This Tree starts from William BIDGOOD (1781 – 1844) who married Mary REEVE in 1801 at Exminster, Devon, England. Many of their descendants lived in Woolwich, Kent, England.




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Colin Ward (great grandson)

My great grandfather Thomas Bidgood was born on the 7th October 1858 at 14 Edward Street, Woolwich Arsenal, Kent to William John Bidgood, a plumber, and Jane (nee Williams) who was William’s second wife, his first wife Mary Rhodes having died in 1853. Thomas was one of six children and when he was 8 years old his father died. His musical interest began at a young age when he was a chorister at the local church and learning the violin. Thomas’ musical interest grew from regular attendance at concerts given by the Royal Artillery Band. When he was about 14 years old he joined the 9th Kent Artillery Volunteers band under the direction of R. B. Robshaw, an ex. solo cornet of the Royal Marines and Coldstream Guards bands. Under Robshaw Thomas learned to play the clarinet. E-flat Bass, and Alto Horn.

In 1871 the Bidgoods had moved to 18 Edward Street, Woolwich and on 25th October 1879, aged 20, he married Emily Louise Moore at St Nicholas’ Church in Plumstead Kent.  At the time of the 1881 census Thomas and Emily were living at 32 Mulgrave Place, Woolwich, Kent and he was working as a house decorator and grainer (a painting technique that simulated wood grain or marbling). While working as a decorator, Thomas furthered his musical development by studying at the London Academy of Music, founded by Dr Henry Wylde in 1861, where Thomas continued studying the violin under Signor Erba, a well-known violinist of the period, and harmony under Dr. Wylde. Unfortunately archival records for the early years (pre 1939) of the Academy do not exist, probably lost during WW2, thus information has to be gained from newspaper articles, other archival searches and the minimal available family knowledge relating to Thomas’ life.

Newspaper searches have revealed that while studying at the London Academy of Music (LAM) Thomas won bronze, silver and gold medals over a period of years. He was presented with a bronze medal on 24th August 1885 by the distinguished coloratura singer Madame Adelina Patti at an Academy event in St George’s Hall, Langham Place,  London. The following year 1886, the Essex County Chronicle reported that Thomas, bandmaster of the Becton band, received a silver medal for his proficiency in harmony.  He was also awarded a gold medal, date unknown, but there is reference to ‘Thomas Bidgood’s LAM gold medal’ in newspaper reports of his many musical engagements after 1893.

On the 30 November 1883 Emily gave birth to a son Albert Thomas Bidgood, my grandfather, who became a musician of note in New Zealand.  Eighteen eighty three was also the year Mr. J. R. Curwen, Associate of Royal Academy of Music, founded the Stratford Music Festival that has survived to the present day. The Festival is a modified version of the Welsh Eisteddfod with competitions for multiple classes for singing and instrument playing. In the early years both Thomas, no doubt testing his musicianship, and his son Albert competed with some success. Their names have been found among the lists of prize winners. Thomas, in 1885 received first prize in the brass-band competition having been appointed bandmaster of the Becton Gas, Coke and Light Company band. In 1888 he was awarded a Certificate of Honour for the composition of a hymn tune that was featured in the Festival’s closing concert in the West Ham Parish Church. His son Albert in 1896, age 13, was awarded a certificate for music theory.  It was also reported in subsequent years that Thomas and the Becton band provided incidental music during the judging decision periods.

Thomas joined the Volunteer Movement in 1885 as bandmaster number 3045 T Bidgood. Volunteers were being raised at that time in the Becton Company. Locally known as the “Becton Rangers” they were part of the 22nd Middlesex Regiment of Rifle Volunteers.  In 1905 Thomas was awarded the Military Volunteers Long Term Service Medal for 20 years of part time service.

The 1890 edition of Kelly’s Directory shows Thomas, Emily and Albert had moved to 5 Vicarage Lane, Stratford and his occupation is listed as Professor of Music. Thomas taught the violin to many pupils, one of whom was said to be the daughter of a Duchess. As well as teaching he was busy as a solo violinist and conducting both his own orchestra of professional musicians and other local orchestras at evening concerts, balls or social gatherings. These included Masonic Balls and annual concerts in the West Ham Town Hall. Thomas’ orchestra, of about fifty professional musicians, was considered one of the finest in London.

