The bridegroom at this fashionable Monken Hadley wedding early in the last century was William Ralph Driffill, who became an admired organist and composer.


But because of a family tragedy the music which he composed in Barnet has yet to be heard being played in church by his granddaughter who is now 68 and who lives in Carlisle.

Thanks to an appeal published on the Barnet Society website, Janet Culley, has been traced and invited to hear Driffill’s music at an organ recital to be held at St Mark’s Church, Barnet Vale, on Sunday 24 April.

Janet says she is thrilled to have the chance at long last to hear her grandfather’s compositions being played in church – and at the very church where he was the organist.

Driffill, who played at both St Mark’s and Monken Hadley parish churches in the early 1900s, became well known because of his compositions. His organ and piano scores reflected the musical fashions of the Victorian era.

The recital has been organised to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the composer’s unexpected death at the age of 51—an event that was all the more traumatic for the family because Driffill died suddenly from pneumonia and his youngest daughter was born six months after he died.

Driffill’s wife Katie was so troubled by her misfortune that she packed all her late husband’s scores and compositions into boxes, put them at the back of a cupboard at their home in Bedford Avenue, Barnet, and was said to have never spoken about his work again.

Driffill studied at the Royal Academy of Music and became organist at Monken Hadley parish church in 1901, a role he fulfilled until 1916, while also combining this with serving as organist at St Mark’s. He gave regular concerts of his work.

Initially he resided in Salisbury Road, Barnet, and after his marriage to Katie Prior at Monken Hadley parish church in 1908, the couple lived in Bedford Avenue until his death in 1922.

Janet, who is a retired veterinary surgeon, said her mother, who died in 2005, had taken care of the family archive.

On inheriting her grandfather’s manuscripts, scores, and a book of newspaper cuttings she had put them all in order and had tried without success to see whether it might be possible to arrange a recital of his work.

“What happened was that after my grandfather’s sudden death, my grandmother collected up all his work and it was confined to the back of the cupboard, and never spoken about again.

“My mother never managed to hear her father’s music being played and I’ve only heard a recording of his Toccata in f/F played by a Dutch organist. Mother died before I found the recording. It is thrilling now to hear that a recital has finally been organised.

“I did visit Barnet once to find out more about my grandfather and went to the church at Monken Hadley, but I was unable to find out any information.

“I had heard that one archivist had suggested organising a recital, but nothing came of it.”

John Hay, churchwarden at St Mark’s church, who launched the appeal to make contact with Driffill’s granddaughter, is delighted she has been alerted to the concert and is so looking forward to coming.

“Janet has lots of Driffill’s unpublished manuscripts as well as published scores – all told there are 58 pieces of music, when we knew of only 32.

“Once we have met Janet and held the recital, we will see whether it is possible to get publishers for some of the unpublished compositions, so our recital might not be the end of the story.”

The 100th anniversary recital including one of Driffill’s two suites, is to be given by Jonathan Gregory, who is organist and choir master at both St Mark’s and St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley (Seen here with John Hay, left), Terence Atkins, organist and choirmaster at the Barnet parish church of St John the Baptist and others.

This will be followed by evensong led by Father Tristan Chapman, supported by Jonathan Gregory and Terence Atkins, with members of the choirs from St John the Baptist and from St Mary the Virgin and St Mark’s “Vale Voices” singers and will feature the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, Driffill’s canticles for evensong which he dedicated to the then vicar of St Mark’s, Revd Charles McLaughlin, and the choir of St Mark’s and his anthem "There's Friend for Little Children".

Driffill is buried in the Bell’s Hill cemetery along with his mother Maria and wife Katie.

A report of William and Katie's wedding in the Barnet Press says the popularity of the bride and bridegroom was evidenced by the large congregation. "The bride wore a charming gown of cream voile over glace silk, trimmed with Maltese lace; her veil was crowned with a wreath of orange blossom, and she wore a gold bangle, the gift of the bridegroom." During the afternoon, "the happy couple left for Whitby and the bride's travelling dress was of blue cloth striped with black; a Leghorn hat trimmed with lace and roses."