Thomas Chilcot

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Thomas Chilcot (1707? – 1766), was an English organist and composer.


Thomas Chilcot of Bath, Somerset was born in the West of England (probably Bath) in or about 1707.[1] He was the son of John Chilcot and Elizabeth Powell.[2] Records of his birth, like most other records from his life, are now lost. Chilcot was educated at Bath Charity School, whose headmaster, Henry Dixon, had a strong interest in church music. On 6 July 1721 Chilcot (presumably aged 14) was apprenticed to Josiah Priest, the organist of Bath Abbey since 1714 - seemingly the only occasion on which the school allowed a pupil to be apprenticed to a musician.[3] On Priest's death, just four years later, Chilcot was made Abbey organist on a probationary basis. At what should have been the conclusion of Chilcot's apprenticeship, in 1728, the appointment was made permanent. As City musician in fashionable Bath, Chilcot rapidly established a remarkable relationship with many noble families, attracting their patronage and subscriptions to his publications. He became a member and subsequently Grand Master of the Royal Cumberland Lodge of Freemasons. He was also amongst the original members of the Royal Society of Musicians, founded in 1738/1739.

As well as his work at the Abbey, Chilcot organised and directed some ambitious choral concerts (at which he played his own concertos) and appears also to have run a small instrument hire business.

He married Elizabeth Mills of Bath in 1729 and had seven children, of whom four survived. Following Elizabeth's death, he married Anne Wrey, a member of a prominent West Country family (the Wrey baronets), in 1749.

Chilcot died suddenly on 24 November 1766, after occupying a highly influential role in Bath for forty years. Almost no public notice was taken of his death and a complicated disagreement over Chilcot's estate meant that none of the elaborate arrangements that the composer had made for his own funeral procession, monument and memorial trusts, were ever carried out.[4]


Chilcot's unpublished music, including at least four anthems, a Jubilate, an oratorio called Elfrida and what a posthumous auction catalogue describes as "his finest pieces of Music ... never Printed or Sold", has not survived.[5]

His published music consists of:

  • Six Suites of Lessons for the Harpsicord or Spinet (London, Wm Smith, 1734). Modern edition by Le Pupitre (Paris, Heugel & cie, 1981)
  • Twelve English Songs with their symphonies. The words by Shakespeare and other Celebrated Poets. (William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Anacreon, and Euripides) (London, John Johnson, [1744])
  • Six Concertos, for the Harpsichord (London, John Johnson, 1756) (dedicated to Lady Elizabeth Bathurst)
  • Six Concertos, for the Harpsichord (Bath, privately, 1765/1766)


  1. ^ Biography from Tim Rishton, 'Thomas Chilcot and his concertos' except where otherwise stated
  2. ^ St. Peter's Tawstock, Effigies:
  3. ^ Thomas Chilcot and His Concertos: The Chilcot Family in Bath, p. 12
  4. ^ Tim Rishton, 'The twelve harpsichord concertos of Thomas Chilcot', p.34
  5. ^ Tim Rishton, 'The twelve harpsichord concertos of Thomas Chilcot', p.34


"Chilcot, Thomas" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

B.J. Maslen: ‘Thomas Chilcot: a Forgotten Composer’, Musical Quarterly, lxvi (1943), 294–5

David Falconer: Bath Abbey: its Choirs & its Music (Bath, 1984)

Tim Rishton: Thomas Chilcot and his Concertos (PhD thesis, U. of Wales, Bangor, 1991)

Tim Rishton: ‘The Eighteenth-Century British Keyboard Concerto after Handel’, Aspects of Keyboard Music: Essays in Honour of Susi Jeans, ed. R. Judd (Oxford, 1992), 121–39

Tim Rishton: 'Chilcot, Thomas', article in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Seraphic Lays': Thomas Chilcot 1707-1766', Hexachord: The Journal of Early Music Wales vol II no. 2 (February 2000), 4-13

Tim Rishton: 'The twelve harpsichord concertos of Thomas Chilcot', Early Keyboard Journal Vol 23 (2005), 33-66