History of the Organ

By 1821 the current west gallery had been added, designed by C. S. Smith and executed by John Whitehead, the local carpenter. In the same year, a barrel organ was installed in the gallery.

The organ was manufactured by James Ball & Son of Grosvenor Square, London who described it as being “in a neat mahogany Case with Gothic front and gilt Pipes, containing 5 Stops viz Open Diapason, Stop Diapason, Principal, Twelfth, and Fifteenth, plays the tunes. Price for ready money one Hundred ponds” (sic). The organ was the gift of Mr and Mrs James Henry Leigh. The phrase “plays the tunes” refers to the fact that hymn tunes were played by turning a handle which in turn rotated the barrel. The number of tunes the organ was capable of playing is not known, but each tune required a different barrel, so the barrel organ’s repertoire was necessarily limited.

Presumably this is why, in 1857 a new organ was purchased by Lord Leigh at a cost of £100. There is no record of the specification of this organ, but it would certainly have had a keyboard so that all hymn tunes were now playable, provided a parishioner could be found who could read music of course! It would probably have been similar to the historic instrument now in use in Ashow. In 1868 the organ was enlarged, and in 1875 Lord Leigh paid for a pedal board to be added. One year later a Bourdon stop was added, again at Lord Leigh’s expense, which would have added depth to the pedals and made them much more effective. The organ was repaired in 1892 after a fire.

During 1904, there was a major overhaul of the organ and it was moved from the gallery to the east end of the south aisle (roughly where the font now stands) presumably to be nearer the choir which at that time occupied choir stalls in the chancel. The work was carried out by Wm. D. White of Leamington Spa at a cost of £58 10s with a penalty of 2s 6d for each day’s delay!

The organ was rebuilt and enlarged in 1968 by Nicolson’s of Worcester (who maintain the instrument to this day) and a separate console was provided for the organist, all at a cost of £4250, at the same time moving it to the west gallery, restoring it to where the original barrel organ once stood. Of the 21 stops on the enlarged organ, nine were brand new, nine were taken directly from the old organ, and a further three stops from the old organ had some pipe work replaced.

Historical information reproduced by kind permission of Sheila Woolf.