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I'm planning a trip to Devon and Cornwall. I'm searching for interesting organs to see and hear.

What are the 'must hear' organs in the surroundings of Plymouth, Truro (ofcourse the Cathedral is in the plan already), Torqay, Bodmin and Exeter?

They don't need to be large ones; I'd even prefer to find some smaller ones.

 

thanks,

 

Anita Bos

Netherlands

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In my view, you should spare youself a visit to Bodmin - not a particularly interesting organ. This little one is worth looking at:

St Cubert. It used to be in Lanhydrock House and I played it there about 40 years ago - beautiful swqeet toned Henry Willis. The others to see are at Kilkhampton and St Mary's Launceston. I gather that the organ in Egloshayle church is a good one too and I have always believed it was a Willis, but I'm pretty sure I checked and it isn't! St Columb Major has a fine Bryceson. Why don't you try a few area searches using the NPOR website? You will soon be able to pick out the historical instruments.

Martin

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Why don't you try a few area searches using the NPOR website? You will soon be able to pick out the historical instruments.

Martin

 

Hi

 

For this application - on the NPOR web search you can do a neighbourhood search which will lsit all the recorded organs within a defined distance from your specified location. Could be useful.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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If you wish to send me a PM, I can put you in touch with the organist of Kilkhampton Church - who will probably be able to assist you in gaining access to other interesting instruments in North Cornwall. The Church of Saint James the Great, Kilkhampton, contains a very interesting instrument which has a fascinating history. The old (18th. C) console is displayed below the west case. The new (1956) console, by Roger Yates, is situated on the south side of the case. Yates re-cast the tonal scheme, but utilised much of the old pipework. The result is an unusual but thoroughly musical instrument. The scheme includes a superb 32ft. Sub Bass (T.C. Lewis, 1892), which extends the 16ft. rank down to G, at which point it is 'quinted' a fourth below the fundamental. Whilst this sounds odd, in practice it is the most effective resultant bass which I have ever heard - particularly in this dry acoustic. Other outstanding stops include a pungent Principalbass 16ft. (Pedal Organ), a delightful Stopped Diapason and Nason Flute and a superb four-rank mixture (22-26-29-33) on the G.O. Oh - and a real French Bombarde (Pedal Organ), which was added by Yates in 1962. There are photographs of this organ (and a few of the other instruments listed below) on my website.

 

Another organ in the area which is worth a visit, is that at St. Michael and All Angels, Bude Haven. This is a two-clavier instrument, rebuilt by Osmonds in 1966 and restored by Lance Foy around 1989. It has one of the fattest (and loudest) G.O. reeds which I have ever heard. However, there are some good stops, leaving aside the G.O. Mixture III (19-22-26), which needs some careful revoicing and regulation. The G.O. Gamba has a full-length open metal bass and the Swell mild strings and Stopped Diapason are all good ranks, as is the G.O. Claribel Flute (not the occasional cloying variety) and the Wald Flute 4ft.

 

Saint John the Baptist, Morwenstow ('Hawker's Church'). This typically Cornish church, situated in a remote cleft overlooking the wild north Cornwall coast is chiefly known for a former incumbent, the Rev. Stephen Hawker. In the 19th C. he was Vicar of Morwenstow and spent much of his time affording the luxury of a Christian burial to the many drowned mariners washed-up on the nearby beach. This part of the coast is littered with shipwrecks. If you go the The Brendon Arms, next to the The Falcon Hotel, in Bude, there is (or was) above the bar, an old map of known shipwrecks which occurred along this inhospitable stretch of coastline. Morwenstow church contains an interesting two-clavier instrument, which is surprisingly rich in upperwork; as far as I can recall, there have been one or two changes since the last NPOR survey.

