William Walton was born in Oldham, Lancashire. In 1912 he entered Christ College Cathedral School in Oxford, where he studied for six years and he caught the attention of Sir Hubert Parry, who was best known for his choral song ‘Jerusalem’.
Walton became an undergraduate of Christ Church, Oxford at the age of 16 but, in 1923, he was ‘sent down’ with no degree or any firm plans. He was next taken into the Chelsea home of the siblings Osbert and Edith Sitwell – he later recalled that he was taken in for a few weeks but stayed for fifteen years.
He had his first (scandalous) success in 1923 with Façade – the audience listened with breathless attention as Edith Sitwell’s voice was recited through a megaphone, behind a screen, to Walton’s music! Despite the fact that he found composing a difficult and laborious task he wrote the Crown Imperial coronation march for George VI in 1937 and the Orb & Sceptre Coronation march for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
In 1956 Walton sold his London home and moved to Ischia in Italy where he died in 1983. His ashes are interred there, and a commemorative stone was dedicated 1983 in Westminster Abbey.
This plaque was unveiled in 1986 by the conductor Norman del Mar who spoke of Walton’s dry wit and self-deprecating sense of humour.