Richard, 1813

1813 (Stow or Condicote)  – 1864 (Besselsleigh, Berkshire)

Richard Pitman was baptised at Condicote, Glos on 13 August 1813, and almost certainly born there, although he gives his birthplace as Stow in the censuses. He was the sixth child of the twelve born to Thomas Bignell Pitman and his wife Sarah Gibbs (née Davis).

Richard never married, and died at only 49 years of age, but his apparent passion for bell ringing led to his name appearing in local papers more frequently than most. The Oxford Journal and the Reading Mercury carried reports of peals and other ringing in which he was involved, particularly as a member of the Appleton Society of Change Ringers. In the mid-1850s Richard moved to Besselsleigh to board at The Greyhound, an Inn run by Alfred White, who was also a baker, bell-hanger, and leading member of the Appleton Society: Richard became a baker around this time, and we surmise that he was employed by Alfred White.

  Commemorative board in Stow ringing room

Writing in 1911, W Bartlett, in his book ‘Nineteenth Century Stow’, tells how, as a boy, Richard would hang up lengths of metal which he would strike, to simulate bells. He later demonstrated that the installation of chimes in the church tower would benefit the local population by chiming the bells at intervals for several days and nights. The ringing room in the tower of Stow church bears two signs of Richard’s presence: his name, with the date 1834 has been carefully carved into the wall, and there is a board commemorating the ringing of 720 changes of Grandsire Bob (almost certainly what is today known as Plain Bob Minor) on 29th September 1850, in which Richard rang the 30 cwt tenor.

It is not known how many peals Richard rang, but we have found reports of 15 in newspapers, one each of Plain Bob Major, Kent Treble Bob Major, and Stedman Caters, three of Grandsire Caters, and nine of Grandsire Triples, including one on handbells (which he also conducted). The majority of these were at Appleton, where Richard’s name appears on six peal boards.

Richard died at Besselsleigh on 4th February 1864 after an illness of two weeks, and was buried in Stow cemetery. He seems to have been well liked and respected in ringing circles, and two muffled peals were rung in his memory: one at Appleton, another at St Mary, Reading.

Richard’s name in Stow ringing room

Peal board at Appleton (Photo copyright Mike Harrison)