 

Saint Stephen with Saint Swithin, Launcells. This church, in its tranquil sylvan setting, is a little off the beaten track. Whilst the instrument is more unusual than interesting, nevertheless, if one is visiting the area, the church alone is well worth the trouble. The two-clavier organ is built on the extension principle, by Percy Daniel & Co. Apart from the G.O. Open Diapason, it is enclosed and has no couplers. The Pedal Bourdon is constructed of metal. However, in the intimate yet sensitive acoustics of this ancient building, it makes a pleasing sound. It is also known locally for the fact that a former organist died whilst playing for a service.

 

Saint Andrew's Church, Stratton. This is certainly worth a visit, since the organ was built by T.C. Lewis, in 1888. Lance Foy made minor alterations in 1983. However, the instrument has retained its essential character. The church itself is interesting. Amongst several features is a preserved door from Stratton Jail (which still has the word 'CLINK' formed from large studded nails on its face.) The church is notorious locally for a recent vicar who formed half of a civil partnership - and who thus caused something of a furore in this deeply conservative part of North Cornwall.

 

If you are intending to visit North Devon, the following instruments are interesting for one reason or another - and in no particular order:

 

Holsworthy Methodist Church. A large building, impressive interior, moderate two-clavier which sounds larger than it is.

 

SS. Peter and Paul, Holsworthy. An 18th C. case, with several old stops, an interesting old Flauto 8ft. on the G.O. and the heaviest mechanincal action you have ever played - guaranteed. Just get someone to add Swell to Great after you have begun to play Widor's Toccata....

 

Bideford Parish Church. A 'Father' Willis organ - as far as I know unspoiled by the later attentions of either Vowles or JWW Walker.

 

Barnstaple Parish Church. An interesting rebuild of an organ by Crang, undertaken jointly by Lance Foy and Michael Farley. The organ stretches back a long way into the chancel; however, from the Nave it is less impresive tonally than at the console.

 

Further south and east you can find:

 

All Saints' Church, Okehampton. Whilst at school, I practised regularly on this instrument. It is a rebuild by Hele (under the auspices of their parent company JWW Walker). Therefore, it has what is to all intents a handsome 'Walker' console. It is a fairly large three-clavier instrument, with a small amount of extension, in order to augment the scheme. This includes a Trombone/Trumpet/Clarion rank, available in various pitches on the Pedal, Positive and G.O. Positioned directly behind the west façade, it speaks authoratitively, with thrilling éclat down the north aisle. (This reads as 'It is unbelievably loud if you happen to be standing in front of the instrument.') The case, of medium oak and gilded pipes, is impressive and was constructed by a local woodcarver, Mr. J. Northcott, of Ashwater, who commenced this large undertaking in 1921.

 

Saint Michael's Church, Great Torrington. This comparatively large edifice now houses the organ which was originally built for Sherwell Congregational Chapel, Plymouth, by 'Father' Willis, in 1860. It replaced an undistinguished extension instrument, built by the John Compton Organ Company, in 1949. (I once played the previous organ, and was not particularly impressed either with its workaday sound or utilitarian console.) The restored 'Willis' organ was transferred to this church by Lance Foy, in 1991. At this time, he also made the G. O. reeds playable from the Pedal and Choir organs. I discovered, during a recital (on the night when Tony Blair was thrust into a position of great responsibility, onto an unsuspecting British public) that it was possible, by means of the Choir octave couplers and Choir to Great, to achieve additional 16ft. and 2ft. chorus reed effects on the G.O. However, the instrument is essentially unspoiled and is well worth a visit.

Crediton Parish Church. Michael Farley' restoration, with a new 32ft. reed, of a large three-clavier vintage H&H. I do not particularly like it, but it is a grand instrument and historically important. I think that I have the organist's telephone number somewhere.

 

St. David's, Exeter. Impressively loud instrument built by Dicker and rebuilt by Hele & Co., in 1902. The church was designed by W.D.Caröe and is architecturally outstanding.

