A tribute to Thomas Dyson

In May 1903 A.Y. Nutt, Chapter Surveyor at St George’s Chapel, recorded a payment of 3s 6d to the carpenter, Mr Bond, for ‘arranging seats & placing 2 dozen extra chairs in Choir for Mr Dyson’s Funeral Service & replacing [them]’ in his account book [SGC XIII.B.27*]. But who was this Mr Dyson and why did his funeral service take place in St George’s Chapel?

In the absence of a contemporary service register, order of service sheet or other specific  references to the funeral in the St George’s Chapel Archives, a wider search was needed to discover whether ‘Mr Dyson’ had any formal connection with the College of St George. A list of Lay Clerks (Choirmen), compiled by Archives staff suggested a possible candidate – a Lay Clerk names Thomas Dyson, who had lived in Horseshoe Cloister and served in the Chapel Choir for almost thirty years, from 1855 to 1884. Further research revealed his dates of birth (14 December 1825) and death (1 May 1903), making it almost certain that he was the Mr Dyson whose funeral had been held in May 1903. This has subsequently been confirmed by an obituary in The Windsor and Eton Express for 1903. But why had he left the Chapel in 1884 and what had he been doing in his retirement?

Sadly it seems that his eighteen months at St George’s were clouded by illness.  On 15 February 1883, Chapter granted Thomas Dyson three months’ leave of absence, agreeing that if he remained unable to perform his duties after that time, his case was to be reconsidered as regards to his pension. On 7 June 1883 further discussions took place about his sick pay, he being unable to resume his duties, and the following year, on 24 June 1884, he was requested to leave the Chapel choir and quit his house [SGC VI.B.11, 138, 141,155-6]. It must have been a wrench for him and his family to leave the Castle.  However, whatever the nature of the illness which barred him from singing, it did not prevent him from an extremely active retirement.  The founder and proprietor of a successful pianoforte business in the town, Dyson and Sons of Windsor, he also devoted much of his energies to local politics and town improvements. Having sought election to Windsor Town Council in 1873, whilst still a Lay Clerk [SGC XVII.43.6], he became an Alderman and served as Mayor of Windsor in 1890. His time as Mayor is commemorated in a memorial stained glass window in the parish church of St John the Baptist, Windsor, and his tireless efforts to improve the waterside, including the construction of the present promenade, are celebrated in a water fountain erected in his name in 1908. Originally constructed on the banks of the riverside walk, the Dyson memorial was subsequently relocated to the junction of Goswell Road and Barry Avenue and, in May 2009, was moved to its current location in Alexandra Gardens by the Goswell Road entrance to the park.

Clare Rider, Archivist and Chapter Librarian

I would like to thank Caroline McCutcheon, Chris Atkins and the staff of Windsor Library for their assistance in researching this blog.

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.