Key Figures on Campus: Robert Marchant, 1947-1979

This is the first in a new series of posts entitled ‘Key Figures on Campus’. We’re asking alumni to share their memories, undertake some research and provide photographs of key members of staff who had an influence on their life, career or outlook. The initial focus will be on staff who were particularly inspiring to students, but whose lack of an online profile seems to belie their outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

In this post we remember Robert Marchant, an academic, a musician and a composer who in his later years became a key benefactor to generations of students studying music at the university.

Many thanks to Peter Jordan (Music, 1970) for his suggestion of Robert Marchant and for supplying the photograph that accompanies the post.

Robert Marchant, 1916-1995

Robert Brandwood Marchant was born in Mansfield on 10 February 1916. He was educated at St John’s College, Cambridge, initially studying Modern Languages before converting to Classics. Marchant then took a second BA in Music in 1939. During the Second World War he joined the Army and worked as a motor-cycle despatch rider until he volunteered to join the code-breakers at Bletchley Park as a translator. At this time he played the cello as part of a string quartet established by Andre Mangeot.

After the war, in 1947, Marchant took a position at the University of Hull, creating a music department and staying there until his retirement in 1979. Marchant was the Director of Music at the University between 1947 and 1976 and a Professor of Music from 1976 to 1979. He also oversaw the construction of Middleton Hall on the Hull campus and was one of the principal founders of the Hull Chamber Music Society which continues to hold its concerts in the Hall. A conductor as well as a musician, Marchant conducted the first performance of the Berlioz Requiem in East Yorkshire which was given in Beverley Minster. Bach and Beethoven were among his other favourite composers.

Marchant was, for many years, president of the Classical Association of Hull and the Hull Chamber Music Society. As well as playing and conducting, he composed songs and instrumental works. His monetary donation to the University of Hull enabled the establishment of the Marchant String Scholarship.

Robert Marchant died in Hull on 4 July 1995.

Do you have any memories of Robert Marchant that you would like to share with us? Alternatively would you like to profile another member of staff who was inspirational to you during your time at Hull? If so, please e-mail us at or use the comments section below

5 thoughts on “Key Figures on Campus: Robert Marchant, 1947-1979

  1. Robert Marchant seems to be an excellent choice for the key figures on campus series.

    Could I suggest another might be Professor Jay Appleton of the Geography department, a superb academic, a poet and above all a wonderful man and a total credit to Hull University, which he served with great distinction for so long.


  2. Hi Stephen – Many thanks for your suggestion, I note that a former student, John Houghton-Moss provided an obituary for Prof. Jay Appleton in the Guardian in 2015, ( I will contact John and invite him to adapt this for as profile piece. If you have any memories or thoughts on Prof. Jay Appleton that you would like to share with us, you can send these on to


  3. Robert Marchant was my great Uncle. His influence on my father was invaluable. He became the father he never had and a massive musical influence on him and myself.
    After Uncle Robert taught him composition on the piano, my father went on to become a well know jazz Trombonist, and he influenced me greatly in choral music. I still have his mass service composition that now my son plays.
    I was lucky enough to inherit his Steinway that most of his works were played on..
    I am looking forward to also commemorating his time at Bletchley Park this year by donating a brick in his honour.
    A very Private but Genius Gentleman!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Emma – Thanks for sharing this, what a wonderful story and connection. It’s great to hear that his inspiration has cascaded down the generations. He continues to be warmly remembered by our alumni


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