The booklet, 'William Byrd. Some Notes',
(third edition) tells the story of the Elizabethan composer
from a local perspective.
It is available from St Peter & St Paul Church,
Stondon Massey, Megarrys Antiques and Teashop
on The Green, Blackmore, and via this website, priced £2.00 plus postage and packing.
William Byrd (1543 - 1623)
Text by Revd. E. H. L. Reeve (c 1900).
William Byrd, the famous Elizabethan composer, lived for the
last thirty years of his life at Stondon Massey. He was a composer of sacred music in both
Latin and English, writing madrigals and sonnets, and keyboard pieces. He was quite an all-rounder. He once wrote: “There is not any Musicke of
Instruments whatsoever, comparable to that which is made of the voices of men,
where the voices are good and the same well sorted and ordered. The better the
voice is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God therewith; and the voice of
man is chiefly to be employed to that end”.
Although outwardly he conformed, he appears to have remained throughout
his life a papist at heart. It was probably on account of his religion that he
lived all his life some way out of London where he would be less likely to
attract attention. William Byrd wrote a
Mass settings for three, four and five voices for the Petre family, his Patron,
of nearby Ingatestone Hall. If he had
been caught either saying or hearing the Catholic liturgy, he would have been
in serious trouble. This was a
Byrd died, probably at Stondon, on July 4th
death is recorded in the “Chapel Royal Cheque Book” as that of a “father of
musicke”. His Last Will and Testament states:
“I may live and die a true and perfect member of His holy Catholic
Church without which I believe there is no salvation for me. My body to be
honestly buried in that parish and place where it shall please God to take me
out of this life which I humbly desire if so it shall please God may be in the
parish of Stondon where my dwelling is: And then to be buried near unto the
place where my wife liest buried, or else where as God and the time shall
permit and suffer”. Unfortunately,
because our Parish Registers do not survive before 1708, we have no record of
Very possibly the fact of the family having
been persistent papists may have militated against any memorial being raised to
the great composer in the church or churchyard.