Robert Lucas Pearsall 1795 – 1856
In the porch of St Mary’s Church in Bitton is a rather battered , but massive tombstone. It is a stone that has little business being there. It was not intended for St Mary’s and the man it commemorates is not buried in Bitton, but in Switzerland. In spite of teh reference to Willsbridge House on the stone, he actually lived in Bitton for less than 10 years of his life.
Yet, Robert Lucas Pearsall was and remained connected to Bitton and this church throughout his adult life. He worshipped here and was a close and long-standing friend of the vicar, Henry Thomas Ellacombe and together they made changes to the form of worship and the music of this church. Pearsall was a composer. His range of composition was wide although he is chiefly remembered for reviving the madrigal – a song format, of usually unaccompanied music with complex forms and harmonies.
If you would like to learn more about Pearsall, his life, music and how his tombstone was moved to Bitton, further information is available in the four sections below:
Pearsall and Bitton
The information in this section began life as display boards completed to commemorate the arrival, in 2012, of Pearsall’s Tombstone to St Mary’s Church in Bitton, and a celebratory concert by the Bristol Chamber Choir. It draws mainly on the study completed in the 1970s by his biographer Edgar Hunt and the biography of Canon H N Ellacombe by Arthur Hill (full references below). It was also assisted by James Hobson who was, at the time, undertaking further research into Pearsall’s life and music.
Hunt, Edgar (1977) Robert Lucas Pearsall, the ‘compleat gentleman’ and his music (1795-1856). Published by the author, Amersham, Bucks.
Hill, Arthur W (1919) Henry Nicholson Ellacombe: Hon Canon of Bristol, Vicar of Bitton and Rural Dean 1822-1916 London, Country Life.