Retro People: An A-Z of famous faces

Sir William Sterndale Bennett
Sir William Sterndale Bennett
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Sir William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875)

JARVIS Cocker, Alex Turner, Sir William Sterndale Bennett...

The first two names may be more familiar with modern readers but long before Pulp or Arctic Monkeys were winning music fans across the world, the latter was doing exactly the same.

A gifted and charismatic composer, he was what one biographer called the ‘pop idol of his day’, counting among his fans fellow artist Felix Mendelssohn and King William IV – twice at the age of 17 he was invited to play for the monarch at Windsor Castle.

Among his 80 compositions – most written by the age of 25 – were pieces still considered classics such as The Naiades, while in later life he became conductor of the Philharmonic Society. Such was his reputation that when he died at his London home aged 58 he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

It was a far cry from his early life in Sheffield.

The prodigy was born here and lived at the family home in Norfolk Street until his father, a Catholic organist called Robert, passed away when Bennett was just three years old.

The youngster was sent to his grandfather’s home in Cambridge where his musical progression was so profound he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Music at just 10-years-old.

He never returned to Sheffield permanently again but the city remained proud of its son throughout his life. He left a wife and three children.