History of the organ
The organ was built by William Hill & Sons in 1889, with the choir organ completing the scheme in 1892, and has remained unaltered. The action to the manuals and stops is mechanical with the Great assisted by Barker pneumatic levers, the action to the pedals is tubular pneumatic. The organ is free standing in a chamber on the south side of the choir, in a case designed by the Cutts brothers, architects of the church, and with decoration possibly by the school of William Morris. Tuners’ visits ceased in 1984 because of the danger of cone tuning pipes which had not been cleaned since 1925.
The organ received Grade One listing in 2004.
S. Mary’s is truly fortunate to possess an organ by Hill who is generally regarded as one of the two great English organ builders of the 19th century. His organs successfully mix some of the bright clear sound of the English 18th Century organ and earlier continental instruments with romantic elements thus making them a favoured template for modern organ builders. S. Mary’s organ is a particularly good example of the work of Hill; despite its small size, it has a very complete stop list and the individual voices are very beautiful. A large part of the organ’s significance lies in the fact that it has not been altered.
By former Director of Music, Jonathon Dods
Following a complete restoration, undertaken by Nicholsons in 2009/10 (and funded largely from a Heritage Lottery Grant), we now have:
- The facility to pump the organ by hand has been restored by moving the electric blower which obstructs the handles.
- The case has been cleaned and restored.
- We have set small cameras into the works so that pictures of what is happening inside the organ can be put up onto a screen for children on school visits, concert goers and others to see.
The programme of concerts has been extended and there was an Opening Recital given by Simon Williams, Director of Education at the Royal College of Organists in November 2010. We hope to welcome many more. This will help to enhance the cultural life of the parish.
The Hill is available for practice and tuition to students and teachers as well as established organists.
The church has long had an extended programme of school visits covering not just the RE but also other areas of the curriculum including History (World War 2; Victorians; Romans), Geography and Art. This has been extended to include Music, Science and D&T using the cameras in the organ to show how the wind is manipulated to create the sounds. In December 2010, some 900 local primary school children came to learn about the Organ as part of our Victorian Schools’ Week.
A display for exhibition in the church which can also be taken to schools and other institutions has been created, featuring animations explaining how an organ works, photos of the opening weekend and a time-lapse video showing the restoration work.