 

Ottery Saint Mary. This church and Exeter Cathedral are the only two English ecclesiastical buildings to have symmetrical towers functioning as transepts. The organ is - or was - a two-clavier, largely rebuilt by Eustace & Alldridge, whilst John Eustace was organist there. It boasted such features as the G. O. chorus being contained behind screens of chicken-wire.... This is probably worth seeing. I believe that it was restored a year or two ago.

 

Dawlish Parish Church. The same firm rebuilt this organ, originally by Willis. It is fairly impressive - or was, the last time that I played it.

 

Tiverton Parish Church. A 'Father' Willis organ, which has survived almost unscathed, apart from some regrettable alterations to the Choir and Great organs at its centenary in 1967.

 

Budleigh Salterton. If a 32ft. reed constructed from marine-ply and a Positive Organ which is able to provide a scenic tour around the building with the aid of industrial castors are your thing, then by all means visit this instrument.

 

Buckfast Abbey. You simply must visit this glorious building, constructed - if one guide book is to be believed - by three monks. It has possibly the best acoustic south of Bristol Cathedral and a well-known Walker/Downes rebuild of a collection of pipes acquired by some of the monks. The Pedal Trombone and the G.O. Trumpet and Clarion, formerly on the organ of Holsworthy Parish Church, were added some time after 1930. However, I do not know whether they still form part of the present instrument. There are three shops which sell everything from Buckfast Tonic Wine (also supplied to BAA for use as aviation fuel) to inflatable statues of Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Back in Cornwall there is:

Launceston Parish Church. A 'Hele' rebuild of an 18th C. instrument, still with its case from 1723 (possibly by Thomas Schwarbrick/Schwarbrook). The rebuild by Hele, in 1960, was carried out to a specification drawn up by Royland Jordan, organist at the time. However, the lowest twelve notes of the Pedal Trombone were not installed untill 1999; unfortunately I cannot remember who undertook this work.

Launceston Methodist Church. This organ has no survey listed on the NPOR. However, I do recall that It was rebuilt by the John Compton Organ Co. around the 1930s and has an example of a 32ft. polyphone on the Pedal Organ. It received a further rebuild by Ray Greaves, of Plymouth, at some point during the late 1970s, which included some 'straight' upperwork to the G.O. on a new chest (which subsequently leaked) and a home-made detached console. The organ was restored by Lance Foy, of Truro, in the late 1990s. In addition to a new action and sorting-out the problems with the 1970s G.O. chest, the console received the type of serious cosmetic attention which was lavished upon Joan Collins a few decades ago. That is, apart from the breast implants.

 

Saint Endelienta, Saint Endellion. The new organ by Goetze and Gwynn. I have played it and was enchanted by its gentle speech, which nevertheless fills this intimate building with a beautiful sound. I was also intrigued by the realistic 32ft. reed effect which iI discovered. (You will have to ask for this by PM....)

 

Further west there is:

 

Holy Trinity, Saint Austell. A three-clavier instrument, built by Hele & Co, and livened-up (the Government would no doubt describe it as having been 'sexed-up') by Maurice Eglinton, who I believe formerly worked for Hele & Co. as a voicer. I recall that there is at least one instrument which received (at his instigation) black plastic draw-stop heads with white engraving. If any board member knows which organ has this unusual feature, please let me know.

 

Even further west:

 

King Charles the Martyr, Falmouth. This is a large three-clavier instrument in an expansive (but acoustically dead) building. The specification includes (of all things) a Contra Clarinet 16ft. on the G.O. As far as I know, there are still one or two 'prepared-for' stops.

 

Saint John the Baptist, Penzance. This is a fairly large three-clavier instrument, which was built by Heard, of Truro, in 1909 and was subsequently rebuilt and restored by Hele, Walker and, more recently, Lance Foy. There are a number of photographs of this instrument (and the church) on my website. The organ is impressive, if a little lacking in upperwork. Naturally, I have no idea what the Tuba sounds like.

