The Organs

A Short History of the Organs

The earliest historical records relating to the organs tell us that in the middle of the 17th century an organ was sold from the church. After that there are no records until 1707 when a new organ was completed by the renowned organ builder Renatus Harris located on a gallery at the West end of the church.

During the one hundred and fifty years of its life this instrument underwent a number of changes until, in 1866, it was moved from the west gallery and tried in various east end locations, none of which proved satisfactory. At this time, the whole interior of the church was panelled in oak, decorated and enriched by splendid carving in lime wood. The organ-case, organ loft, three-decker pulpit, box pews and altar-piece were all fine specimens of Carolian woodwork. Harris’s organ was the last item to be removed. Its case was eventually sold to St Nicholas Church in Yarmouth, where it was destroyed when the church was bombed during the World War II.

The remains of this instrument were eventually replaced in 1911-12 by a new organ built by Messrs. Hele & Son and located in the south transept. The choir division of the organ was located in the south-east (Anne) chapel and covered with parts of the original Renatus Harris organ gallery woodwork, retrieved from a country house. This fine piece of joinery remains and continues to serve as casework for the remaining section of the Hele organ, now converted for use as a small east end organ for accompanying the choir.

The Peter Collins Organ

The organ at the west end of the church was built by Peter Collins, of Redbourn, Hertfordshire, in 1984. The specification of the instrument is rooted in the great classical tradition: the organ is entirely mechanical in its action and is voiced and constructed in accordance with the ideals of eighteenth century organ practices. Its pipework, action, stop-list, resonant casework, diagonal bellows and tuning, all reflect the conception of the organ as a serious instrument for the proper artistic interpretation of music.

When the organ was built a suitable means of support had to be devised to minimise the impact on the fabric of the historic building. In the final solution only two holes were cut into the tower walls for a steel support girder. The 10 ton weight of the organ is balanced on this beam. The underside of the organ acts as a sounding-board for musicians performing beneath.

The carved screens of lime wood were designed and carved by Sigfried Pietszch, who trained in Oberammergau. The words ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ (to God alone be the Glory) are carved into the screen above the Echo organ. The stop-list, together with various features of the design, including the visual layout of the keyboard section, was conceived by Kenneth Ryder (organist at the time) in consultation with Peter Collins.

The stop-list of the Peter Collins organ is as follows:

Great Organ:

Bourdon 16; Principal 8; Spitz Flute 8; Octave 4; Hohl Flute 4; Quint 2 2/3; Octave 2; Block Flute 2; Tierce 1 3/5; Mixture IV-V; Cymbal II; Trumpet 8; TremulantMancroft organ001

Ruck Positive:

Gedact 8; Quintadena 8; Principal 4; Rohr Flute 4; Gemshorn 2; Tapered Quint 1 1/3; Sesquialtera II; Scharf IV-V; Curtall 16; Cremona 8; Tremulant

Echo Organ:

Stopt Diapason 8; Salicional 8; Celeste 8; Coppel 4; Principal 2; Octave 1; Tertian II; Vox Humana 8; Tremulant

Pedal Organ:

Principal 16; Subbass 16; Octave 8; Wood Flute 8; Tenor Octave 4; Mixture IV; Posaune 16; Trumpet 8

All usual couplers including Positive Octave to Pedal. 3 adjustable combination pedals to Great and 3 to Pedal. The organ is tuned to Valotti temperament.