In 1891 Thomas was the victim of a burglary that received widespread coverage in the newspapers. When Thomas arrived home after a professional engagement at about a quarter-past two on Saturday morning he was admitted to the house by his wife by the upper front door. Carrying a lamp, he went down to supper, and seeing a light in the breakfast room, walked in to find a piece of candle was burning on the table and a wooden-legged man was standing at his desk, near the window. Thomas asked what he was doing and the man replied that he was trying to get shelter till the morning. Thomas then gave his wife a police-whistle to call the police while he detained the man who was wearing one of the Thomas’ waistcoats, a jacket, a blue dustcoat and an overcoat. When this Edward Fearneau was taken into custody he said, “I have only been in one house before. I always stay outside to watch, as my stump makes too much noise.” When searched, there was found, inside his wooden leg, a watch and chain identified by Mr. Bidgood, three pawn tickets, and 9s. 6d. in silver and in his pockets were two bradawls and a shilling. When the house was inspected the police found that entry had been by cutting out a pane of glass. Edward Fearneau was eventually convicted at London’s Central Criminal Court of burglary and received six months’ Imprisonment on Wednesday, May 6th, 1891.

In 1895, as well as being bandmaster of the Becton band Thomas also became the bandmaster of the 4th Volunteer Battalion Essex Regiment (VBER). The 4th VBER band competed in the brass band competitions in the 1895 and 1896 Stratford Music Festivals winning a special electro-plated and engraved cornet in 1895 and a trombone in 1896. By 1921 this highly trained Regimental Band was said to be the finest Volunteer Band in the Service.

In addition to conducting and teaching Thomas was also composing music. During 1898 and 1899 he composed a march that made his name. Titled “Sons of the Brave” the march became a worldwide favourite. It is thought that he was inspired by a painting of the same name that was shown at The Royal Academy by Philip R Morris in 1880, the year of the start of the First Boer War. The 7ft by 9ft painting, that now hangs in the refectory of the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in Dover. This was formerly the Chelsea Royal Military Asylum that was founded by the Duke of York in 1803 as a school for the education of children from military families. The painting shows the boys emerging from the portico of the main building surrounded by a number of widows dressed in black and clutching the hands of their children. The members of the band in their scarlet-jacket uniforms are led by their Drum Major. In the foreground a uniformed boy is gently ushering a girl with a hoop out of the path of the advancing band. The march was published in 1899 by Hawkes and Son, London and Thomas received permission from Major-General John Battersby, the commandant of the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, to dedicate the march to the School. Even though he was not a past student, a ‘Dukie’, Thomas Bidgood’s name has been strongly linked to the school ever since and from that time the march has been the school’s signature quick march. (For more information on the Duke of York’s School see A. W. Cockrill’s article: http://www.achart.ca/duke-of-york.htm)

Thomas’s composing was handicapped in that he did not play the piano. He solved this by having Albert, his 15 year old son play the melody over and over, while Thomas completed the composition. Albert, who eventually became a pianist, composer and conductor of his own orchestra, continued to assist Thomas until 1912 when Albert emigrated to New Zealand. That help included taking over conducting the orchestra from 1907 when Thomas’ workload was getting too great for him.

To brass band musicians and enthusiasts of brass band music the march “Sons of the Brave” is well known as music performed during military ceremonials. These include Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph, Trooping of the Colour and most recently, played by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. The music has been regularly used as the signature march for a number regiments most notably in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It is said that, during the 2nd Boer War, at the relief of Pretoria Lord Roberts had “Sons of the Brave” played by the combined bands under his command.  The march is still in brass band repertoires around the world. In Australia the march became an all-time favourite and was so popular that in 1914 it was adopted as the signature tune of the (Australian) National Service Brigade and played whenever the military appeared in films. The popularity was such that it became a repertoire item in the music hall of the 1900s as a song, with lyrics written by Stan Leigh of Palin’s Music Store, Sydney, Australia. This was sung in Britain by the music hall artist D’Alten Curtis (1857-1911) and recorded for HMV in 1932 with the Australian baritone-tenor Peter Dawson (reference Art Cockrill see www.achart.ca).  The march was also arranged for orchestras, theatre and fairground organs and is now considered a classic standard band composition in competitions and concerts.