 

Saint Mary the Virgin, Penzance. This instrument originally stood on the screen in the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Oxford (The 'University Church'). After its namesake in Penzance was badly damaged by fire in the mid-1980s, the organ was transferred from its former home and now stands in the west gallery of the restored church. The building unfortunately now has a peach colourwash applied to the walls, so it is a little like playing the organ in a hair salon. The instrument is also far too loud for the building - and can be heard clearly several streets away. Apparently, the present organist wishes to add even more stops to its bulk - God knows why, unless they are intended to constitute some type of Echo Organ.

 

Just in case anyone is wondering: my school has a staff training day today (which I am not required to attend) and the school is closed to students - which is why I have the luxury of all this free time.

 

I realise that several of these instruments are not exactly near Bodmin, Exeter or even Torquay, however, I hope that the above may prove useful if not to you, then to anyone else planning a similar trip.

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St John's Bridgetown, Totnes deserves far more of a plug. If you want gentle and musical speech this is the place to go.

 

St Mary's in the town has a 3m Willis restored by the same builder.

 

I found St Endellion a touch coarse by comparison with Bridgetown.

 

Oh, and on the way down the A303, you might want to drop in at Stogursey...

 

In the north, Ilfracombe used to make quite a good noise; in the south, I can't remember where the Tickell is (Honiton?) but is probably worth a look.

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... I can't remember where the Tickell is (Honiton?) but is probably worth a look.

 

It is in Honiton - but apart from a pleasant case, I found this instrument to be tonally inferior to its predecessor - even taking into account the state of the latter instrument. I found little of beauty in the voicing; there was little blend in the choruses or 'singing' quailty in the quieter registers. However, you may find that you like it - many others have done so.

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Since Plymouth was mentioned I feel obliged to state that in my view there are no exceptional organs in Plymouth. This is by no means a universally held opinion, however. Many hold the IVP/77 Rushworth and Dreaper at St Andrew's to be magnificent. Other organs in the area worth visiting are listed here. The organ at Emmanuel Church, Mannamead - Maurice Eglinton's last big job - is good. St Bartholomew's, Yealmpton has Hele's name on it, but I doubt that the original organ is by him - it does not sound much like a typical Hele (except perhaps for the Large Gt Open) and the spec has a somewhat mid-nineteenth century look (Hele would normally have added more 8' stops to the Swell). This organ was restored a couple of years ago and the Gt Dulciana is now a Voix Celeste. Tavistock has also been rebuilt with some inappropriate additions (IMO) to the Choir and a digital 32' Subbass. Between Tavistock and Plymouth the organ at St Andrew's, Buckland Monachorum is well worth a look. It has recently acquired a Trumpet rank which is available on the Great and Pedal. It makes a fine, brassy sound, though unfortunately obliterates the rest of the organ completely. I can supply or find telephone contacts for all of these.

 

As has been mentioned, St John's, Bridgetown, is exceedingly fine. However, it is North German in inspiration and you might be looking for something more quintessentially English. The builder, William Drake, has worked on several other, more traditionally English, organs in the area, as mentioned on his website - without exception they are all worth a look.

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thanks already for these replies. I'll dive into it :unsure:

 

I didn't know about the 'regional search option' in NPOR, so I will try that also.

I did do a lot of searching in NPOR, but it is always difficult to tell if the sound of an organ is as good as the specs promisse. That is also why I posted my question, in order to get some info on the sounds and not just a good name or good specs.

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Dawlish Parish Church. The same firm rebuilt this organ, originally by Willis. It is fairly impressive - or was, the last time that I played it.

 

Wasn't it orginally by Lewis? Perhaps my memory is playing up!

