Walmisley, Thomas Attwood (DNB00)

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WALMISLEY, THOMAS ATTWOOD (1814–1856), musician, born at Westminster on 21 Jan. 1814, was the son of Thomas Forbes Walmisley [q. v.] He showed early aptitude for music under his father's guidance, and studied the higher branches under his godfather, Thomas Attwood [q. v.], organist to St. Paul's Cathedral. In his seventeenth year Walmisley became organist to St. John the Baptist Church at Croydon, which was destroyed by fire in 1871; and in 1832 he was approached by Monck Mason to write English opera. But as Walmisley had arranged to go up to Cambridge, he declined Mason's offer, and on 1 Feb. 1833 was elected organist to Trinity and St. John's colleges, Cambridge. At the former he effected some improvements in the organ which ‘were not only innovations, but were so unique as to constitute our organ an object of curiosity for many years to come’ (cf. ‘Hist. of the Organ in the Chapel of Trinity College,’ by Mr. G. F. Cobb in Trident, 1890). Walmisley himself wrote an article on some of the Cambridge organs in the ‘Cambridge Portfolio.’

A short time after settling in Cambridge Walmisley graduated Mus. Bac., his exercise being a psalm, ‘Let God arise;’ and, wishing to graduate also in arts, he entered at Corpus Christi College, but migrated to Jesus before taking the degree of B.A. in 1838, and proceeding M.A. in 1841. In 1834 he wrote a fine anthem, ‘O give thanks,’ for the commemoration at Trinity, in which year he also composed his great service in B flat. In the following year he composed the ode for the installation of the Marquis of Camden as chancellor of the University, Malibran being one of the solo singers on the occasion, and Sir George Thomas Smart [q. v.] the conductor. In 1836, on the death of John Clarke-Whitfeld [q. v.], Walmisley succeeded to the professorial chair of music, the office then being practically a sinecure. Walmisley instituted a system of lectures, in one of which he prophesied the ultimate supremacy of Bach's music, then almost unknown in England. Between 1838 and 1854 Walmisley wrote several anthems and services, including ‘If the Lord Himself,’ one of his finest works, 1840; ‘Ponder my words,’ written for the reopening of Jesus College chapel in 1849; ‘Blessed is he,’ in five parts, for the choir benevolent fund, 1854; the service in D (1843); that in B flat for double choir. Nearly all Walmisley's compositions were unpublished till after his death, when they were edited by his father, who survived him. In 1844 Walmisley compiled and published a book of words of anthems in use at various Cambridge colleges and a collection of chants (1845). In July 1847 he composed music for Wordsworth's ode, ‘For thirst of power,’ for the installation of the prince consort as chancellor of the university, and in 1853 he published his edition of Attwood's ‘Cathedral Music,’ and at one time or another he adapted some works by Mendelssohn and Hummel for English use.

In 1848 Walmisley took his degree of Mus. Doc. He was a prodigious worker, his services as organist occupying him on Sundays at one time from 7.15 a.m. to 6.15. He died at Hastings on 17 Jan. 1856, and is buried at Fairlight, a neighbouring village. Walmisley's secular compositions, in addition to those already mentioned, are few in number, and include a symphony of which Mendelssohn is said to have spoken disparagingly; a couple of beautiful madrigals, ‘Slow, fresh fount,’ and ‘Sweet flowers;’ a number of duets for oboe and pianoforte, only one of which appears to have been published, and some organ pieces. Walmisley was a distinguished church-music composer and magnificent organist. A brass tablet to his memory is in the ante-chapel, Trinity College, Cambridge.

[A biographical sketch of T. A. Walmisley, by J. S. Bumpus, appeared in Musical News, 24 Feb. and 3 March 1894; authorities quoted in the text; British Museum Catalogue of Music; Cambridge University Calendar; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, passim.]

R. H. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.274
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
161 i 17f.e. Walmisley, Thomas A.: for ‘Portfolio’ read ‘Cambridge Portfolio’
ii 27 for edited read adapted