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List of beautiful English Organs


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On 28/08/2018 at 19:01, David Drinkell said:

the Bryceson barrel organ at Shelland, restored by our hosts in 1956 and the only barrel organ in England to be the only instrument in the church and thus used at all services.

Well, Hampton Gay, just outside Oxford, has no other pipe organ than its barrel organ - but it does have a harmonium, so the above is not quite challenged by it. 


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23 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

I guess that's a problem with screen organs which have only one speaking front.

I suppose that a non-speaking front could comprise a reflecting board with false pipes in front simply for appearances sake.  Expensive, though.

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I came across this one when looking for something else.  Hugh Russell built an organ for St. Runwald's, Colchester, in 1806.  St. Runwald's stood in the middle of the High Street and was demolished in 1878 to improve traffic flow (although to drive down Colchester High Street today would make one wonder if it did any good).  The organ went to Pattiswick Church, where I remember playing it.  It had been rather hacked about to fit in a chamber, but was intact tonally.  Pattiswick Church was closed and converted to a residence and the organ was restored by John Budgen in St. Clement's, Thurrock, which had been made redundant and refurbished as an arts centre.  It stands in the middle of the chancel facing west and looks very pretty, as anyone who has seen the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (more specifically, the funeral scene) will know.



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There is an old Suffolk rhyme:

"Shotley Church without a steeple,

Drunken parson, wicked people."

The church presents an interesting view, moored like an old ship on its little rise, tower capped off at nave roof level.  Inside, there is a very fine hammer-beam roof and a most unusual chancel in classical style from the time of King George II.

Image result for shotley

The organ was supplied by Godball of Ipswich - he kept a music shop on the Cornhill and supplied organs, but did not build them.  NPOR attributes it to Flight, or Flight and Robson, which I didn't know.  It has a good, but scruffy case.



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On 28/08/2018 at 14:50, David Drinkell said:

I believe the organ is much admired, but I've never cared for the case.  I think it's too wide, there are too many pipes in the centre tower and flats, the pipe shades look crude and the enormous space between the the console and the horizontal trumpet doesn't do anything for the balance.  However, that's just my opinion and I could be wrong.

I was organist of this church for 21 years until 1998 and the organ is my "baby" as it were.   The reason for the case not being taller is that there is a lovely west window above, which would have been obscured had height been added.  The pipe shades are beautiful in that they incorporate the studs idea on the belt of St. George from the central window above.   The width, despite my initial doubt, does not affect the sound adversely in any way - it all comes together extremely well and there is no antiphonal effect whatsoever. The organ is extremely versatile and a great tribute to Nigel Church whose firm took 6 months to build the instrument in Stamfordham,  and Roger Pulham who designed the case.  I even had all the drawstops numbered as is so often done on the continent - so helpful and quick when writing down registration schemes!

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I knew of your "parenthood" and I'm glad you've written.  It's entirely possible that if I saw the organ in the flesh, as it were, I would change my opinion, especially about the pipe-shades, but I haven't played anywhere in Barnet since Harry Coles (of Southwark, blessed memory and convoluted correspondence) was organist on that rather nice little Walker Positive at St. Mark's.  I was on an Organ Club visit in the early seventies, just after Peter Collins had installed his new organ at St. John's Presbyterian Church (as it then was).  They were looking for an organist at the time and I think our member Jim Inglis took it on.  We also (I think) heard you at the Parish Church, visited a newly rebuilt HN&B at St. James and the Father Willis at St. John the Evangelist.

Thinking of wide cases, Wells-Kennedy at St. Michael's RC Church, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanaugh, produced a very fine instrument and Chris Gordon-Wells designed a most effective case in traditional style.



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19 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

I think most people see the grinning monkey here, and at All Hallows, Twickenham and St. Clement's, Eastcheap.

I can see a happy sleeping monkey as plain as the nose on your face.

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Are you inferring that I have a big nose?  LOL.

Wissington (pronounced and sometimes spelt Wiston), Suffolk is a little Norman church on the Essex border. Although it retains many ancient features, including wall paintings, it had an early Victorian make-over, with neo-Norman furnishings and a Gray barrel-organ with its front pipes contained within a neo-Norman arch with dog-tooth ornament. The barrel-organ is still used, but Roger Pulham built a finger organ in 1970.  Both can be seen in the picture:

Barrel Organ: Open Diapason, Dulciana, Principal, Fifteenth

Finger Organ: Open Diapason, Stopped Diapason, Principal, Fifteenth


Image result for wissington suffolk

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An oddity met with occasionally is an interesting organ case with no organ.  At Rushbrooke Church, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, a nineteenth century squire, Colonel Rushbrooke, recycled panels from Rushbrooke Hall (an amazing Tudor mansion, demolished without permission in 1961) and elsewhere to create an interior like a college chapel, complete with organ case at the west end.  He also carved a set of King Henry VIII arms, which are placed over the chancel arch and have fooled a number of writers into thinking they are genuine (and therefore unique).  There has never been a pipe organ, and the church is served by a reed organ.  If you're in the area, the Rushbrooke Arms on the Bury road is a good place for lunch.

Image result for rushbrooke church

At Cockayne Hatley, Bedfordshire, the local squire was also the incumbent - the Revd. Sir Henry Cockayne Cust.  He acquired a set of richly carved choir stalls from a church in Belgium and also an elaborate organ case which is in the west gallery.  It once contained a barrel organ but is now empty.

Organ and west window in St John the Baptist's Church - geograph.org.uk - 934053.jpg

St. Conan's Kirk, on the shore of Loch Awe in Argyllshire, was built by Walter Campbell, a rich self-taught architect, at the turn of the last century, and is a stunning fantasy kirk incorporating all sorts of styles.  There is an organ case in the west gallery and, weirdest of all, a couple of smaller cases in front of it, suspended form the ceiling like chandeliers.  Again, no organ.  I don't know of anything else quite like it - it needs to be seen to be believed.

Image result for st. conan's kirk

Finally, St. Lawrence, West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, had an 18th century makeover including an organ case at the west end.  It contained an organ at one time, but this was disposed of and a Rushworth & Dreaper "Apollo" reed organ served the church for many years.  I have a feeling that a proper organ has since been built in the old case, but I don't know if this is true.  There are lots of pictures of the church on the web, but I couldn't find one showing the organ case - a pity, because it's a fine piece of work.


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Forgive my rabbiting on - it's a public holiday in Canada and I can't summon up the energy to do anything useful....

Having mentioned Cockayne Hatley, not far away, Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire, has a very decent little Hill organ in an Italianate case.  The pub across the road is (or was) excellent for lunch, too.



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Two beautiful new organs in England, although not by English builders.

The chamber organ in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, by Taylor & Boody of Staunton, Virginia.  Their choral services include a weekly Vespers in Latin (including the lessons), for which this organ is specifically planned.



And the Aubertin in King's Hall, University of Newcastle.

Image result for king's hall aubertin 

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Here's one I would very much like to visit - Petersham, Surrey, by the Swiss builder St. Martin.  A handsome case which stylistically appears to be very fitting for its surroundings, shoe-horned into place rather like a number of jobs I encountered on visits to Norway.  The scheme is very clever indeed.  Some might argue that the cost of a third manual and a second swell-box might be better spent on extra speaking stops, but a little thought reveals the tremendous potential available.  On paper, there's not much that it won't do.



The same firm built the organ at Girton College, Cambridge. Spread over four manuals, it displays a similar versatility.



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