 

Buckfast Abbey. You simply must visit this glorious building, constructed - if one guide book is to be believed - by three monks. It has possibly the best acoustic south of Bristol Cathedral and a well-known Walker/Downes rebuild of a collection of pipes acquired by some of the monks. The Pedal Trombone and the G.O. Trumpet and Clarion, formerly on the organ of Holsworthy Parish Church, were added around 1920 - 1930. Whether they still form part of the present instrument is uncertain. There are three shops which sell everything from Buckfast Tonic Wine (also supplied to BAA for use as aviation fuel) to inflatable statues of Pope Benedict XVI.

 

I think that guide book got it wrong - there were more than three! However, it was quite remarkable as it was built entirely by monks, only one of whom had any training as a stonemason.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I play in Truro next month - and reading about all the temptations along the way, I doubt that I shall get there at all! What a catalogue and huge applause to those who have so carefully and diligently listed these organs and places.

All best wishes and thanks,

Nigel

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Buckfast Abbey. ... a well-known Walker/Downes rebuild of a collection of pipes acquired by some of the monks. The Pedal Trombone and the G.O. Trumpet and Clarion, formerly on the organ of Holsworthy Parish Church, were added around 1920 - 1930. Whether they still form part of the present instrument is uncertain.

The Walker-Downes rebuild was actually of a three-decker Hele - or is that what you meant?

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The Walker-Downes rebuild was actually of a three-decker Hele - or is that what you meant?

 

I have always found this a rather odd organ to listen to in the building (rather than on CD where perhaps liberties could be taken) - there is a wealth of quiet sounds of great beauty but anything from about mf upwards is strangely confusing - lacking in something perhaps? In the hands of someone who knows it the instrument can be quite impressive though - Fr Sebastian Wolff or Trevor Jarvis before he retired.

 

AJJ

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However, it was quite remarkable as it was built entirely by monks, only one of whom had any training as a stonemason.

 

Speaking as the grandson and great nephew of Buckfastleigh and Ashburton stonemasons, I can reliably inform you that all the monks had to do was assemble (under supervision of a team including my great uncle) numbered, pre-cut blocks to plan.

 

Buckfast tonic wine is also brewed in Scotland somewhere and shipped down in tankers, where it is delivered in the manner of petrol into a service station.

 

I don't think the locals were terribly happy about the fate of their village shop either - bought, closed down and left empty for some years - and nor were my distant relatives (one of whom is still going) awfully impressed with having to leave their houses to make room for development (in the late 70's), which then stood empty and derelict with the front wall knocked down (I can clearly remember as a child standing before them looking at the 1950's decor) before being turned into yet another gift shoppe.

 

I think the mf upwards problem with the Abbey organ is owing to the flat 21sts in the mixtures and the lack of choruswork. I do love the soft stuff, mind you, some of which sounds amazing in the building.

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... I think the mf upwards problem with the Abbey organ is owing to the flat 21sts in the mixtures and the lack of choruswork.

 

There is quite a lot of chorus-work on the organ of Buckfast Abbey* - and, unless they have been altered in the last ten years or so, none of the mixtures contain a flat twenty-first. I have to go out to play for a full practice shortly; however, I shall try to locate the correct information when I return.

 

 

 

* Twenty ranks, spread over five clavier divisions, plus a further eight ranks which make up the three Sesquialtera stops.

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There is quite a lot of chorus-work on the organ of Buckfast Abbey* - and, unless they have been altered in the last ten years or so, none of the mixtures contain a flat twenty-first. I have to go out to play for a full practice shortly; however, I shall try to locate the correct information when I return.

* Twenty ranks, spread over five clavier divisions, plus a further eight ranks which make up the three Sesquialtera stops.

 

 

Well, there's not that much - the Gt has an enormous 84 and fairly large 2, the Positive has a 4' Principal on an 8' Flute and for the rest is mostly (like the Choir) sound effects, the Sw has the gentlest of Geigens as the start of a chorus which ends in a Flageolet... so yes, the numbers are indeed present, but the effect is rather that of adding some nasal quinty stuff to some soft gedackty stuff, then some whiffly flutey stuff, then some keen-as-mustard stringy stuff, then a massive Principal, then some stratospheric Mixtures.

