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Organs Lost During Wwii

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Quite out of the blue, during a recent conversation, someone asked me how many important organs were lost in WWII across Europe.

 

I knew there were quite a substantial number of important instruments destroyed, but other than vague recollections of Silbermanns in Dresden, I simply did not know the answer.

 

In the UK, we lost a few instruments, such as Coventry Cathedral and we had a few fortunate escapes, such as St Paul's; whilst in the Netherlands, there was the loss of Rotterdam Cathedral, and doubtless many other instruments in the cities of Eindhoven, Rotterdam and elsewhere.

 

The list must be enormous, considering the damage done, and perhaps we might list the more important losses by country as it unfolds.

 

What do folks know?

 

MM

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Quite out of the blue, during a recent conversation, someone asked me how many important organs were lost in WWII across Europe.

 

I knew there were quite a substantial number of important instruments destroyed, but other than vague recollections of Silbermanns in Dresden, I simply did not know the answer.

 

In the UK, we lost a few instruments, such as Coventry Cathedral and we had a few fortunate escapes, such as St Paul's; whilst in the Netherlands, there was the loss of Rotterdam Cathedral, and doubtless many other instruments in the cities of Eindhoven, Rotterdam and elsewhere.

 

The list must be enormous, considering the damage done, and perhaps we might list the more important losses by country as it unfolds.

 

What do folks know?

 

MM

 

Not quite: in Rotterdam the Laurenskerk went down (not a Cathedral) - but it did loose the biggest organ in Holland...

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it did loose the biggest organ in Holland...

That must have been frightening! Or perhaps you meant "lose".

 

Paul

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A quick trawl through NPOR reveals the following organs in the City of London were destroyed during WW2:

 

Christ Church Greyfriars (1940)

City Temple (1941)

Dutch Church, Austin Friars (1940)

Mercers' Hall Chapel (1941)

St Alban Wood St (1940)

St Andrew by the Wardrobe (1940)

St Anne and St Agnes, Gresham St (1940)

St Augustine with St Faith, Watling St ("During Blitz")

St Bride Fleet St (1940)

St Giles Cripplegate (1940)

St Lawrence Jewry (1940)

St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside (1941)

St Mary Aldermanbury (1940)

St Mildred Bread St (1941)

St Olave Hart St (1940)

St Stephen Coleman St (1940)

St Swithin Cannon St (1940)

St Vedast Foster Lane (1941)

Temple Church (1941)

 

......and probably many more, as some of the NPOR surveys are over 100 years old. I don't know about the importance of the instruments destroyed by enemy action, but some of the replacements are now famous in their own right - St Giles Cripplegate and the Temple Church, for instance.

 

As far as Germany goes, how about the the Totentanzorgel in the Marienkirche, Lubeck?

 

G

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I think this is a very sad and depressing topic - best not dwelt on.

 

In line with (Bomber) Harris's policy, virtually every major German town centre was on the RAF target list. Including Lubeck, Rostock, Hamburg, Nurnberg...

 

Along with the distruction of historic town centres with their churches and organs there was an massive loss of bomber crews for debatable strategic gain...

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Outside London, Plymouth was the most heavily bombed city after Coventry and lost several instruments in the blitz of 1941.

 

St Stephen's, Devonport. The II/P 20-stop Hele here was probably no great loss.

 

Dockyard Chapel of St Lo, Devonport lost a large III/P Hele

 

Charles Church. The shell of this church still stands in the middle of a roundabout at the eastern end of the city centre as a memorial to the blitz. It contained a III/P Dicker/Hele.

 

NPOR lists a William Hill destroyed at St George, Stonehouse, but gives no details (any info on this one would be very welcome).

 

George Street Baptist Church, the "Baptist Cathedral of the South West". The loss of this church's 37-stop III/P Hele is more to be regretted, probably. It certainly looked very impressive with its almost Cavaillé-Coll-ish 16' front high on the west wall.

 

However, by far the most important losses were two four-manual organs right next door to each other in the city centre which were lost on the same night: St Andrew's church and the Guildhall.

 

The organ at St Andrew's had just been rebuilt - not a particularly wise thing to do at such a time, but the principal donor was concerned that if the rebuild was delayed he might not live to see it. About three days after the rebuild was completed the organ went up in flames when a bomb fell nearby; it had not even been heard in public. On the console photograph on NPOR note the use of Hele's patent stop keys above the Solo manual. Incidentally, I have a black and white print of this photograph and when I scanned it into my computer at maximum resolution the names on the stop names are all perfectly legible (the stop keys control the stops, couplers and tremulant for the Solo Organ); that was some lens the photographer had! There is another, landscape photo in which the stops are even clearer.

