30th November 2023

St Edward’s, Roath – the organ from nave

It’s been another month of interesting organ surveys / reports, interspersed by giving a recital and attending some wonderful Hallé, CBSO and Opera North events, including this evening’s CBSO’s worthy tribute to Simon Halsey’s outstanding 40 years as director of the CBSO choruses.  

At the start of November I found myself in Wales, surveying the 1923 Charles Gill instrument in St Edward’s Church, Roath (Cardiff).  Spread over two bays on the south side of the Chancel, it is unusual in that the first bay contains only the console and the Pedal Bourdon, elevated where the Great might normally be.  The Great and Swell are in the second bay, with a striking front of 16ft Pedal Violones. The 1996 Choir Organ – uniquely in my experience – is entirely derived from two extended Swell ranks. The organ doesn’t work very well at the moment, but would restore very satisfactorily. St Edward’s is a musical church and the organ is very much a central element of their liturgy and concert-making, I was glad to be told.

All Saints, Broseley – the Walker organ seen from the nave floor

The following week included at meeting at All Saints, Broseley, in the lovely Shropshire countryside, where a remarkable early 19th century J.W. Walker organ sits proudly on the west gallery for which it was designed.  It has had a sad life (the tallest front pipes have been temporarily removed as one fell out) but it is very good to report that the church is determined to do something about it.

St Philip’s, Earl’s Court Road, organ case and console

A few days later I visited St Philip’s, Earl’s Court Road, London, to inspect and report on a highly successful ‘transplant’ of an instrument of similar vintage. This is an 1848 Gray & Davison, augmented in 1901 by Hele, who added a Choir Organ (all on tracker action).  Made for St Peter’s Whitechapel, and redundant from the late 1980s, it was restored by Peter Collins and installed in St Philip’s under the direction of the late Stephen Bicknell, during 2003.  Here is an organ which looks beautiful with its gorgeously painted front pipes, and sounds magnificent in a fairly generous acoustic.  Something of a lack of maintenance since Covid has led to some areas of concern, though my inspection showed that they can readily be rectified, and, with a new blower, the organ will be fair set for many more decades of marvellous music making. I hope it becomes better known.  Its Mander-rebuilt predecessor, incidentally (designed by Francis Routh), was exported to Poland.

All Saints, Woodham – the organ from the south side of the chancel

This past week has seen me at All Saints, Woodham (near Woking), inspecting one of those perfect small 3-manual Harrison & Harrison organs from the 1920s/30s.  Several are found in Public School chapels (such as Repton) and many more in churches up and down the land.  Quite a few still work on their original tubular-pneumatic actions and with their original bellows leather.  Here, H&H had electrified the actions in 1991 but otherwise the organ is a superbly-voiced untouched specimen, needing an overhaul but not much else.  It was a joy to find it, and to learn that it is treasured by the church.