In 1903 the Chelmsford Chronicle reported that about 1500 widows and children of soldiers killed in the 2nd Boer War (1899-1902) were dined at the Alexander Trust in Chelmsford as guests of Queen Victoria. The regimental dinner call was given by the buglers of the 3rd Volunteer Brigade Essex Regiment, while the band of the 4th Volunteer Brigade Essex Regiment, under Bandmaster Thomas Bidgood was stationed in the vestibule of the building. This report is almost a description of the painting with Thomas as the “Drum Major”.

The 1899 publication of Sons of the Brave was such a success that Thomas continued composing marches right up to his death in 1925. The following is a chronological list of his published marches:-

1899 – Sons of the Brave

1901 – Knight Errant

1909 – The Lads in Navy Blue, Merry Soldiers and Silent Heroes

1912 – The British Legion, A Call to Arms

1917 – My Old Kentucky Home, On to Victory

1920 – For King and Country

1921 – Vimy Ridge, Where Glory Leads

1925 – Rubinstein (incorporating Rubinstein’s ‘Melody in F’)

1926 – The Heroes of England, Heroes of the Flag (posthumous)

Thomas arranged march tunes from the Continent, particularly German, for Hawkes and Sons. The original marches were scored for different instruments to those used in British bands and required transcribing to suit the British instruments. He also composed dances, fantasias and other light orchestral pieces such as the intermezzo “Honoraria” and the ‘descriptive galop’,”A Motor Ride”, as well as arrangements of many classical and light music compositions for Hawkes and Sons. Many of these were popular concert items.

In the Kelly’s Directories for 1902 and 1906 Thomas Bidgood is listed as a Teacher of Music and living at 100 Romford Road, West Ham. The 1910 edition lists him as a Bandmaster living at 2 Meeson Road, Stratford.

There was a problem in the 1911 census which shows Thomas living with a wife R. Bidgood and two sons W T and H J Bidgood, ages 14 and 12 respectively, both born in West Ham. Thomas and R, according to the census, had been married 20 years, and the mysterious R. Bidgood was listed as having been born ‘at Sea’. The problem was resolved when a search of WW1 military records identified the mysterious R Bidgood. The death record of a Thomas Walter Bidgood who died in France in 1915 age 19, has his parents listed as Thomas and Rosetta Bidgood. But there remained the problem that there is no record of a marriage for Thomas and Rosetta or a birth certificate for a T W Bidgood. The 1911 census also has Thomas’ registered wife Emily Bidgood living at another address suggesting that Thomas and Emily had separated and therefore Thomas was living with somebody who was using the Bidgood name that had no deed poll record. Confirmation came from Thomas’s Will drawn up in 1916 in which was written, “I THOMAS BIDGOOD of 162 Harringay Road Green Lanes London N. (and 19 St Nicholas Street, Ipswich) do hereby bequeath to my wife Rosetta Bidgood also known as Rosetta Barnard of 162 Harringay Road, London N. (Green Lanes)…..” Note – The reference to 19 Nicholas Street Ipswich is the theatre where Thomas was working at that time. The name Mrs. Barnard also occurred in a solicitor’s letter to Emily Bidgood in relation to the proving of Thomas’ Will from which it was judged that Emily receive the proceeds of the Will as she was still Thomas’ legal wife. The probate documents showed that at his death Thomas was in debt and that he owed 6 years arrears of maintenance to Emily under a separation agreement dated May 190?. The actual date of the agreement was not given.

