Walter Widdop was born on April 19, 1892 at Norland in Yorkshire but the house in which he was born is now in America. A wealthy American took a fancy to the ancient building, had it dismantled and rebuilt it in his home town.
Widdop became a “half-timer” at a mill in Sowerby Bridge at the age of twelve and on leaving school he continued at the mill for a time but soon went to work on the land. A while later he got himself a job with the Bradford Dyers’ Association in Halifax.
He had little or no thought of singing as a career until, when he was about eighteen, a man at the works said “If I’d tha’ voice and ma’ brains I’d make some brass, I would that”. This set him thinking and he began to take lessons from Arthur Hinchcliffe, an excellent singing teacher in Yorkshire. Soon he was winning prizes and medals galore in competitions, and small engagements followed.
When the British National Opera Company opened its season in Bradford in 1922 Percy Pitt heard Widdop but was not greatly impressed. Norman Allin was more confident and advised intense study and coaching in London. Encouraged by his wife, Widdop sold their house and furniture, and in London they lived in a furnished room.
In due time Widdop went back to Allim and said ‘Well. I’ve done what you told me and I’ve spent all ma’ brass. What do I do now?” Another audition with Pitt was more successful and Widdop joined the company. His first appearance was in Leeds on October 5, 1923, as Radames in Aida.