 

The Guildhall organ was a four-manual Willis which in its original form had a specification very similar to that of Reading Town Hall in its rebuilt form. The organ committee appointed by the council engaged Dr (later Sir) John Stainer to advise them. Stainer visited Plymouth to see the venue, persuaded the committee to give the contract to Willis and brought Willis to Plymouth to discuss details. Stainer also gave the opening recital. In the interval of the recital the Mayor "moved a vote of thanks to Dr Stainer for his most valuable and perfectly gratuitous services, not only that evening, but throughout the whole arrangements for erecting the organ". In 1905 a major rebuild was proposed whereby John Hele would almost double the size of the instrument, the most significant addition being an "Orchestral" department. This specification would appear to represent the intended scheme, but it was not carried out in full. An enormous new Great Open Diapason was added, Willis's two Opens being relegated to nos II and III. Hele also replaced Willis's Solo Tromba with a huge, fat one of his own. Hele also revoiced the Great reeds. (Hele's described the work they undertook in a brochure which happens to be available here - it's the last 10 images bar one.) Despite the alterations the organ still sounded very fine indeed (Harry Moreton made some private 78 rpm recordings which still exist) and it was quite possibly the finest organ Plymouth has ever had.

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The fine 4 manual Willis/Hele in St Paul's Church Weston-super-Mare was a sad loss. As the acoustic of the church was pleasantly resonant, it was said to have sounded much grander than the organ in Wells Cathedral.

 

In the early 1950's it was replaced by the Binns from St Michael Gloucester Cross, which was rebuilt by Rushworth and Dreaper in 1956 and given a vast Tromba/Trombone rank. However the addition of lots of acoustic cladding in the renovation of the shell of the original building never helped the instrument, and today it is in a very poor state - reflecting the musical demands of the congregation..............

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That must have been frightening! Or perhaps you meant "lose".

 

Paul

 

Hmm, yes of course, sorry for the typo (not a native speaker)

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Hmm, yes of course, sorry for the typo (not a native speaker)

 

I wish I could type a language other than my own - half as well as you do!

Anyway,

Lots of organs suffered damage but were rescued. Exeter did (I think), tho a bomb didn't hit it directly, the North choir aisle suffered damage from a bomb dropped aimlessly (so to speak) by a 'plane on its way home.

I wonder how many more churches were hit in this fashion (i.e. bomber planes on their way back to continental Europe, just letting go of their load to save fuel). There must have been a few in Kent, South Essex, Sussex etc??

 

Wasn't it JUST amazing how St Paul's escaped pretty much in one piece from the blitz?

 

Finally, I may be wrong here, but I am sure I read somewhere that Mander Organs not only built their reputation, but had a fantastic start in the organ building world post-world war II rebuilding war damaged organs?

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Finally, I may be wrong here, but I am sure I read somewhere that Mander Organs not only built their reputation, but had a fantastic start in the organ building world post-world war II rebuilding war damaged organs?

 

Yes. It's in "Fanfare for an Organ Builder" - an excellent book. See http://www.mander-organs.com/news/mander90.html

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Not quite: in Rotterdam the Laurenskerk went down (not a Cathedral) - but it did loose the biggest organ in Holland...

 

A pity. A glance on the webpage http://www.orgels-en-kerken.nl/index/rotte...urens-hoofd.htm gives pictures of the main organ as it is now (a nice looking piece by Marcussen & Sons - 4 manuals, 85 stops (not including 3 tremulants) 5575 pipes - which dates from 1973) as well as the organ as it was in around 1645 - 1792 and also a picture of the organ that was lost in 1940.

 

There are also links to parts about the church's choir organ (case of 1725 - wonder where that came from if the church was lost in the war? Organ in 1725 case is by Marcussen), the transept organ (3 manuals, 31 stops and some large mixtures!) and, last but not least, the small positive organ (van Vulpen, 1963. Moved to Laurenskirk in 1990).

 

Nice looking church: next time I go to Amsterdam I shall take time to go and visit Rotterdam. I shall include that church in my itinery.

 

Dave

 

Edit: I looked up the church on Google Earth. The newer version of this remarkable piece of software contains three good pictures of the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam as it was left after the bombs of 1940:

 

1: http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/1258743.jpg

2: http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/1258742.jpg

3: http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/1258723.jpg

 

If you want to try and look at the church on Google Earth, the best thing to type in is "Grotekerkplein Rotteram NL" (without the speech marks) and it should go straight in on the church. But if you want access to the pictures, you will need the latest version of GE.

 

Dave

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