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Thomas Weelkes (c.1576–1623)

Thomas Weelkes was born in Sussex around 1576 with his first volume of madrigals being published in 1597. A year later he was appointed organist at Winchester College, composing two further volumes of madrigals. Moving to Chichester about 1602, he was appointed organist and instructor of the choristers at the Cathedral. He appears to have had a drink problem and was fined for ‘urinating on the Dean from the organ loft during Evensong’. In 1616 he was reported as being ‘noted and famed for a common drunkard and notorious swearer and blasphemer’ and the Dean and Chapter dismissed him for using bad language and being drunk during divine service. Reinstated, although unreformed, Thomas was again reported to the Bishop for the same offence.

His asset to the Cathedral as organist and composer must have far outweighed his failings as a person, and he wrote more Anglican services than any other major composer of the time. Thomas died in London and was buried in St Brides, Fleet Street on 1st December 1623. A memorial tablet to the life and work of this extraordinary man can be found in Chichester Cathedral.

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