Alfred James Caldicott – 1842 – 1897 – Famous Composer

Alfred James Caldicott

Alfred James Caldicott was a renowned and widely respected composer who won awards, accolade and positions worthy of his striking talent, including principal of the Royal College of Music.

He died tragically young, but the year after one of his pieces, Little Jacky Horner was performed at the now world-famous BBC Proms, then known asB Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts, in the Queen’s Hall in 1898, a fitting tribute to a talent lost so early.

Alfred was born in 1842 in Worcester to William Caldicott, hop merchant of Worcester and Matilda (nee Bayliss). He was the eldest of their six sons and also had a half-sister, from his father’s second marriage, following the death of Matilda.

He was baptised on 22 August 1843 at Angel Street Congregational Church.

Angel Street Congregational Church Worcester
Angel Street Congregational Church Worcester

He received much of his early musical training at Worcester Cathedral, where he started as a chorister at the age of 8 and then became assistant organist, under William Done who was the cathedral organist for an impressive 51 years.

Worcester Cathedral Organ
Worcester Cathedral Organ B B B B B B B B B B B Image Credit – Julian P Guffogg

In 1863, Alfred was admitted into the world-famous Leipzig Conservatory in Saxony, Germany to study music.

In October 1865 he had returned to Worcestershire and married Maria Turner Mayne, daughter of Captain Henry Mayne and a soprano singer herself. The couple had five sons and three daughters – Alfred Ernest, Cecil Herbert Henry, Walter George Graham, Alice Myra, Percy William, Ethel Miriam, Frank Mayne and Hilda Kathleen.

Alfred Ernest Caldicott was born on 5 June 1866 and married Minnie Cooper on 28 June 1888. He became a civil engineer like his uncle, Alfred’s youngest brother, Harvey Caldicott working in the British Colonies. He died on 3 November 1964.

Cecil Herbert Henry Caldicott was born in October 1867 and married Martha Weiss on 19 December 1904. He also worked as an engineer abroad and died in the USA on 15 April 1919.

Walter George Graham Caldicott was born in April 1869 and married Daisy M Wampler on 2 April 1896. He then married Anna Zimmer on 6 October 1911. He settled in the States and was an office administrator. He died on 11 December 1953.

Sadly, the family had the a tragic few years when they then lost several children at a young age.

Alice Myra Caldicott was born in January 1871 and sadly died in September 1873.

Percy William Caldicott was born in January 1873 and also died in September 1873.

Ethel Miriam Caldicott was born in October 1874 and died in December of that year.

Frank Mayne Caldicott was born in July 1876 and died in June 1877.

Finally, Hilda Kathleen Caldicott was born in July and happily survived her childhood. She married RobertoB PflC

In 1876 Alfred returned to education as he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge and graduated in 1878 with a Bachelor of Music degree.

His early compositions were well received: in 1878 he was awarded a prize from Manchester Glee Society for his humorous glee, Humpty Dumpty, and in 1879 he was presented with a prize from the Huddersfield Glee and Madrigal Union for his serious glee, Winter Days.

Like his father, he became a Freemason and was initiated into the Worcester Lodge on 18 March 1880.

On 12 September 1881, he had the pleasure of conducting one of his ownB onatorios, the Widow of Nain at the Worcester Festival.

By 1887 records show he had moved to London as on 8 March he was initiated into the Drury Lane Freemason Lodge.

Following this move he held a number of prestigious jobs. Between 1889 and 1890 he was conductor for the Prince of Wales Theatre in an opera called “Paul Jones” with the famous opera singer, Agnes Huntington. Between 1890 and 1891 he went on tour to America as conductor for theB Agnes Huntington Opera Company.

Agnes Huntington
Agnes Huntington

Between 1890 and 1892 Alfred became a professor at the Royal College of Music in London and in 1892 he became principal for a short time.

Royal College of Music
Royal College of Music, London

In 1893 he became the conductor at the Comedy Theatre in London and on 4 June 1896 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London by the London Mayor.

However, things were taking their toll on Alfred and at only the age of 55 he began to suffer “nervous problems” and “brain trouble” caused by overwork. After a long and painful illness over some months he died in Barnwood Hospital, a private mental hospital in Gloucester, on 24 October 1897. He was buried on 28 October 1897 at St Clement’s Church, Worcester.

Alfred James Caldicott

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