 

To generalise crudely, there is only one thing there (Gt Principal 8) which I would deem to be the foundation of a chorus. Therefore I regard most of the Sesquialteras as part of solo combinations rather than a chorus such as you might play contrapuntally on. That crude generalisation is the basis of my crude value judgement, and you may argue all you like.

 

I'm certain that one of the Swell mixtures has a flat 21st in it (or something very strange and jangly - perhaps it's just out of tune).

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Well, there's not that much - the Gt has an enormous 84 and fairly large 2, the Positive has a 4' Principal on an 8' Flute and for the rest is mostly (like the Choir) sound effects, the Sw has the gentlest of Geigens as the start of a chorus which ends in a Flageolet... so yes, the numbers are indeed present, but the effect is rather that of adding some nasal quinty stuff to some soft gedackty stuff, then some whiffly flutey stuff, then some keen-as-mustard stringy stuff, then a massive Principal, then some stratospheric Mixtures.

 

To generalise crudely, there is only one thing there (Gt Principal 8) which I would deem to be the foundation of a chorus. Therefore I regard most of the Sesquialteras as part of solo combinations rather than a chorus such as you might play contrapuntally on. That crude generalisation is the basis of my crude value judgement, and you may argue all you like.

 

I'm certain that one of the Swell mixtures has a flat 21st in it (or something very strange and jangly - perhaps it's just out of tune).

 

I would agree that there is a lack of aurally successful chorus-work; in fact, due to the lively acoustics of the building, the choruses sound better than they perhaps might. Whether or not this is a compliment, I am not sure.

 

It is also something of a 'Clarinet organ', there being six examples of this (some of which are extended or duplexed), available at three pitches.

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...the effect is rather that of adding some nasal quinty stuff to some soft gedackty stuff, then some whiffly flutey stuff, then some keen-as-mustard stringy stuff, then a massive Principal, then some stratospheric Mixtures...

Do I get the impression that it's not quite your ideal design then? :unsure:

JC

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The Walker-Downes rebuild was actually of a three-decker Hele - or is that what you meant?

 

Indeed - the scheme between 1922 - 33 was as follows: 1

 

PEDAL ORGAN

 

Open Diapason (W) 16

Open Diapason (M) 16

Bourdon 16

Octave (W; ext.) 8

Principal (M; ext.) 8 *

Choir to Pedal

Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

 

CHOIR ORGAN

 

Lieblich Gedeckt 8 *

Dulciana 8 *

Lieblich Flöte 4 *

Swell to Choir

 

GREAT ORGAN

 

Bourdon 16

Large Open Diapason 8

Claribel Flute 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Principal 4

Harmonic Flute 4

Fifteenth 2

Trumpet (HP) 8

Choir to Great

Swell to Great

 

SWELL ORGAN

 

Violin Diapason 8

Flauto Traverso 8 *

Rohrflöte 8

Salicioanl 8

Aeoline 8 *

Voix Céleste 8 *

Gemshorn (sic) 4

Flautina 2

Echo Cornet III

Cornopean 8

Sub Octave

Octave

 

Tubular pneumatic action.

 

N.B.: the couplers are unconfirmed - insufficient detail being given in the source.

 

1 p. 227, DOWNES, R. (1983) Baroque Tricks: Ralph Downes. Positif Press, Oxford.

 

* Interim additions.

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Do I get the impression that it's not quite your ideal design then? :unsure:

JC

 

On the contrary. I love it and would be very happy playing the choir in on it until the end of time. I just don't want to have to play organ music on it. :unsure:

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On the contrary. I love it and would be very happy playing the choir in on it until the end of time. I just don't want to have to play organ music on it. :unsure:

 

Oh, it's not THAT bad, David! :unsure:

 

You just have to use a bit of ingenuity at times. B)

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