, so becoming Sir Walter Parratt.
In 1893 he succeeded Sir William Cusins as “Master of the Queen’s Musick”, and in due course held the corresponding post for the whole of Edward VII’s reign, and then in George V’s reign until he, Walter, died, when he was succeeded by Sir Edward Elgar. He participated in a number of royal events in his capacity as royal organist.
The 1901 census described Walters residence as The Cloisters, Windsor Castle. Whether this was the same as 12 Horseshoe Cloisters is none too clear. Walter was still listed as an organist. Geoffrey T. Parratt was now a shipping clerk. Of the girls, Katherine and Dorothy were still at home, but Amy and Margaret had flown the nest (or died).
In 1901 he was made a Member of the Victorian Order (MVO).
In 1908 he succeeded Hubert Parry as Heather Professor of Music at Oxford, holding the post to 1918.
In 1917 his Victorian Order ranking was upgraded to Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO).
In 1921 he was made Knight Commander of the Victorian Order (KCVO).
Besides being renowned as a player of the organ, Walter attained an enormous reputation as a teacher of the organ. Whilst his musical ability presumably came primarily from his father, census descriptions of his mother suggest it may have been she who gave him his ability as a teacher.
He also composed a certain amount of music.
Walter Parratt - Chess
Walter was a keen chess-player. While living in Huddersfield he attended the West Yorkshire Chess Association meetings of 1858, 1859, 1860 and 1861. After taking up the post at Witley he managed to get to the 1864 West Yorkshire meeting, being listed in reports as coming from Witley rather than Huddersfield. While living in Wigan he got to the West Yorkshire meetings of 1869 and 1871, reports of which show him as hailing from Wigan.
A problem by “W. Parratt, Esq., Huddersfield” was published in the Chess Player’s Chronicle, in 1861, page 32:
White to play and mate in 4
After moving to Oxford in 1872, he was too far away, and busy, to keep up attendance at West Yorkshire meetings, but he was still active in chess. The annual “inter-varsity” chess matches between Oxford and Cambridge were initiated while Walter was there, and Walter captained the Oxford team in the first such match, on Friday 28th March 1873. (Oxford won.) He was president of Oxford University chess club from 3rd December 1873 (taking over from S. R. Meredith of Leeds) to 18th March 1874, and its secretary from 16th December 1874 to some time in December 1875. He played in the second match against Cambridge. He was made a life member of the Oxford University Chess Club.
At Windsor, escape to chess meetings in Yorkshire was even less feasible, one suspects, than at Oxford. In Windsor Walter’s family was domiciled in the castle’s Horseshoe Cloisters. His obituary in the British Chess Magazine related how he had been invited, and agreed, to represent Oxford University in a match between Oxford Past and Cambridge Past, but in the event had had to back down due to ill health, asking that the result nevertheless be communicated to him; though that was done he was by then on his death bed, with only days to live.
Walter Parratt - Death
The Huddersfield Daily Examiner of Wednesday 26th December 1923 reported thus:
SIR WALTER PARRATT ILL
Sir Walter Parratt, Master of the King’s Music and organist of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, is confined by illness at his residence, The Cloisters, Windsor Castle. Sir Walter is in his 83rd year.
Walter Parratt died on 27th March 1924, 62 years after his father, to the day. Walter’s ashes and those of his wife Emma are buried beneath the north choir aisle of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and a commemorative stone is positioned by the entrance to King George VI Memorial Chapel.
The British Chess Magazine carried an obituary.
Walter Parratt's Timeline
February 10, 1841
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, UK
Wigan, Greater Manchester, UK
Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
March 27, 1924
Royal Windsor, Berkshire, England
Windsor, West Berkshire, United Kingdom