A Rosetta Barnard was found in the 1901 census listed as head of house living with three children Allan, Thomas and Henry together with her mother Rosetta Farrant. Searching for information found birth information for Thomas and Henry Barnard but not for Allan, who in the census, was described as being born in the USA. The birth certificate for Thomas gave Rosetta’s former name as Casselden while Henry’s gave her name as Butler. The father’s name for Thomas and Henry was given as Thomas Barnard whose occupation was listed as commercial traveler and musician respectively. Researching the Butler and Casselden names in the earlier censuses of 1861, 1871 and 1881 identified that Rosetta Farrant (nee Robinson) previously lived with a James Casselden and used the Casselden name until his death in 1899 and had a daughter Rosetta Ann Casselden on 13th August 1871. Rosetta Ann married an Alfred Charles Butler in 1887. There is an 1890 birth certificate for Alan Charles Butler born in West Ham USD (urban sub district). The birth certificate for Alan is not what it seems. When researching Thomas Bidgood and the Duke of York’s School there was reference to Alan in correspondence from a Kit Jackson that said that in 1919 Alan Butler had, prior to marrying an Augustine Jourdan, changed his name to Anthony Bernard by deed poll. The deed poll guarantor was Thomas Bidgood and his sworn statement was:- “I know and have been well acquainted with Anthony Alan Bernard for 28 years and upwards, that I have known him since birth, that he had lived under my care until he attained the age of 14 or 15 years, that he then proceeded to earn his own living”. In communication with Kit Jackson, the grandson of Anthony Bernard, he said that Anthony’s descendants knew that he was an illegitimate child of someone “well known” but they did not know the identity.

I have subsequently learnt that after 1875, where a child was born out of wedlock, both parents had to sign the birth register in order for the father’s name to be included on the certificate. However, if the mother was a married woman, in the absence of a known father, it was assumed that her husband was the father and his name was automatically entered in the register thus covering any sign of illegitimacy.  Further searches for Alfred and Rosetta Butler In 1901 census found Rosetta Ann’s husband Alfred Charles living with his father but there is no mention of Rosetta confirming that his parents had separated.  From the above it can be concluded that Thomas was leading a double life with Rosetta and fathering three children with her from about 1890 onwards using the name Barnard. At that time it was easy to get married, but virtually impossible for “ordinary” people to obtain a divorce, so many couples simply separated and started a new family without going through any legal process. The family later used the name Bidgood so that in 1914  when Thomas and Rosetta had a further child he was named Warwick John Bidgood.

Thomas’ influence on his surviving children was such that they all became musicians in their own right:

Albert Thomas, as previously mentioned, became a conductor, musical director and theatre manager in New Zealand.

Anthony Bernard was a noted organist, conductor and composer who founded the London Chamber Orchestra. He was a teacher at the Royal College of Music and musical director of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1932 to 1942. He also worked on special recordings for the BBC Third Program including the first professional performance of Mozart’s opera “Idomeneo” in the United Kingdom.

Henry James was more generally known as “Harry” Bidgood and as “Primo Scala” of the Primo Scala accordion band. He was a pianist, composer and arranger and a leading contributor of dance-band music in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, for various recording companies and the BBC. He was musical director of George Formby and Vera Lynn films.

Warwick John played the accordion and assisted Harry running his various orchestras and was also a composer and arranger.

Detailed descriptions of their lives require further individual coverage. There is, however, a specially commissioned book “Anthony Bernard – A Life in Music” by Ewald Junge, unfortunately out of print. The book has six cassette tapes featuring examples of his contribution to music, and includes the original recording of the Mozart opera “Idomineo”.

Thomas Bidgood tragically died on 1st March 1925 as a result of gas poisoning. In evidence at the Coroner’s inquiry Rosetta said that Thomas had suffered from insomnia and nervous disability for quite a while. She had left him dozing in a chair about midnight, and, later he was reading in bed. At 8.30 on Sunday morning she awoke and missed her husband. Going downstairs she found him in an armchair, his head supported by cushions over a gas ring. Rosetta dragged him to the door and, as she did so, he gave a gasp. She called Police Constable Hilton, her next door neighbour, who tried artificial respiration. The ambulance was called and oxygen was applied, but with no result. She subsequently found a note on the mirror in his room; “I can’t stand any more of this; God bless you, and forgive me. Good-bye old friends.” The Coroner’s verdict was that Thomas committed suicide while of unsound mind.  In the case of a suicide the procedure at that time meant that Thomas was buried in a communal grave in the Tottenham and Wood Green Cemetery and has no memorial.

Despite the tragic end of his life Thomas left a rich legacy of music and a musical gene that, to some degree, continues in his descendants to the present.

Colin H. Ward

Luton, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom

February 16, 2014


Auckland, New Zealand
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
Ladywood, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
London, England
Stafford, Staffordshire, England
Tottenham, Middlesex, England
Woolwich, Kent, England

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